Industry Profile: BOA Technology Director of Product Design Brett Vladika
21 Jul, 2009
Shay: So tell us about yourself?
Brett: My background and education is in Industrial Design. I earned a bachelor of science from the University of Cincinnati. I have been at Boa Technology for two years. Previously, I spent 10 extremely formative and educational years at a design consultancy in various roles; product designer, project manager, design researcher and design/research manager.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Brett: My first set-up consisted of my Sorel’s locked down on a Morrow Spoon Nose. I loved that board and am jazzed that they brought it back this year.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Brett: Currently I am riding a Palmer board with Ride bindings. That is the only permanent part of my set up. The boots get rotated as I am always testing new configurations and part combinations.
Shay: What was your first job?
Brett: Cold prep at Chi-Chi’s and then selling skis at a big box retailer. But in my field? Designing refrigerators for Amana.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Brett: Any day that I can get a babysitter.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Brett: My first foray on a snowboard was in the mid eighties on a local golf course, but I didn’t really start boarding until ’93.?
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Brett: Not enough. I would love to get out more but 8-10 days are all I can manage these days..
Shay: What is your role at BOA Technologies as the director of product design?
Brett: My role is to ensure the development of stellar, innovative and appropriate product solutions in a streamlined process. I am a conduit for and translator of product needs. I provide product direction and inspiration while removing obstacles in order for the Product Development team to accomplish their goal of delivering excellent solutions.
Shay: What are some products that feature BOA?
Brett: Beyond a vast majority of the top snowboard boot brands, Specialized cycling shoes for mountain and road, Vasque trail runners, TNF footwear and hydration packs, Footjoy golf shoes and whatever prototypes we happen to be wearing at any given time.
Shay: Is there a step by step process for product design?
Brett: Yes, in general there is a step by step process for designing any product. The general steps are the same but the specifics of each step can vary. Research, for example, has many faces and can range from desktop research to ethnographic, deep dives. Good process leads to good solutions. You can rely on established processes as long as you are willing to deviate from it when necessary.
Shay: Do you work with individual companies to implement BOA on their products?
Shay: What steps are taken to ensure durability and quality of BOA Technologies?
Brett: We have a rigorous, comprehensive and ever evolving lab and field testing program that we apply to all of our product, from guides and lace to housings and knobs. On an annual basis our field testing program involves over 300 testers in a multitude of categories making sure that product delivers in each application.
Shay: Prior to BOA, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Brett: I have worked for a variety of organizations, from large corporations employing thousands at a single location like Amana, to mid-size design consultancies like Brooks Stevens, to small entrepreneurial start-ups consisting of 2-3 people.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Brett: Each day varies, but any given day can consist of product discussions, product analysis and evaluation, design language conversations, education, project management, brand partner interaction, and problem solving.
Shay: How is working for BOA (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Brett: I love working for a small, energetic company in the outdoor industry. Being part of an industry that attracts people that love what they do makes an unbelievable difference. The perks are always around you in the people you work with. Everyone is moving in the same direction towards the same goals. Engaged and inspired co-workers are the best perk you can have. The field testing on a powder day isn’t bad either.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Brett: Catalog time. Because we are not in any single industry that is focused around a particular industry show we are not driven by one, externally, customer defined date. We are however driven by the need to provide the appropriate products for multiple categories in a timeframe that fits into our partner’s development and production windows. This puts significant emphasis on our catalog and its introduction timing.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Brett: They are both extremely important. Education is the doorway to experience and experience is its own education. The sum of my education and experience is what has allowed me to be where I am today.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in product design?
Brett: Talent is a great starting point, but education brings to light the “why”. Even if you are talented, there will be a problem that talent alone cannot solve and this is where you will need to have a deeper understanding of the theory behind the process. So, get a degree first. Find internships during your education as there is no better way to learn the field and what type of position fits you best, a large corporation versus a consultancy. And finally, pay attention. View every experience with curiosity and you will see the opportunities that exist all around you.
Shay: Final Thoughts?
Brett: Industrial Design is about people’s interaction with products, emotionally and physically. I am lucky enough to have found a discipline and an organization that gives me an amazing ability to positively affect the lives of people all over the world. Industrial Design is about experiences and Boa is a great vehicle for influencing them.
*Pictures courtesy of Brett Vladika and BOA Technologies