Hi Frank! Welcome to RKS! To start, can you tell us about yourself and your past?
My career started at General Motors in their Cadillac studio, where I had a seat next to the guy who designed the Trans-Am / Firebird Eagle. Through Cadillac, I eventually became more interested in product design, which lead me to Fischer Price and then to Motorola where I spent 10 years working for Bruce Claxton. More than anyone, Bruce shaped my design career and management style.
Later I found myself working for BlackBerry and Kyocera. All of these diverse design experiences qualified me to lead the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). During this time I reconnected with Ravi Sawhney, founder of RKS, who’s an active member of IDSA.
My career eventually lead me to build successful start ups which were later acquired. I also worked for Dell leading their consumer design and experience functions. All of these jobs guided me around the world, where I settled into Austin for a few years. While in Austin, I ventured into the audio space and launched a boutique agency to support these startup endeavors.
All of these experiences were training me to accept this position as President of RKS.
Wow! You have a lot of experience! With all that experience, what excites you about joining RKS as our new President?
Joining RKS felt less like a decision, much more like destiny.
I was attending an IDSA student conference back in 1991, where Ravi, the founder of RKS was on stage. He was explaining a methodology that was moving the design practice into a deeper and informed space. Had someone from the future in the auditorium whispered, “hey Frank, you’re going to be the President of this firm someday” I probably would not have believed them.
Joking aside, twenty-seven years later I fondly remember how Ravi’s presentation enlightened me as to how important it is to have a repeatable design and innovation process. I was using RKS’s Psyco-Aesthetics formula to capture, share and win awards and by 2010 Ravi and I would be collaborating with IDSA. You see, my journey here actually started 27 years ago.
Now leading RKS, I’m proud of our accomplishments like being chosen by Amazon to help them solve some of today’s most challenging sustainability problems. We are also working with another global powerhouse in Europe to eliminate single use plastics from their supply chain. What excites me is that we are not only designing physical products, we are solving some of today’s most challenging problems in different forms from products to services, to user interfaces and brands, and everything in between. It’s exciting to work for a firm that is a well-oiled machine with such diverse skill set.
You have been here a little over a month now, what are your thoughts?
To be perfectly honest, there were no big surprises because this transition was well designed. For starters, I knew that I’d be inheriting a highly tuned, well balanced organization from our former VP of Innovation, Scott Clear. And sure enough, the culture is exactly as I imagined it would be. Our people are committed, collaborative, creative, diverse and loving. I inherited an organization that has all the right stuff and It’s an honor to lead such a wonderful group of people who are deeply committed to doing great work. We have a mix of industrial designers, researchers, brand and experience designers, engineers, and prototyping experts.
It’s quite something to see so many creative and diverse thinkers all come together to function like one moving part. RKS is a bit unique in that we expect everyone on staff to present to the client. That means everyone on staff is a starter, full-stop, there isn’t a second string, so every client (large or small) gets access to our best talent.
What we pitch is what you get.