College for Creative Studies: Product Design
One of the most rewarding experiences of working in any creative field is watching your ideas come to life. Within a year of working at Fossil, Kenneth Perkins (’08) designed a watch, Clyde, that is now available in five different versions at major retailers across the country.
“I’ve collaborated on several projects so far, but since we work a year out most of what I’ve done is just making its way to the shelves,” said Perkins. “Clyde is a watch that I developed exclusively—from its original sketch all the way through to production.
“Having a watch design that I can truly call my own was a great accomplishment. The majority of each design cycle consists primarily of existing styles that are being updated, so there is very little room for new designs. Having mine make the cut in such a selective process was a great accomplishment, especially at such an early stage in my career.”
The Fossil team is divided into four categories: men’s dress, ladies’ dress, sport and the trend team. Perkins is one of two designers that comprise the trend team. Like most companies in the fashion industry, Fossil works on releases for each season a year in advance. Perkins’ job is to draw and present new ideas and concepts based on direction provided by the company’s brand team. Then, he creates the mechanical drawings for all aspects of the watch and communicates directly with the factories.
Upon receiving the mechanicals, the factories create a technical drawing that Perkins must review and approve. Next, he creates colorway artwork to explore possible colors, materials and finishes of the watches. Once this is approved, he communicates final decisions to the factory so they can begin producing samples.
Over multiple rounds of samples, Perkins reviews and comments on any changes necessary. The second to last round is called a photo sample, which is presented to the company’s stores teams and various wholesales teams who provide input before final decisions are made to purchase our line. Once the final SKU count is decided, he communicates to the factory so they can produce the final salesman sample—a working sample in exactly the same form as it will be sold.
“In a typical design position the role of the designer doesn’t necessarily extend past the sketching phase,” explained Perkins. “Being able to see projects through to the very end is a very unique part of my job. It allows me to understand the industry so much more. The process forces you to take your talents beyond creating aesthetically beautiful things and truly become a well-rounded designer who is capable of handling each stage of a product’s development.”
Perkins is currently developing a few key styles for spring of 2013 and played a critical role in the new Karl Lagerfeld line that will also be unveiled in the spring of 2013.
“We are always trying to elevate our product, but this season in particular looks to be a very exciting one!” he said.
Perkins credits his experiences at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (CCS) for giving him the edge to be successful in such a talented workforce and inspiring him to “strive for greatness and settle for nothing less.” During his final semester, Perkins was involved in a car accident that left him in intensive care for several days and bedridden for weeks later. The support and compassion of fellow classmates and professors made it possible for Perkins to catch up in time to graduate.
“The pride I felt receiving my degree was unmatched to anything I had ever felt,” he said.
As part of the CCS experience, students routinely receive critiques of their work. Perkins encourages current art/design students to embrace these opportunities.
“A critique is not personal, it is one of the most essential processes to your degree and your career,” he explained. “You must be a participant in the process because if you are not willing to listen or to voice your thoughts and ideas, you will get left behind. This is your chance to really learn about yourself and how others view your designs as well as an opportunity to communicate your design process to your peers.”
Recently, Perkins renovated a 1,000 square foot space where he is rebuilding/redesigning a 1974 Honda CB 125 motorcycle. The new workshop provides him with the opportunity to work with his hands designing and creating functional objects. The space will also function as a full-fledged woodshop where he plans to create his own line of handcrafted furniture.
The designer is also an avid member of the Dallas art community. He recently acted as a judge for a Texas-based art organization called VASE (Visual Art Scholastic Event). He conducted interviews with each student about their art and conducted critiques. Students with the highest marks went on to state finals where they have the opportunity to receive various art-based scholarships.
Of the experience, Perkins commented, “It was great to see so many young aspiring artists working toward a career in art!”