As head of product design, I travel to Asia usually 2-3 times a year with the team to visit our factories, where I get to work with the sample room and get as much prototyping done as possible. And also to deal with the production issues and to help keep an “on the ground” perspective of the constantly changing supply chain landscape.
A typical day might look like flying into a city that many in the US have never heard of (e.g., Qingdao), but yet this city could have a population bigger than NYC.
In these “smaller” airports, you often have de-board and get on a bus to the terminal
Then you drive out of the city to where the factory is located. This drive can be 1-3 hours.
You might spend 6-8 hours at the factory, then go to dinner with your factory counterparts, and then drive to the hotel (another 1-3 hours), and then you might have to hop on some conference calls to NY which is 12 hours behind. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
If the factory is outside a city like Shanghai, then you see a much different landscape.
Earlier this spring, I was working on a telescope iconography idea, as an homage to our father, Fred Lo, a radio astronomer who discovered the black hole in the center of our galaxy. As this was more of a side project, I was bouncing ideas with a designer and friend, Bill Bahan, who used to manage my bar, Morrisey Park, back in a prior life...when I somehow co-owned a bar in the East Village that was, among other things, once nominated Best New Bar/Lounge in NY in Paper Magazine.
The half-baked idea was to explore making some enamel pins that we could offer to add more “flair” to our super minimalist recycled poly backpacks. On this trip, of course I had forgotten my notebook, and I was trying to squeeze in some design time while in the car or plane, literally grabbing scrap paper from the hotel.
Picture of a telescope outside of Shanghai from a prior trip in Fall 2018 when my mom and I visited some telescopes sites in China as part of a lecture series in honor of our dad.
Inspired by these dish telescopes, below were some of my super rushed sketches.
As I keep notes and reminders in the Evernote app, I noticed there was a feature to draw within the app. As I was on the runway waiting to take off, I texted the above “sketches” to Bill, who now lives in LA, before I had to turn off my phone.
Then a few days later, somehow based on those rough sketches, Bill sent over some digital mock ups, which I then sent some feedback from my iPad.
Months later those rough sketches came to life!
For the other enamel pin below, the design story unfolded a bit earlier, as I worked with one of our designers, Emily Skaar, on an image that incorporated the arrays of radio telescopes that my father oversaw.
Array of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory telescopes in Socorro, New Mexico, which our dad oversaw when he was the Director of NRAO.
Emily’s digital mockup of an array of telescopes.