Picking Up A Paintbrush

As a product designer, my DNA is a strange double helix of engineering principles and artistic expression. I perpetually teeter for a good balance between the logical and the lovely. This past year, I came across a wonderful short book written by Winston Churchill called Painting as a Pastime.  For those seeking a little bit of inspiration, it is a quick must-read. Churchill picked up a paintbrush for the first time at the age of 40, and remarked,

“Painting a picture is like trying to fight a battle”. 

 This world-leader’s comment was a reflection of the world he knew all too well. He went on to describe painting technique almost as if the battle lines were drawn when the paint was squeezed out of the tube onto the palette.  Prime Minister Churchill – a man who basically ruled the free world for a time – went on to say how painting helped expand his thought processes by exercising parts of his brain that didn’t normally get a workout. I figure, if this practice made such a notable difference for a Nobel Prize-winning leader, surely it would make some kind of transformation in a product designer… Churchill’s curious explanations prompted me to pick up a paintbrush, reflect on the world around me, and commit to painting something new every month.

In taking up this new structured hobby, I have discovered a lot of things for myself. I highly suggest that anyone and everyone give it a try at some point in their life… hopefully sooner, rather than later.  For those in “non-creative fields”, let your creative self out to play. We all have one – some of us simply tried to leave those sides behind as we grew older, thinking it was child’s play.  For those in creative fields, let your artistic expression loose in this non-vocational exercise, giving you the freedom to create without a client waiting on the other end.

Whether you consider yourself artistic or not, you will soon discover there are major benefits that can be developed through painting. Following, are some of the biggest take-aways that emerged for me in this practice.

Paintings by David Yakos

5 personal benefits of painting:

  1. Peace of Mind: I have found that sitting down in front of a blank canvas and covering it with paint has become a retreat for my brain.  There is a freedom in simply creating a picture, and watching it take shape as paint is layered and pushed around a canvas.  Because of this benefit, many groups have employed art for the sake of mental health.
  2. New Eyes: Painting helps me notice fine details that I ignored in the past. It makes me look at faces – not as features with two eyes, a nose and mouth – but as countless facets with resting shades of light.  I now look at water not as a field of blue, but as an oscillating reflection of the world above.  Churchill said of this phenomenon, “A heightened sense of the observation of nature is one of the chief delights that have come to me through trying to paint.”
  3. Appreciation: I find myself watching online videos about the masters like Da Vinci and Rembrandt. I stop and look at art more, and even if I do not love the piece, I consider the amount of effort it must have taken, and ask questions like, “what were they trying to say with this piece?”.  One starts to notice the shifts in time and culture in pondering art.  I’ve tried painting some things I find really difficult, which has given me an even greater appreciation for the Masters.
  4. Growth: The practice of painting is making me a better designer and artist.  As I learn to place color, I dream up products with a deeper understanding of how light will rest on a fresh shape.  My hand-eye dexterity and artistic ability are slowly improving as I come closer and closer to being able to put what I imagine in my minds’ eye down on paper or canvas.
  5. Enjoyment: I find painting to be really, really, really fun! I have been able to make some new friends through the process by painting with others and sharing tips and discoveries with fellow artists.  Painting allows the imagination to run free in a 2D world of color. When all the color is placed where it’s intended, it is a rewarding moment. The monumental task has been accomplished, and you can proudly sign your name on the creation, step back and say, “done”.

It is important to be patient with yourself as you learn.  Have fun! Treat every new work as a learning experience for yourself, allowing for growth, fun, and discovery. If you want to be a more creative engineer, designer or _____________ (fill in the blank), I challenge you to take a moment, and put a little paint on canvas.

David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

3D Printing Keynote Speaker

October 2014, David Yakos, VP and Director of Creativity at Salient  Technologies, Inc. addressed a roomful of technology professionals as the keynote speaker at the RJ Young “Power of 3D Printing” Conference in Nashville, TN. Yakos presented the ability of 3D printing to take risk out of product development through prototyping.

