Along with more power comes greater responsibility. For many senior level designers, that means abandoning the creative aspect to focus more on administrative activities such as leading the team, managing accounts and attracting new clients. However, some designers refuse to lose touch with their artistic talents regardless of where they stand in a company.
“While I spend a lot of time dealing with the business side of things, we started Kicker so that as senior-level designers we could actually get involved in the projects,” said Jody Medich, a principal at Kicker Studio in San Francisco. “We're opinionated people, and we like to see that thinking in real world applications. I'm always getting my hands dirty. It's the best part.”
At Kicker, Medich helps companies design innovative products that are “as pleasing to use as they are to look at and touch.” They specialize in touch screens and gestural interfaces as well as product and user interface design for consumer electronics, appliances, mobile devices, kiosks, interactive environments, robots, embedded technology and responsive objects. She has developed innovative user experiences based on emerging media, including a gestural controlled TV and touch screen conference phones.
“I have worked with some amazing companies and could write a huge list of projects that I was so lucky to be involved with,” said Medich. “But it’s the work I'm doing now that is the most interesting to me. I feel like my whole career has been setting me up to do Kicker.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the work we do is under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) but one project I can talk about is the Canesta Gestural Entertainment System. Canesta is developing incredible technology that allows users to control devices through gesture. We created a gestural library for their 3D cameras that will be installed in TVs. Users will be able to change channels, control videos and perform standard remote control functions by gesturing at the TV with their hands.
“The project involved a lot of observation of people watching TV, a bunch of design work and a rapid prototyping sprint where we tested libraries with users to see what was effective. As a result, Canesta signed a deal with Hitatchi and secured $16 million in funding.”
<span class='CALLOUT'>Detroit was an amazing place to start my career</span>
Prior to starting Kicker, Medich worked as the global design director for Cadillac.com in Detroit and as a creative director for Yahoo!.
“Detroit was an amazing place to start my career because of the access to big budget international accounts otherwise known as the car companies,” explained Medich. “But after working on several different car brands, I wanted to see what else I could do. I found that my automotive experience opened many doors because all agencies wanted to have a car account. The work is consistent and always challenging.
“Also, few industries market to the extent of auto manufacturers. I was able to bring a considerable skill set to the California agencies as a result of my experience in Detroit agencies. And as a technology-focused designer, what better place to go than Silicon Valley? Here I was able to translate my advertising experience into product and application design which is my true love. I get to play with all kinds of emerging and innovative technology every day.”
With over 13 years as a visual designer, Medich has had the opportunity to create strategy-driven projects (from advertising to Web sites) for over 300 companies, including TBWA/chiat/day in Los Angeles, Visa International, Sony, Play Station, Masterfoods, Nissan/Infiniti, Adaptive Path and StubHub. But Medich didn’t always plan on becoming a technology-driven designer.
“I started as a painter at CCS and always wished I had pursued it,” said Medich. “There is something distinctly different about the thought process of a fine artist from a designer. But I do continue to use most of the design processes I learned at CCS in my work today. Mary Bush taught me so much about concept development. She was incredibly tough, but her process of research and ideation was invaluable. In addition, most of my career opportunities have come from other CCS grads spread around the country.
“After moving to California, I chose to attend San Francisco Art Institute’s graduate program in painting because of its focus on theory and conceptual thought. I’m glad I did it.”
Outside of her work at Kicker and freelance assignments, Medich paints hyper-realistic oil portraits of abandoned houses in Detroit and builds drawing machines using recycled industrial machinery, micro-controllers and sensors. These re-purposed machines then record data, such as light and sound, to create drawings. She also works with a crew of artists and fabricators out of West Oakland to install large-scale, narrative sculptures.
“This year we completed the Raygun Gothic Rocketship (www.raygungothicrocket.com),” she said. “I not only helped to fabricate the rocket itself, but I also developed the marketing and several interactive pieces for the inside of the ship. I love projects where my professional and fine arts skill sets collide.”
- Graphic Design
- Kicker Studio (San Francisco)