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Designing is Producing

Peter Kolkman has switched from graphic to product design and says he thinks designing and producing shoud be one and the same.  His new wooden iPhone and iPad covers are already popular in Japan.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 15-05-2013

Sometime in the 1970s wood disappeared from electronic design. Stereo equipment looked silver or pitch black. Computers were mostly made of terrible looking greyish plastic.

But now wood is enjoying a resurrection in the material of choice. Designer Peter Kolkman has developed a series of cases for iPads and iPhones made entirely from wood. “Wood is beautiful, it’s simply beautiful,” he says. “Wood has a wide range of colours and grains, which makes every case unique.”

To Kolkman’s surprise wood matched the look of these 21st century high-tech devices extremely well – and the uniqueness of every wooden case gives the mass-produced electronic device the individual personality it sorely lacks.

The problem he encountered though, was that no one was able to mass produce the wooden prototype he had designed. “So we did it ourselves,” Kolkman says. This taught him a valuable lesson: designing and producing are not different professions. “There’s something wrong if you design something here and have it produced far away.”
This all happened about five years ago. Until then Kolkman had ran a graphic design studio he started about 25 years ago.  As a graphic designer he did of course use Apple computers and he readily admits appreciating the design of their products. “This gives us something to work with,”  he says.

In 2009 Kolkman folded his graphic design studio to focus entirely on the wooden cases. He and his wife now run a small factory, Miniot, designing, producing and shipping the cases all over the world.

The Japanese have proven their instinct for sourcing the hottest and the latest: the only official dealership for the cases is in Tokyo.

The official Apple stores don’t stock the Miniot cases. “We can’t offer them the margins they demand,” says Kolkman, “but we’re working on a chain of dealerships.” Having said that, he quickly adds there’s no intention to grow very large. The company now employs about ten people, and “we’re still trying to work out what the ideal size would be.”


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