RJ Young Brings “The Power of 3D Printing” Exhibition and Award Winning Product Designer to Nashville

Southeast’s leading office technology provider brings “The Power of 3D Printing” Exhibition and Award Winning Product Designer David Yakos to audience in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville, Tennessee (PRWEB) October 16, 2014RJ Young 3D Printing 2014

Nearly 50 professionals from across the mid-state attended “The Power of 3D Printing”, an interactive 3D printing exhibition and guest lecture at the Omni Hotel, sponsored by the RJ Young Company. The event showcased 3D Systems printing technology and informed a wide-range of professionals, from architects to advertising agencies, of the competitive advantages that 3D printing offers and featured a lunch-time presentation by award-winning product designer David Yakos.

“Weapons to wheelchairs and dog toys to space exploration, all industries could use 3D printing technology,” Yakos said as he addressed the audience. He explained how 3D printing in product development allows you to “fail fast and fail cheap” to get more desirable products to market faster.

Read the rest of the story HERE

Starting the Patent Process, with Toni Tease

Patent Pending

Patent Pending

Here at Salient, we’ve designed many products that have jumped into the world of patent protection. The patent process is a structured path that is ideally approached with best practices.

For those best practices, we often turn to Antoinette (Toni) M. Tease, a registered patent attorney who we have worked with and trusted for years. Here is a look into one of her Intellections® newsletters

 Starting the Patent Process, By Antoinette M. Tease

Intellectual Property and Technology Law

The first two issues I address with every new patent client who contacts me are ownership and disclosure. Before you proceed with the patent process, you need to make sure you own the patent rights to the invention, and you also need to make sure that your invention is not in the public domain due to previous public disclosures, offers for sale, public use, etc…

To begin the patent process, we require three things of inventors: 1) a signed engagement letter, 2) a completed disclosure form, and 3) a retainer for the patent search. A prototype is not required for the patent search, but it is highly recommended because it will enable the search firm to focus more specifically on those structural aspects of your invention that are potentially patentable.

There are limitations to any patent search, four of which are mentioned here:

  1. Most patent applications are published 18 months after filing, and applications filed with a nonpublication request are not published until the patent issues. This means that the patent search will not include any applications filed in the 18 months prior to the search.
  2. A typical patent search will include U.S. patent references only; foreign searches may be conducted, but they are quite costly. Foreign patent references may be cited by the examiner, however, in reviewing your application.
  3. A typical patent search includes patent references (issued patents and published patent applications only). Other types of publications (such as articles) are also considered prior art but are not typically included in a patent search.
  4. There are issues with the patent office’s classification system (classifications are not always consistent or accurate) that sometimes result in a reference not being included in a patent search that was conducted according to the most relevant search classes and subclasses.

For all these reasons, I tell inventors to consider the patent search a “snapshot” of the prior art but not to treat it as a guarantee of patentability.

Once the search is completed, we provide our best assessment as to the chances of patentability. If the client decides to move forward, then we usually file a nonprovisional patent application….

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Stay tuned for an upcoming video interview series on the Patent Process with Toni Tease…


Maker Studio in the News

Maker Studio, Techlicious 2015

Maker Studio won the Techlicious Best of 2015 NY Toy Fair Award!

Maker’s Studio made quite the impression during it’s release at the 2015 New York Toy Fair this February, winning the Best of Toy Fair award from Techlicious, making numerous Top 10 Lists (listed below), and receiving glowing reviews for its take on open-end play.  Co-inventors David Yakos, of Salient Technologies, Inc., and maker Parker Thomas teamed up with toy and game producers, ThinkFun to create the open-play concept toy.  Three Maker Studio sets have been released: Propellers, Gear and Winches, and the included Engineering Challenge Cards encourage kids in problem solving and thinking outside the box.  Built by engineers for budding engineers, ThinkFun’s Maker Studio puts creativity back in play.

