Where I Work: Souda

Brooklyn-based Souda (pronounced “soh-duh”) is one of those up-and-coming design companies that you just want to root for. Founded in September 2012 by Parsons School of Design graduates Isaac Friedman-Heiman, Shaun Kasperbauer, and Luft Tanaka, they wanted to merge their talent and ideas into one collaborative joint they call Souda, a Japanese word that basically translates to “Oh, yeah!” Since its inception, these guys have been cranking out gorgeous, well-crafted wares out of their shop, including lighting, furniture, and home accessories, with various components they have produced locally by machinists, woodworkers, and metal shops. Can’t wait to see what this trio has up its sleeves next. We speak to Isaac Friedman-Heiman to learn more about the company and it’s processes for this month’s Where I Work.


What is your typical work style?

In the earlier days of Souda you could definitely call the schedule loose. However, as the studio has grown so has the range of commitments and production volume. Accordingly, we all do our best to abide by a regular weekly schedule that usually creeps its way into the evenings and weekends one way or another.


What’s your studio environment like?

Depending on the project, time of year, production needs, etc. – the studio environment definitely fluctuates. However, we try to keep on top of our organization within the space. Our studio is nice sized but that can quickly be reduced to a cluster_____ if you don’t stay on top of it. Music is a must and between the three of us the playlist is very eclectic.


How is your office organized/arranged?

Our studio is divided into two primary spaces, office and shop space. In both spaces everything is open and minimal.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

Before we had our current studio we all had small workspaces of our own. We’ve been in our current space for a little over a year now. We originally intended to share the shop space and work more individually, but after completing the build-out and considering our options it seemed like an obvious choice to merge our talents under one name.


If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

Our studio is on the second floor. Being closer to the ground would be nice. Carrying concrete tables up and down the stairs is a decent workout.

How do you record ideas?

We all have sketchbooks that we keep on hand, but there are equally as many random paper drawings, material samples, etc. We try to keep ideas abundant and on hand at all times.


Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

We have a dry erase board that we keep covered in lists and quick sketches. It’s not quite organized chaos, but the scope on a given day can get fairly broad.


Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

Our shop space is tooled essentially for prototyping new objects and for producing our current line of products. With the range of materials that we use the space operates on a rotation of tools and processes depending on the day.

What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?

All tools of measurement—measure twice, cut once.


Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell me about your tech arsenal/devices.

Right now our wiring is relatively basic. A few computers, various printers, scanners, etc. but nothing out of the ordinary. We work with local shops for laser cutting, 3D printing and CNC machining.

What design software do you use, and for what?

Depending on the project we may use different computer modeling software like Rhino or Solidworks. Early on we used applications like these to produce 3D components that are used in combination with very handmade techniques. As Souda has grown we’ve begun working on larger projects that involve more outsourced fabrication and accordingly more computer models, but these are still always balanced with physical prototyping.


Do you have a favorite piece or collection that you’ve designed?

Since we have been designing our collection together from the start it has been really important that we all like and agree upon each product and its design.

When did you feel like you “made it”? With what design? At what moment/circumstances?

We’ve had a lot of exciting “making it” moments since we began, but on a more day-to-day basis coming into our own studio and working on the business and designs for Souda really resonates nicely.


Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

We’ve just finished work on our Strut Shelving System, which was inspired by the Manhattan Bridge and construction techniques of early aircraft carriers. It’s a modular system that revolves around these really great brackets that we’re offering in several powder coated and plated finishes with hard maple shelves in various lengths.


What’s on your desk right now?

Our desk right now is a physical collage of objects. Some of the pieces are Souda production pieces, but they are scatted among prototypes, material samples, ceramics from Isaac’s mom and the list goes on. Ideally we try to keep the desk as clean and open as possible, but it doesn’t usually last very long.

Do any of your designs live in your home or personal life?

In designing processes intended to yield unique objects each time, there were a lot of very unique pieces in the earlier days. They now live happily in our apartments and those of friends and relatives.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.