Interview With The Field Trade
A Conversation With Rachel Gant & Andrew Deming of Yield
Repost from the Field Trade by Elijah Mckinnon & Kenta Thomas Naoi
Okay. Where do I begin? Rachel Gant, Andrew Deming and I first crossed paths on a bright Sunday afternoon in San Francisco at the West Coast Craft. I stumbled upon their booth for Yield Design Co. and Endswell Co. I was familiar with their presence but it was the first time I had engaged with any of their products. Naturally, after exchanging contact information I did what I do best, stalked them (just kidding, but not really). I was completely amazed by their story, inspired by their design philosophy and a little smitten by their casual demeanor towards their partnership and relationship.
Yield Design Co. is a fairly young design house based right here in San Francisco. Focused on crafting a wide range of products, the design duo have gained a considerable amount of attention for their distinctive and refined sense of play. Not only are they inspired by the “beauty and chaos of San Francisco” they also seek adventure through the creation of goods that become extensions of ourselves. We caught up with these two industry pioneers on a rainy Friday afternoon at their studio in Hayes Valley to discuss their trials and tribulations, design philosophies as well as their strategic approach towards new projects
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience (school, work, etc) Rachel: We met while studying at CCA. Andrew had finished his undergrad at Flagler in Graphic Design and was earning his MBA in Design Strategy at CCA. I on the other hand had transferred from a 3-year study in Cal Poly’s Architecture program to channel my attention towards Industrial Design. While finishing his degree, Andrew was also working full-time at Fuseproject as a Design Strategist and I was taking on freelance work to develop products with Photojojo.
How was Yield conceived? Andrew: Rachel and I always knew we would work together in some capacity, with our backgrounds we came from different but complementary directions and always seemed to align in terms of style and approach. When we graduated from CCA, we decided to launch our first product and were drawn to the name ‘Yield’--inspired by the idea of a fruitful harvest after a long season’s work. We see design in a similar way: putting a lot of care and attention into seeing a concept grow and evolve into a life of its own.
Rachel – How has product design + manufacturing helped you build Yield Design as a company? Building a good relationship and communication with our manufacturers has been key since we’re designing products in house. Every little detail needs to be clear when we send over prototypes or need to make changes, and the conversation is an interesting balance between learning efficiencies from their end that can often lead to interesting design decisions. At the same time, we balance a need to maintain the integrity of our vision even when we encounter hiccups in production. Our designs and requests can sometimes confuse the manufacturers because we tend to push materials and form in unconventional directions, but we see that as a sign of a success as we are exploring new territories.
Andrew – you handle more of the art direction and business strategy how has this help you expand the Yield Design brand and company? We think of brand and product in a very integrated fashion. Branding isn’t the logo we apply to our goods--it’s how we think about the company we’re creating, the values behind it and how that is communicated through all of our touch-points. I believe that by being thoughtful about the brand we’re creating, we managed to have a broader appeal at an early stage even with limited offerings.
In a very literal sense, we’ve received a good amount of coverage for all of the assets surrounding our goods from our web presence to our packaging. We want to deliver on all aspects of the experience and it’s encouraging when that is recognized.
What were some external factors that inspired your design process? We are very inspired by the different places we visit, but naturally a lot of inspiration comes from the city we live in. San Francisco offers a lot of juxtapositions between drastic extremes whether it’s the old city blending into new tech or dense urban settings contrasting with expansive natural parks, you really can’t avoid exposure to all walks of life. We love the idea of balance in the sense of experiencing the extremes and then pulling them back, so we don’t see balance as a compromise, but rather a distillation of the best of both ends of the spectrum.
Rachel, What has been a really valuable learning? Rachel: I think it all goes back to manufacturing for me. It all starts with diving into research and learning about materials and having a specific design goal. Pulling all of those resources together, breaking barriers and exploring different opportunities. I've learned that it is important to know what you want to achieve so that you can gather all of the pieces to connect them, not to say that we've been the best at that but it is something that we're learning and trying to stay aware of so that our vision comes alive more and more.
When you began in 2012, did you think that two years later you would have such an expansive collection? Andrew: It’s been a journey. At this time last year we just had a single bag style in our shop and although we knew we always wanted to build Yield into a comprehensive design house, I don’t think we could have imagined the range we built in a year. That’s not to say that we feel in any way like we’ve arrived, but rather that our path was pretty unpredictable early on as I’m sure it is with so many new businesses.
We’ve tried to surround ourselves with inspiration and remain open to possibility. A new collection like our Endswell jewelry, for example, wouldn’t have been plotted on a five-year plan. Instead, it came about because we saw an opportunity to seize a moment and we responded to what we saw as a void in the market.