We had the priviledge of talking to Stephanie Battista founder of Laf Inc, an industrial/product and graphic design firm. Stephanie talks about her random path to the design field through business and architecture. Stephanie also explains some of the challenges and great rewards by starting a design business from scratch. To find out more information about Laf Inc please check out their website at http://lafinc.com/
Hi Stephanie thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk to you today. I was wondering if you could give the Embody 3D readers an introduction to yourself and Laf Inc.?
Laf, Inc. was started in 2002, (shortly after I graduated college)…We are an Industrial.Product.Graphic design firm specializing in soft goods, lifestyle products, branding and packaging.
We find that a lot of industrial designers seem to enter the field by chance or curiosity. Was becoming an industrial designer something you always wanted to do or did you stumble across it?
I stumbled across this field my third year in business school at college. I went from a straight A honor Roll, Athlete to a Professional Socialite in college and was close to failing out. I remember one day my English teacher who hardly knew me came up to and said…you seem to be struggling in college, I’ve had students like you…I want you to go and do a paper on a field or subject that really inspires you. It’s due Monday…Noone had ever really called me out like this since I had been college, but for some reason this little assignment changed my life. I went to the architecture library at University of Florida and was there all weekend, I kept running across this field while I was looking through architecture, furniture, design, interior design, etc….several months later, I moved home, payed off my debts, got straight, applied to design school and once I was accepted, moved straight away. I became a straight A student within the first quarter and ended up graduating that way. I love this field, and am as passionate about it today as I was 13 years ago.
That is a fantastic story! I have never heard of someone changing their life from an assignment before! After studying at the College of Art and Design how did that education prepare you and not prepare you for the workplace?
Our private college was a hands-on design school in this little town called Savannah, Ga. The only thing to really do there was learn and learn some more….I ended up getting a job at an architecture firm within my first quarter, worked there all three years I was in school. Did an internship with a high-tech start-up firm in London that invented biometric security devices..(thumb print). My education, along with my work and internship kept me hopping, and never leaving a moment for free…I have never worked as hard…It was one of the most challenging experiences ever…but looking back I couldn’t have done it any differently.
Do you accept internships or work experience from design students at Laf Inc? If so what advice do you have for students when submitting their portfolios and developing their designs?
I have been working with intern remotely for the last three years and truly enjoy working with students. Next quarter we will have our first intern from Savannah College of Art & Design who will be here all summer. We have had remote interns because the economy hasn’t allowed us much wiggle room with expenses lately. Interns are great, and you can learn so much from them as they can from you…It’s a give and take learning experience, and usually we both end up walking away with a valued lesson in design….
Was starting your own business something you always desired to do? And what been the real challenges and triumphs of running Laf Inc.?
I knew deep down I wanted to start a business but thought it would be years after working with other designers…I am a learner through observation and actual experience….I had no intention on starting a firm with a very limited range of design experience. I graduated college and moved to NY, the competition was amazing there, I had no idea what I was in for and truly was not prepared for such a leap. After a few months of searching and picking up a couple of jobs, I realizing quickly if I didn’t do something fast my little dream of being a designer was slowly slipping through my fingers. So I moved home…I gave it one more month and was just not sure what to do…so in an effort to become a better designer, I decided to start a small little design firm out of my grandma’s house just to hold me over until someone would hire me…Here it is 9 years later….and I guess noone wants to hire me…kidding…it just worked out so differently than I expected…it is one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had in my life…but to be honest the most rewarding…I just come to work every day, and give it my best. Never stop learning, and never give up….If you want something bad enough there is always a way.
A student I studied design with at university recently moved to New York from Australia and said the competition is truly incredible. It would be quite the experience! Laf Inc. has a real focus on soft goods and ‘touchable’ items. Why have you decided to concentrate on this particular type of product?
The main reason I started in this area of product development, is that I had limited knowledge when I graduated, and really needed to start in an area of design where I felt confident. I pulled from my experiences prior to college, during college, and what attracted me most…Soft goods, lifestyle products, branding and packaging are things I am naturally drawn to….I have expanded into some electronics from the original vision, but I still go back to things that I love the most…
Do you manufacture the products as well or is this outsourced, and what materials do you mainly work with?
We outsource our engineering, prototyping, and manufacturing. We have learned to survive with limited resources over the years, and have made some amazing partners. Luckily enough we have found reliable partners, with good quality work ethics.
I really like how you have blended solid products for example the flip flops with graphic design elements. It’s a really beautiful fusion of two areas of design and a lot of your products have a real crafty feel about them. Could you please show us through some of your main products and their inspirations.
Thank you….unfortunately most of the other things we are working on are under patent and for our client protection we are not allowed to legally show them yet….:( wish we could, we have such cool stuff we have worked on, but it’s not released yet…I have included two of our recent projects….as a little teaser.
Non Disclosure Agreements can be a real headache when you’re trying to show off your work I know what you mean ahhrr. Have there been any structured design processes, tools or advanced techniques that you utilise to shape your designs? What do they include?
Yes there is always a formula for design, it is linear with random points to provide the framework to get from a-z cohesively. It goes a little something like this… 1. initial brainstorming with client 2. define target market & scope of project 3. refine concept & design 4. materials & color selection 5. branding, identity, & graphics 6. sourcing materials & manufacturers 7. prototyping, appearance & working models 8. package design 9. final design 10. manufacturing 11. product launch, special events, promotions, 12. market analysis (how did we do)
Do you have any future plans for Laf Inc or any cool products in the works?
We have a product coming out in the next few months, that is for the aesthetic industry…be on the look out for URBANE BODY…super cool.. the design incorporates a lot of the current industry trends….can’t say anymore…
Stephanie thanks so much for talking with us today do you have any final thoughts for the Embody 3D readers?
Thank you, it’s an honor to be interviewed by you~ I wish you all the best and if your ever in the states look us up!~ Would be fun to meet.
Remember to find out more information about Laf Inc please check out: lafinc.com