Carolyn Kinder designing

Carolyn Kinder mid-mod egg chair featured on China tv

Carolyn Kinder designing Carolyn Kinder’s Garrett Swivel Chair and the factory that produces it will be featured in a popular television program on China’s CCTV.

Carolyn Kinder, Carol Tu and I were honored to participate in the video production. Carolyn’s egg chair design, available to the trade through Uttermost, has been wildly successful since it’s introduction in 2013. This nod to mid-mod stands out as a new classic. With a channel tufted back rest, it fits like a glove and feels as good as it looks.

Behind the design of mid-mod egg chair

For the sake of video production and historical integrity we did a faux flash back to 2012 and reenacted several phases of development. This is a great way to show you some of the behind-the-scenes process that goes into the creating one of the hundreds of design samples we produce each season. The process in it’s simplest form goes something like this:

  1. Simple Concept Sketch
  2. CAD development and review
  3. Raw body review and adjustment
  4. Material and detail assignment
  5. Finished sample review

Bringing the design concept to life

There are several additional critical steps that we won’t discuss today (including our secret sauce recipe), but the most important step is choosing the best vendor to bring your concept to life. This factory is one of our favorites, not only for their consistent quality and attention to detail, but also for their environmentally conscious production methods. The fact that a large percentage of the production, marketing and administrative staff have been with them for more than 15 years should tell you all you need to know this company.

You might have noticed by now that I haven’t shared the name of the fabulous resource.  I will give you one name… Monica.  You might notice it on the original concept sketch where Carolyn signed her name with the caveat “but do what Monica says”.  The rest is classified. Let’s just call it part of our secret sauce recipe.

Fall product development trip

What is product development?

We hit the ground running this month as we started our fall product development trip to China. If you’re not sure what product development is – stay tuned for a #BehindTheDesign tour. We’ll show you how Carolyn Kinder International (CKI) moves from design to final product.

Product Design

This is the fun part. Product designers find inspiration everywhere – from art, architecture, nature and pretty much everywhere they go. What can start out as a sketch on a napkin in a restaurant, is eventually conceptualized and illustrated in a way that allows a manufacturer to create a prototype sample. Throughout the product development cycle, designers and CKI’s founder, Carolyn Kinder, have input and final approval, making sure the vision of the designer is fully realized. Once the design is finalized, that’s when the product development starts.

Product Development

Product development is a complicated process where designers work with a team of artisans and technicians to bring the product through production.

CKI designers are on site to approve each milestone of a products development cycle. This is what it looks like:

  • CAD or three-dimensional shop drawings Once the designer has identified and illustrated the concept, a scaled CAD or three-dimensional illustration is created. CKI’s dedicated staff of illustrators create detailed, scaled drawings that include all components of the product down to the last nut, bolt and washer. For Lighting products and ceiling fans the process is extremely detailed and includes specification of socket type, bulb wattage and overall fixture wattage and load.
  • Carving and detail Sculptural items and carved components must be hand-carved or turned on a lathe by local artisans and are then approved for scale and shape before they are moved to casting. These components can be cast in iron, aluminum, brass, concrete, or other composite materials. Next comes white body approval. A white body is a plaster cast of a carving. These white bodies are used to create the molds for casting. White bodies must be checked and approved prior to mold making which can be very expensive.
  • Metal work and bending It is so important to oversee the bending of metal arms for fixed wire lighting and other products. A slight difference in the sweep of a chandelier’s arm can greatly improve or detract from its visual appeal and salability.
  • Finish specifications The color, texture and luster of a product is crucial to its success. The finish is usually specified in the original concept creation but can change through the development of a product based on a vendor’s strengths and creativity. Cooperation with a vendor is important to find the best possible aesthetic for each piece.
  • Glass components Most lighting vendors have a large variety of glass components on hand to choose the best fit for the product design, but in many cases, we seek a local glass manufacturer for a more unique, original glass component and finish. A trip to a good glass factory can open a world of creativity and opportunity.
  • Bill of materials and cost analysis Once you have identified all the components of a product each item must be listed and costed to find the overall cost. In most cases, the factory is responsible for these details, but it is important to cooperate with their staff and adjust as needed to create the best product for the best price.
  • Prototype sample approval Once all the pieces have been approved and assembled, the designer must approve and sign off on the sample or make whatever minor adjustments are necessary.
  • Photography The completed approved samples are photographed in high resolution, usually as a part of a vignette and individually. The individual photographs are pathed for use in marketing collateral.

Show it, sell it, ship it

After the development is complete the products are shown to a wholesale client in a product line review that includes 300-600 new products twice a year. We develop around 5,000 products in an 18-month period.

Carolyn Kinder International licenses its unique, original product designs to some of the best wholesalers and original equipment manufacturers in the home furnishing industry. Learn more at

Carolyn Kinder, the inspiration behind the design

Carolyn Kinder designers share what’s #BehindTheDesign

Carolyn Kinder, the inspiration behind the designCarolyn Kinder designers are ready to share a behind-the-scenes look at their work. They work tirelessly to bring you well-traveled designs. Our team will share what’s #BehindTheDesign with:

  • Stories about our products
  • Where we find our inspiration
  • Observations from the marketplace
  • Pearls of wisdom from Carolyn Kinder herself

We all are moving so fast, it is easy to forget to stop and reflect on what makes a design unforgettable and timeless. Stay tuned for more!

Kinder International: A Peek Behind The Curtain

Kinder International: A Peek Behind The Curtain 

 Original article appeared: April 2, 2016 Linda Longo Inside Lighting-Lighting Technology

Ever wonder how the products in retail stores or at the major home furnishing markets are made?  Recently Linda Longo Editorial Director of enLIGHTenment Magazine, visited the Kinder International showroom in Changan China and was given a look inside a few of our many artisan factories.  Our Changan showroom and development offices is where our products, conceptualized by our global team of award winning designers, come to life under the direction of our Design Director, John Whitman.

enLIGHTenment Magazine - April 2016Linda Longo shares, “I’ve been privileged to tour a half-dozen factories in the U.S. over the years – plus two factories in Europe – so I am familiar with the basics of manufacturing lighting fixtures and accessories. How items are made in China, however, was still a mystery to me. I’ve heard good stories and I’ve heard bad ones, but I never have been able to see for myself until the iconic design team of Kinder International invited me to visit Mainland China where they manufacture their line of lamps and accessories.”

What this trip with Kinder International team showed me was that their factories in China offer high quality in mediums such as ceramics, finishing, and metalwork for decades.  Discovering who those small companies are, and nurturing those relationships, is the key to keeping product quality consistent.”, Linda expressed of her visit to Kinder factories.

Having the executive and design teams with established residences in China allows Kinder to continually cultivate those relationships and continue to provide the highest level of product quality in the industry.

Linda Longo’s next article will provide a closer look at the inner workings of “this globally successful design company and the team members who help keep Kinder International at the top of its game.”

For those of you who may never have the opportunity to visit a lighting or home accents factory in China, Kinder International invites you to schedule a tour today.

Contact Us to Schedule Your Tour Today