I first met Jennifer Bove in Austin, Texas, at the annual interactive hootenanny SXSW. We had just watched the premiere of the industrial design film Objectified at the Paramount Theater and, after being introduced by a mutual friend who thought we might like each other, made our way together over to the film's afterparty at the Driskill Hotel.
As we mixed it up with the film's stars--Dan Formosa, Tim Brown, and the film's director Gary Hustwit--it was one of those magical convergences: big names and old friends from all corners of the design community sipping Shiner Bocks. But especially after seeing a film about the design industry, all anyone could talk about were hot button issues: Detroit, sustainability, and inevitably, the economy. And as we made our way to the bar and ordered a pair of spicy-sweet Mexican martinis, I realized I hadn't asked Jenn what she was up to lately in this wide design world.
"Well," she said. "I just started my own design firm." I think I might have have gasped in amazement, because she nodded knowingly. "When I've been saying that here, people have been looking at me like I'm a crazy person."
But I never thought Jenn was crazy. As I got to know her, I thought she was poised, smart, personable, and incredibly funny. Plus, just watching her in action over the next few days in Austin I realized that there was no better person to be launching a firm in these adverse times: She knew everyone.
Jenn's also no stranger to taking huge risks, after all, she started her career in the circus. Okay, so maybe it was the interaction department of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, but still. She went on to work at industry heavyweights Schematic, and HUGE, with clients like Nokia, Yahoo!, BBC, Gucci, and American Express. As a design manager, she helped reinvent one of the most important interactive consumer experiences--retail--at the the legendary Prada Epicenter store in New York. A gaming project called collabolla was featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Triennale during Salone Di Mobile in Milano, and even found its way into IDEO founder Bill Moggridge's book Designing Interactions. Jenn's also a triathlete and combined her love for training with interaction design, long before Nike+: her masters thesis project actively mobile.
Once Jenn got her newest endeavor--Kicker Studio--up and running, we knew there was no better person to tell the story about the unique challenges of launching a new company in this economy. But I'll let her tell you about that herself. For the next five days, Jenn will take us on her rip-roarin', bicoastal adventure, which is encouraging, exciting, and, yes...just a little bit crazy.
Here are a few of Jenn's projects pre-Kicker:
Yahoo! Go is an all-in-one client application for the mobile phone that brings the mobile Internet to the the handset though Yahoo!'s unique product design, the ability to personalize content, and Yahoo!'s oneSearch.
Actively Mobile integrated traditional training tools with new mobile services to support the running experience, including specialized services designed to aid a runner's motivation and performance.
In the gaming platform Collabolla, two players share control of a single character's movement and they joystick is replaced by two space hopper balls--one for the x axis and one for the y axis. According to Jenn: "It's a hell of a lot of fun."
And since their launch earlier this year, Kicker Studio has already worked on a pretty revolutionary project: a low-cost gestural entertainment center for Canesta.
You can see more of Jenn's work at her Web site.