• 3 minute Read

Meeting the Parent Company, and More Signs of Designer Monogamy

This week, Stuart Karten will be answering your most pressing innovation inquiries and design dilemmas.

stuart karten

Dear Stuart,

Lately it seems like the spark is gone. I’ve been working with the same design firm for 5 years. In the beginning, I was so excited about product development and my designers came up with concepts that blew my mind. We still churn out a pipeline of about 10 products each year, but I feel like our relationship lacks the passion of its early days.

Bored in Boston

Dear Bored,

It happens to the best of us–we start to feel comfortable with a partner and before you know it we let down our guard. We might forget to put on business suits for your corporate meetings or we might deliver five concepts instead of 10. But you’re obviously working with a great design firm and you have a history and chemistry together. Try these tips for re-igniting the spark:

1) Explore a new interest together. Maybe you’ve always talked about developing an eco-friendly, wireless, hand-held personal cooler for the millennial market. Re-visit the shared visions that have inspired your team and take a risk!

2) If you haven’t done so recently, send your designer out into the field for some research. The world is always changing, even if your relationship has been stagnant for years. Finding some new information about your industry or discovering a new unmet need should send your partner into the creative flurry that you know and love.

3) Have you told your partner lately that you love them? Designers may seem like innately self-assured creatures, but deep down we love to be reminded that our work is appreciated and that it makes a difference. One pat on the back from you may be enough to re-kindle the romance.



Dear Stuart,

Things have been going really well between my designer and me–so well that I thought I’d bring them in to meet my parent company. Much to my dismay, my boss was not enamored. She could not look beyond the misspelled PowerPoint slides and odd pairing of Converse with dress pants to see the brilliant soul inside. Is our relationship doomed?

Romeo in R&D

Dear Romeo,

Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet! Have patience, star-crossed lover. Your parent company may warm up to your designer when they see the impact their ideas have on the bottom line. In the mean time, you might want to talk to your designer about the Converse.



Dear Stuart,

I’ve always thought it was ok to play the field, and for the past few years I’ve been using a few different design firms. But lately, one of my designers has been pressuring me to be exclusive. I want to keep her happy, but I’m not sure I want to make this kind of commitment. Is it worth it?


Dear Playboy,

It can certainly be hard to settle down with so many attractive design firms available, but if you play the field for too long, you run the risk of missing out on all the benefits of a monogamous relationship.

When you make the commitment to one designer, you build intimacy with a team member who gets to know your product line, your customers, and your needs. By building a partnership based on mutual respect and trust, you will reap the rewards of a higher level of Innovation focused specifically on your company, your customer and your infrastructure.

Plus, on business trips you guys can wear cute matching bathrobes and fight over directions.


Got a burning question for Stuart? Leave it in the comments and we’ll be sure to get it answered.

Illustration by Greg Clarke.

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For 25
years, Stuart Karten Design (SKD) has been a strategic partner to
companies seeking to differentiate their products through creativity
and design. Connecting creativity with commerce, SKD designs products
that serve as brand ambassadors for its clients and lead to greater
market share and increased profit. SKD’s team includes 25 includes
designers, researchers and mechanical engineers who can guide a product
from design conceptualization through final production. SKD is
especially renowned for its medical products and its ear-centric
devices, which have included communication headsets for Jabra and
Plantronics, the Zōn hearing aid for Starkey Laboratories and
noise-cancelling ear buds for Ultimate Ears.

SKD has been
the recipient of numerous awards, including IDEA, Red Dot, iF, Good
Design and the I.D. Annual Design Review. Conceptual “Epidermits
Interactive Pet” was a part of Museum of Modern Art’s recent Design and
the Elastic Mind exhibition. In 2008,
Fast Company magazine
named SKD among America’s top five “Design Factories” in its annual
Masters of Design issue. Located near the beach in Marina del Rey, SKD
is tapped into the cutting edge culture that defines Los Angeles with
our fingers on the pulse of the trends that will affect the nation.

About the author

Stuart Karten is the Founder and President of Los Angeles-based product innovation consultancy [url=http://kartendesign.com/]Karten Design[/url]. Since 1984, he has partnered with medical device, digital health, and consumer product manufacturers to build their businesses through design.