Last week we celebrated the 3rd birthday of KUMA Design. These past three years have been the most exciting journey for me, because I’ve had the opportunity to see an idea grow into a product and the birth of my very own company. When I started, there was only me hand making butterfly bow-ties, but now I have a whole team beside me and a variety of handmade accessories under the brand KUMA Design. So, today I want to share with you the creative process behind KUMA products. I am an artist at heart, but my passion for KUMA has given me a chance to try different professions like being a creative director as well as a product developer. I thought it would be fun to give you a little feel of what my everyday work looks like and reveal how much work is put into each KUMA product.
Every artist knows that an idea sees daylight after inspiration strikes you. I am no exception, but to every artist there are different things that trigger inspiration - for me it’s nature. Whether it’s the humble nature of Estonia or the fruitful rice fields of Bali - nature is always the place, where I feel at home, so naturally I get into the flow and ideas just come to me. It’s also important to be relaxed and at peace, because when you are stressed out and anxious your mind simply doesn’t connect with creative ideas. It can be a walk in the woods with my dog Guru or a Sunday afternoon hike with friends in the bog, but the important part is to let go of your obligations and just be in the nature - smell, feel, listen and explore! Only then you can get truly inspired.
After I’ve found my inspiration and got an idea for a new product, that’s when the fun part starts! Although fun, it’s also the most difficult part of the creative process - to turn an idea into a tangible accessory. This is the time when I usually spend hours in my little home studio trying out different materials and techniques to bring my idea to life. This step can take anywhere from days to months, but what is important is the end result. Since we have a talented group of craftsmen working for KUMA I often ask for their advice. In the end, I have to believe in the product and be proud of the outcome, to show it to my team and be ready to get some feedback. I also make sure that it’s the same quality as all other KUMA accessories. Since KUMA is my baby, I feel responsible for maintaining the high quality of the products. I have to be honest with you - not every product makes it further from this step, but even if it doesn’t work out I still think that the time spent on figuring out different solutions is valuable and well spent, because it’s all a learning curve and who knows - it might be a crucial breakthrough for the next product.
Getting feedback and testing
Once I’ve come up with a prototype, it’s time to put it under pressure (read: test and get feedback from my team, family and friends). Constructive criticism is the key here - I take note of all the feedback and improve the product over and over again. I make several prototypes for the whole KUMA team and for a while everyone wears the same accessory to figure out the weak spots and make sure that the end result is close to perfection. Once we have tried, tested and figured out, what can be done better we make the final changes and move on to figuring out the packaging of the product.
Coming up with ideas for the packaging
Since we ship to Estonia as well as worldwide, it’s important that the packaging protects the product, but is also elegant and suitable for gifting. This step can also sometimes take quite a lot of time, to meet all our criteria for packaging, but luckily I am surrounded by great minds, who help me come up with clever solutions. I like smart solutions, so it’s the cherry on top of the cake when the packaging serves multiple purposes. For example, the initial packaging for our butterfly bow-ties was a card, that served both as a way to present the product as well as a postcard, where you could write your wishes for your loved one.
Creating the ambience around the product
When the product is all set and the packaging is figured out, it’s time to start thinking about the story of the product. The story usually circles around the type of person this product was created for. To make choosing the right accessory for yourself or your loved one a little easier, we have included little stories about our products in the product description, that give you an idea of what type of a person might like this accessory as a gift. Along with the story we also have to come up with the name - we like them a bit quirky and fun!
The crafting and quality control
Once the product is all set and every detail has been thought through, we teach our craftsmen, how to make the product from scratch to make sure that the level of quality doesn’t fluctuate. Since all our products are handmade by diligent Estonian craftsmen, the products may differ a bit, but that is what makes them unique and one-of-a-kind! Since all our craftsmen are professionals with great skill and knowledge base, then they often come up with great crafting ideas that will make the product even more long-lasting and improve the quality.
Of course, there are many more smaller steps in between the six big steps I just introduced to you, but this is a typical creative process behind a KUMA accessory. I hope you found it interesting and you got some inspiration out of it. I’m off to the nature now to gather some more ideas and I advise you to do the same!
Until next time,