Five questions for creatives
Kat Harris (seen left) is an industrial designer and part of the St Neots-based duo, along with Nicola Westgarth-Flynn, who formed Koti Studio in 2014. The creative design studio specialises in industrial design within the homewares sector. The studio has a growing portfolio of work, with high profile brands such as; Lakeland, Joseph Joseph and Joules.
Kathryn developed her design expertise working in China for 1 year as a lighting designer and freelancing for John Lewis, Plumen and Charlie Oulten. Her strengths lie in sketching, styling, renders and overall presentation of products and projects.
How did you get into the creative industry, and was there a defining point in your career that led you on that path?
As a kid I was always naturally creative. I had grown up around my Grandad and Dad sketching and watercolour painting on our family holidays. When I was poorly and didn’t go to school, my Nan would look after me and we would complete crafty projects like building cardboard houses and moulding various objects from papier mâché.
I enjoyed Art at school a lot, but it wasn’t until I discovered Design and Technology that I realised I had a real affinity for the subject. It of course helped that the teacher at the time was incredibly enthusiastic and I would definitely say that some of that enthusiasm rubbed off. When set design challenges in lessons, I found my head flooded with ideas of ways to solve these problems almost immediately, and because of my passion for art and aesthetics, I would strive to ensure these solutions looked beautiful. Unfortunately at the time I had no idea that ‘Design’ was a potential career, luckily I had parents who encouraged me to progress through education by completing the courses I enjoyed. It wasn’t until sixth form when another equally passionate teacher told me that I could actually have a career in design and if that was something I was interested in, I should read product design at University – and that’s where the real fun began. So I would say that it probably wasn’t one ‘epiphany’ like the moment that led me down this path, more like a series of very fortunate events, influences and decisions.
Is there anything you would change in your current career and if so why?
I consider myself to be very lucky to be able to say no. Not a thing. Founding the consultancy was difficult, and we have had to learn a lot. We have had to learn how to do things that I hadn’t even considered. But Nic and I are such a great founding duo that none of the obstacles ever made us question what we were doing, or where we wanted to go, so we just got on and did it.
I get reminded by friends and family every now and again of how much I have achieved at a young age, setting up the consultancy with Nic almost straight out of university and working with a growing number of impressive clients already, it was no mean feat I have to say. I have such ambition for our company (I tend to be the one that is out of the box most of the time, thinking and dreaming big – Nic helps bring me back to Earth occasionally) , but it is safe to say that our company has amazing potential and we have a very strong picture of where we would like to it be in the future. I figure if we come remotely close to that dream, we will have done a good job and Nic, the Koti team and I would be incredibly happy.
Where do you see yourself, and your career in five years time?
At the moment we are in the throws of setting up a collection of own brand products within the homewares sector. I would like to see the company flourishing and expanding with a growing range of products and team of people. We are striving for the brand to be a recognisable one within the homewares market, this doesn’t happen overnight, it may not happen in five years time – but we hope it will happen at some point! Both Nic and I want our own personality and style to come through in the products we design for our company, we founded it and are at the heart of it, so to be respected and known designers in our own right would be pretty good!
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Nic and I are close friends as well as business partners, and this line can be hard to navigate sometimes. Monday morning meetings can accidentally slip into a conversation about what we both got up to at the weekend. One of our unwritten rules is to try and keep business hours for business, and outside of that time, we are friends who can catch up and go out etc. Don’t get me wrong, this is easier said than done, but it can also be a pretty big advantage sometimes.
In terms of efficiency, I definitely work better when the pressure is on, when there is a list longer than my arm of jobs to do and a tight, if somewhat optimistic, deadline set by ourselves or clients. Finally, the icing on the cake is my dog Skye, we walk to and from work every day and I am lucky that by being my own boss, I can bring her to work with me. She get’s me out in the fresh air when my perfectionist ‘designer head’ is telling me to keep going and I can’t take a break, which does me far more good than being glued to my computer.
What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in the creative industry?
Go for it. But here are a few things you really need to have down before you set up your consultancy.
Firstly, know what you are good at and what you’re not so good at. Recite it or have it written down, so when you are asked, it simply rolls of your tongue. And trust me, you will be asked.
Secondly, ask yourself what makes your consultancy different to others. Note, ‘different’ and not ‘better’, you will be effectively shooting yourself in the foot if you claim your fledgling consultancy is better than others. The design world is very connected and testimonials can go a long way to bringing in business for your company. We have had quite a few instances where we have been recommended to our clients by other designers. This is also important in terms of finding what areas of design you really enjoy, it also helps bring clients your way if you specialise in a certain field.
Finally, be confident not arrogant. It’s a fine line, but boy is it obvious. It is important to be confident when you are approaching new clients, pitching or even presenting your work. But it would be a mistake to think that we don’t have more to learn. I am discovering things every day and I only need to look through our company’s project history to see how much my design work has improved over the years.