Check out some of the great reviews at these links:


April 14, 2015: No Monsters In My Bed Blog Review of Maker Studio

April 13, 2015: The House of Boys…And a Girl Blog Review of Maker Studio

April 13, 2015: Cummin’s Life Blog Review of Maker Studio

March 6, 2015: KBZK News Piece on Bozeman local, David Yakos & the invention of Maker Studio

February 20, 2015: Maker Studio named in the CNET “Most Amazing Stuff of Toy Fair 2015” list

February 19, 2015: Maker Studio named in GeekDad’s Top 10 of NY Toy Fair 2015

Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 Award

Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 Award

February 19, 2015: Makezine is all about Maker Studio promoting the make-movement

February 19, 2015: The Maker Studio pieces “feel great, fit together well, and demand open-ended play”, says Amy Kraft of Makeroni

February 18, 2015: Kidscreen ranks Maker Studio in their favoriate non-tech toys

February 18, 2015: DadDoes places Maker Studio on the “Good” end of his article, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Toy Fair 2015

February 16, 2015: Out of 150,000 products, Maker Studio is awarded Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 List along with 7 others

February 11, 2015: Reuter’s Magazine lists ThinkFun’s Maker Studio as a great toy for kids who want to “build, do and explore!”

February 7, 2015: The Making of and Inspiration behind Maker Studio

If you’re into videos, check out the Made by Bella series – where Bella and her Friends work through the Engineering Challenges of Maker Studio

Made by Bella

Made by Bella – creating a Princess Carriage with Maker Studio

Salient Product Design Mentorship

In partnership with HATCH, Salient is excited to announce we are now accepting applications for the 2015 Product Design Mentorship!

Launching in just a few short weeks, Salient will accept up to 6 candidates for our hands-on Mentorship.  Good applicants are students who are (most likely) pursuing degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Design, Product Design or it’s equivalent – OR, those who have a marked interest in Product Design and the skills necessary to contribute to the program.

The Salient Mentorship is created in partnership with the HATCH 360 Mentorship that uses a bottom-up and peer to peer approach to build meaningful relationships, share knowledge and expertise, and challenge each other.

All students will be coached by Salient Technology owners – David Yakos and Stephen Sanford on Salient’s 3 Phase Design Process: 1) Concept Design, 2) Prototype Development, and 3) Design for Manufacturing, and invited to participate in all three ares on an actual project.

The Mentorship is not paid, nor is it for credit. The Application Deadline is Thursday, February 19th, and Classes will be held from 3 PM – 5 PM, Thursdays, March 5th, March 19th, April 2nd, and April 16th. Some work will be required outside of class time.

Email info@salient-tech.com for more information and application forms.


Salient Mentorship

Thank You, Teach!


The Lincoln Middle School Students having a go at using the Wacom tablet during their tour of Salient

This last Friday and Saturday, I had the privilege of leading 20 junior high students and 10 high school students through the product design process here at Salient Technologies headquarters. The students traveled to Bozeman to take part in a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition.  Picture an intense basketball tournament with dozens of teams, but instead of winning because you can put an orange ball through a metal circle, a team wins by completing complex challenges performed by a robot they built and created.  The teachers coaching the team reached out to Salient for a tour and inside-look in aims to inspire kids to pursue careers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), more specifically, design and engineering.  It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes. Little did they, or we,  know that the teacher leading the charge for the high school team was my first design/engineering/CAD teacher from nearly 20 years prior… a teacher who inspired me in the very same way.

The tour of Salient consisted of an inside look at the Design Process: what it looks like to take a product from imagination all the way to production.  After working on thousands of products over the years, we were able to reference a handful of fun examples from NASA valves, to familiar household games like Yahtzee.  We looked at industrial design, drawing in 3D CAD (and using Wacom tablets!), video animations, renderings, structural design and designing for manufacturing.  It was just the kind of stuff I was first introduced to in the very same class this teacher was teaching in the mid 90s.


David’s first CAD file – a Hummer…go figure.

During the tour, I pulled out an old, yellowed drawing to share with the group.  It was my very first CAD drawing – a side view of a Humvee drawn under the open-ended instruction of the very same teacher.  It was drawn in 2D AutoCAD back when just printing in color was ground-breaking technology.  I hung onto that simple drawing because it was an exciting discovery for me. It was where I first encountered a new tool that could help amplify my artistic and creative ability. It was the first time I got my hands on the same type of technology I now use almost every day in my exciting career.

On behalf of designers and engineers everywhere, I wanted to say thank you to the teachers who inspired creativity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  In this specific case, Thank You, Mr. Ruble, for fostering a place of inspiration!


The whole crew of Lincoln Middle Schools’ FIRST program on their tour at Salient Technologies, with NERF guns in tow.


