Sidelines: A Modern Eden

First, tell me a bit about FORGE: when the firm was founded, who are the partners, how many employees. What kind of work do you do? Who are some of your top clients?

FORGE was founded in January of 2009 by four partners. The partners operated in a variety of different areas of expertise ranging from E-commerce to traditional print design. After working and collaborating together for over a year, we felt that there was a synergy and common spirit that really excited us about joining together to form a company. While we experienced the difficult economy like everyone else, we also enjoyed a period of growth, both personally and professionally. We have worked hard to earn a reputation of dependability and creative thought in the Dayton region, and hope to continue to be thought leaders in our respective areas. We work with companies like Dayton Power & Light, Panstoria, Merchants Security, and the Dayton Philharmonic. Our diverse client mix reflects the depth of our expertise in areas such as user interface design, web development and unique solutions to branding and design problems.


When and how did A Modern Eden come about? I understand that Ryan Clark of your team was the creative spark behind this. What’s the story? And what prompted the name?
A Modern Eden has grown tremendously from the initial concept by Ryan Clark to a brand that everyone at FORGE can be proud of. As Ryan was explaining the idea of designing some Mid-Century Modern animal illustrations for his son’s nursery, our team began brainstorming some ideas of how we could extend the brand even further. The A Modern Eden name combines the design style with the concept of a great gathering of animals from Biblical times.

We decided to launch the brand with products on multiple fronts. The launch of A Modern Eden was a combination of an ecommerce store and an app on the iTunes app store called “Speak, Piggy”.

Who at FORGE works on the products?
As with every project at FORGE, there is great collaboration with our team. Our initial product mix was our first step in establishing a brand identity for A Modern Eden. Ryan continued to play a key role in shaping the overall aesthetic of the products, while Jeremy Loyd, our Creative Director, and Jän Ostendorf, our Brand Strategist worked with Ryan to fill out our initial set of products.

For the prints and tote, how are those printed, and who’s your vendor?
The prints were screen printed at Vahalla Studios on French paper. The totes are 100% recycled cotton, and were printed at Vertical Merch. The totes also feature some custom-embroidered badges as well. We also have an exclusive new product line of removable wall graphics that just launched through our friends at Blik.

How much of your firm’s revenue comes from A Modern Eden?
Since A Modern Eden is a new property, our focus is simply on building a solid brand. While the two apps that we currently have on the app store have been a surprising success, we are more focused on building a strong brand than driving revenue.

How many downloads of the apps have you seen?
Our two apps, “Speak, Piggy” and “C is for Cow” have been downloaded over 12,000 times so far. For a new brand with zero retail name recognition, we are very happy with the initial reception. We have some exciting ideas for the future as well.

Do you anticipate adding products and growing A Modern Eden? What’s your vision?
We have an exciting vision for A Modern Eden. We are still focused on building the brand equity, and will be looking to get the brand into the retail space. Our vision is to build a brand that excites people and reminds them of the simple elegant quality that our society sometimes lacks. We also plan to expand our product mix into new and exciting directions.

Does your team feel that the Modern Eden projects fuel your client work in any way?
Nothing excites a group of creatives like everyone in the company working together. Our collaborative environment at FORGE was perfect for us coming together with A Modern Eden. We have the same attitude towards our client work. However, with an internal initiative there are obviously no external restrictions. We actually had to apply some internal checks and balances on the project to ensure that we met our deadlines.

How does A Modern Eden help spread the word about Forge? Do you think the products generate additional exposure for the design studio?
A Modern Eden has surprised us all by its ability to showcase our company. We have received a lot of inquiries and some jobs because of the breadth of skills necessary to create a product from scratch like we did. It just goes to show you that you don’t need to wait for the phone to ring to do great work. Just gather a lot of smart people together and create your own project. The old adage holds true: “Show me, don’t tell me.”

Any advice for other designers who dream of creating, producing and selling their own goods?
I would advise anyone who dreams of creating their own products to spend some time up front on the product mix. It’s easy to create products that you personally would like, but it helps to try and fully understand your audience. We’ve learned a lot, especially from the iPhone apps, about audience expectations, and this is really helping us as we plan for the next phase.

Interested in learning more about how designers can create and sell their own products? See more Sidelines interviews with designers who’ve found success with their own product lines, and catch a DesignCast with Steven Heller and Lita Talarico: Turning Your Work into Goods That Sell.





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