Robert Karnick

Inside ROBRADY: An Interview with Robert Karnick

What do you think is the most important part of the design process? For example: research, design, development, prototype, engineering, or production?
That’s a hard one to answer, without sounding too vague. It isn’t any particular disciple or function like ID, MD, Prototyping, etc. It’s the approach to the problem and getting everyone involved in a meaningful way. I’m a big believer in up front research to provide fuel/inspiration to ID, GD and MD, but want to get to prototypes as quickly as possible, even if they are ugly, cobbled together models made of foam, wood or parts of other products. People need to touch things to give proper feedback. 

After doing this for 20+ years, my approach to design is to “believe in the process”. Meaning, don’t try to control design and REALLY be open to other people’s ideas. Give the team the proper inspiration and then trust them to do great work. 9 times out of 10, a team will create great work and will exceed your expectations, if they really believe that you trust them and know that they’re opinions matter. No one likes to be told what to do.. projects need to be managed, people need to be lead.

What do you like or dislike about your design related education? Was it worth it?
The education I got at Auburn was fantastic and it changed the way I looked at the world. My education was as much about philosophy, as it was about learning the fundamentals of design (color, form, balance, etc.) and the tools of the trade (sketching, CAD, model-making, etc.). Everything we did, seemed to have a purpose even when it was very difficult or didn’t make sense at the time. Professors would write on our renderings and break our models during presentations, sometimes just to see how we would react. Could you keep your cool, did you defend your design, could you take criticism and learn from it? By the end, my freshman class had been weeded down from 60 people to 6 people that I graduated with. You really had to want to be a designer to get through the program.

How long does a team work on a project for?
Every project is different in terms of scope and deliverables, so projects can range from 6 weeks to 6 months or more. If it is truly a “team project” involving all disciplines (ID, MD, GD and RP), 10 – 12 weeks is really fast track program, and time goes up from there.

About Robert:
Robert has more than 20 years experience creating innovative solutions for clients in the Consumer Products, Industrial Equipment and Medical Device Industries.

Robert is responsible for Business Development efforts at ROBRADY design, consulting with clients on innovation approaches, user research, industrial and interaction design, engineering and all other phases of the product development process. He holds 6 patents in diverse industries such as Semiconductors, Children’s toys, Transportation and Medical Devices. He has won numerous design awards, including the IDSA Design Excellence, Red Dot and Medical Design Excellence Award for his work with clients such as Philips, Home Depot, IBM, General Motors and Coca-Cola.

Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Auburn University.

Fun Fact: As a freshman, I won they Hamburger Eating contest at Auburn. It was me against about 20 huge football players and no one gave me a chance. I woofed down 6 McDonald’s hamburgers in less than a minute and beat everyone by 2 burgers. It was awesome!