The infamous Mr. Ruble and the FIRST crew from Lincoln High School wrapping up their Salient tour.

Salient’s Top 10 Highlights of 2014

Top 10 Highlights of 2014

It’s been a pretty big year for us here at Salient.  Following are some of our Highlights, “Letterman-style”:

No. 10:  Salient featured in a webisode of “In The Making”

No. 9:  David as Keynote Speaker for the RJ Young 3D Printing Conf. in Nashville, TN

No. 8: Rolling out the new Salient Website

No. 7: New PC SolidWorks Workstations (that we built ourselves!)

No. 6: Hiring two new Salient Team Members – Seth & Christina

No. 5: “Product Testing” Blue Ribbon Nets’ Aquafade nets in the Beartooth Mountains and catching a hoard of trout

No. 4: Participating in HATCH 2014 in Big Sky, MT

No. 3: Attending the Chicago Toy & Game Fair & The MMEC Compete Smart Show in Billings, MT

No. 2: Flying to Dusseldorf for the World Valve Expo

And No. 1: Working on over 130 product designs THIS YEAR!

Bonus:  Numerous Epic NERF Battles in the office.

Merry Christmas

Taking Ideas from Good to Great

“Salient has been a vital part of The Ripple product development process, not only from an engineering perspective, but also in terms of design conception and education.  Developing an innovative and functional product is not a black and white process and what separates Salient from the competition is their willingness to dive in and explore all the possible ways your product can look and function. I would definitely recommend Salient to anyone who is ready to turn their idea into a reality.” – Kevin Scharfe, Founder, Warum Studios, LLC

Here at Salient, we get to work with lots of people who have really good ideas, and we love nothing more than helping our clients develop their good ideas into great ideas. So when Warum Studios, LLC approached us with The Ripple, we knew it could be a great product, and the collaboration began.

With some “expert tweaking” – including improving on the bayonet design, size and depth of the bowl, and the ergonomic handle design – Salient kicked out manufacturing files, and The Ripple began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the next phase in production.  In a little over a month, Warum Studios was able to raise almost $30,000 in Kickstarter backing, collect market research and narrow down their target market to people in their 20’s who live in dorms or small apartments; young families and the disabled.ripple-3-horizontal

Now, 10 months after producing their first run, founder Kevin Scharf is proud to say they’ve sold almost 4,000 Ripples to customers all over the world! “What makes The Ripple truly special”, says Scharf, “is not that it’s a detachable bowl and plate, but the possibilities for different dishes and devices that can connect quickly and securely with our bayonet mount.  We are now in the market research phase of adding a smaller bowl to the lineup for kids and possibly a dipping cup/drink holder!”

The Ripple is currently available in retail stores across Montana and was recently published in Japan’s version of the Wall street Journal.  Friday, November 14th, you can tune into the DIY Network hit show, “I Want That”, at 9 PM Mountain Time, to see The Ripple featured as one of the shows coveted items. The Ripple has also been accepted into the “Discover Design” section of the juried Chicago-based International Housewares Show in February 2015. But, if you can’t make it to Chicago, you can purchase your very own Ripple HERE.


“In The Making” – An Inside Look at the Design Process

Sharing an inside look at our design process and the journey of one of our current projects is pretty exciting – especially when it’s with Doc Mike North, host of In the Making.

In the Making takes viewers behind the scenes of spectacular projects, people and ideas while they are being created. Doc North travels the world to give viewers an inspirational look into what it takes to make scientific breakthroughs, create companies and invent the future. Follow North to catch the next big thing while it’s still IN THE MAKING.

In this episode of In the Making, we’re exploring a new, non-lethal weapon alternative and sharing a bit of the developmental process by showcasing concept design, prototyping and production design.  The non-lethal pepper spray attachment mounts to any standard picatinny rail and has a range of approximately 30 feet to assist in defusing hostile situations.

In the Making with @Doctor North

Developing a product that’s used in the field means several prototypes versions are necessary to test the feel and function of the device. It’s important that a product feels right when in hand, which isn’t something that can be determined from a digital CAD file. The product has to feel robust, secure, made for the hand, and easy to operate. In testing this product, we found physical testing helpful in figuring out nozzle size and ensuring the pepper spray reached the correct distance. We also tested and perfected one hand operation including firing, loading and reloading.

