The Exporters: Local talent with global reach at DESIGN WEEK RI


The Exporters: Local talent with global reach at DESIGN WEEK RI

When we think of exports, we traditionally think of manufacturing or agricultural products made here and shipped overseas. This is especially true here in Rhode Island, where the factories that once drove our economy used to ship goods (jewelry, in particular) all over the country and around the world. But in today’s global, information-drive economy, talent, creativity, and expertise are exports, too – which makes Rhode Island’s design community one of its biggest potential exporters.

Because local design firms are not loading their work into shipping containers to be carted off across roads and oceans, it’s easy to overlook the national and global reach of their talent. Many of the individuals and businesses represented at DESIGN WEEK RI are exporting their talents far beyond Rhode Island’s borders. Here’s a quick look at some of our state’s best exports.

The exporter: Ryan Lesser
What he does: Design video games.
Where/when you can find him at DWRI: As the Featured Speaker at AS220 on Monday, September 18.
His export(s): Lesser’s ideas can be found in homes and arcades all over the world. As the Creative Lead at Harmonix, he helped create the 3-D interface on which the game Rock Band is based, and served as designer and art director on several of the company’s most successful games, including Guitar Hero and The Beatles: Rock Band.>

The exporter: Studio AMD
What they do: Architectural imaging.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: On Monday, September 18 they’ll be hosting an Eat & Speak lunch at their Westminster Street office entitled, “Apps, Client Relationships, and the Design Process.”
Their export(s): Studio AMD is based in Providence, but operates in nine locations from Maine to California. They’ve helped teams visualize projects all over the world, including the Abu Dhabi Airport, Madison Avenue Subway, the Yongsan Cultural District (South Korea), and the Sochi Olympic Park. Their new app, which they’ll showcase at their Eat & Speak Lunch, will expand their reach.

The exporter: Focal Upright
What they do: Make ergonomically designed office furniture based on the idea that you have to work, but that doesn’t mean you have to be bored and uncomfortable.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: They’re hosting a Happy Hour at their East Greenwich office on Friday, September 15.
Their export(s): Focal Upright, founded by Martin Keen, formerly of the global shoe brand KEEN Footwear, ships its standing desks, leaning stools, and other innovative office products all over the world. Their creations have been featured in stories from The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, Business Insider, Bloomberg, and Inc., among others.

The exporter: Loft LLC
What they do: Design everything from products to experiences to packaging, in addition to providing research and strategy, brand management, engineering services, and much, much more.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: At Ogie’s Trailer Park, where they’ll be hosting a Happy Hour on Wednesday, September 20.
Their export(s): Their products are sold at and by some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Amazon, Target, Toys R Us, and Home Depot, and they’ve done work for global brands like Bose, Disney, Adidas, and Nerf. The rugged, shock-absorbent iPhone accessories they’ve designed for Hitcase are available at an Apple Store near you.

The exporter: Tellart
What they do: Create innovative and interactive experiences, such as installations and exhibitions, for big name clients.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: At IMMERSE, the DESIGN WEEK RI Kick-off Party on Friday, September 15 at The Plant.
Their export(s): At the annual World Government Summit in Dubai, Tellart helped the Dubai Future Foundation address climate change with The Museum of the Future: Climate Change Reimagined. Target commissioned them to create Thursday Lights, a city-scale installation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Minneapolis’ Walker Arts Center. Tellart collaborated with Toyota and the Institute for Creative Integration on Concept-i, a groundbreaking vehicle that highlights the importance of user experience in automated vehicle. No wonder they won the 2016 National Design Award in Interaction Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

The exporter: DiLeonardo International
What they do: Interior design for major hospitality companies.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: On Thursday, September 21, they’re hosting an Eat & Speak Lunch, “A World of Interior Design,” at their world headquarters in Warwick.
Their export(s): You can luxuriate in DiLeonardo’s designs in swanky hotels around the world, including the Ritz-Carlton in Doha, Qatar; the Hilton in Chennai, India; and the St. Regis Hotel in Chengdu, China.

The exporter: NAIL
What they do: Create award-winning ad campaigns.
Where/when you can find them at DWRI: At their Downtown office on Monday, September 14 for “cr(eat)e,” a live design competition, with pizza and beer.
Their export(s): NAIL’s quirky, playful ad campaigns have broken up iconic (and fictional) candy impresarios Mike & Ike, taken on the sneaker-industrial complex for Vibram FiveFingers shoes, and cut a plane, a barn, and a bunch of cars in half for Lenox Tools.