The aim in designing this product is to save the lives of people who are unnecessarily shot due to chaotic series’ of events ending in lethal force. Officers are often called to enter situations without knowing the true nature of the environment and whether they will need to be armed with lethal or non-lethal force. This product gives law enforcement an option other than lethal force without endangering themselves or civilians by needing to lowering their firearm to switch tools in the midst of conflict. Now, hostile environments that are escalating to a high-risk situation can be quickly defused before they end in a fatal shooting.  Our goal is providing an alternative to lethal force by making a product that matters.

Thank you, Doc North, for your time and energy!

David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

Thinking of You… Designing for the End User

Standing in the greeting card section of my local box store, I noticed a lot of “Thinking of You” cards. Tasked with finding an appropriate birthday card, I thought, “you really have to be an intentional and thoughtful person to get a ‘just-because’, Thinking of You card for someone.” You know the cards… they’re sappy,Thinking-of-You like, “The other day I was smiling for no reason, but then I realized I was thinking of you”; or snappy, like, “Just thinking of you… which reminds me… you owe me twenty bucks.”  As product designers, we have to take this intentional and thoughtful approach in crafting our ideas if we really want to connect with the End User. Buying a card, we know the recipient needs to be cheered up because they had a bad week, or loved on because they are excessively sentimental and feed off the sap. The intent of focusing on the reader’s or users’ needs can be called “user-centered design”.

In User-Centered Design, we need to look at who this End User is from the very early stage of designing a product.  We try to foresee the little girl, old man or even the puppy who will be using the product.  Doing this requires diving into imagination, dreaming up personas and asking questions of them: Will they intuitively know how to use the product without reading the instructions? Will they use it in extreme environments? How will they hold it? Where will they store it? With what will they clean it? Will they try to eat it? In product design, we’re sometimes guilty of jumping right into feature-based design with ideas biased by personal experience and desire… “I want it to look like an iPhone. I want it water-proof and it should be yellowish-orange because I think Apple is the greatest, I’m a swimmer and I really love yellowish-orange…”  What happened to the thoughtful and intentional designer; the kind that buys thinking of you cards? Ask questions!

One fun example of asking questions for thoughtful End User design occurs when creating a new dog toy. When developing dog toys we have to ask, “Who is the End User and what will they do with it?”  Obvious, right?… it’s the dog. But, when you think about it further… the End User of a dog toy is two-fold: a partnership between the pup and its owner.  Both the dog and his master want endless play out of the toy. westpaw-5-twizThe form has to be such that the teeth of the k9 can grab but cannot easily catch and cut into the toy, encouraging a long-lasting chew.  At the same time, it has to fit the hands of the owner who has to pick it up and throw it. Will it be covered in slobber when it’s grabbed? Is there a place that would be easier to hold on? Will it hold a treat and if so, how hard will it be for the dog to get it out? Will we discourage the dog or keep him entertained? How will it fly if thrown? Is the dog owner environmentally conscious and would they prefer an eco-friendly material? Does it matter to the owner where the product was made? Would they clean it if it was an easy process? Will this product ever end up in a pond and if so, should it float? How will this product make them feel? Yep, we have to talk about feelings.

In developing West Paw Design’s Tizzi, we envisioned a dog toy that could offer virtually endless play. We accomplished this by focusing on interactions between the users and toy while playing at the park or at home – not on the toy itself. Through our questions it was revealed that the form could not have sharp edges that would tear if a tooth got caught. In a game of tug-of-war there had to be room for teeth and fingers. If part of the toy became covered in slobber there had to be other grabbing options, or at least a texture to help mitigate the mess. A treat could be hidden in a chamber and the handles twisted and locked to allow for indoor play – possibly on the kitchen floor. The treat chamber would encourage prolonged play for the dogs with obsessive personalities…but what about a high energy dog at the park?  On the Tizzi, when the handles are twisted and locked the age-old game of fetch is enhanced by a toy that flies like a spiral thrown football resulting in even more fun for both End Users.

Lola with her Tizzi

Lola with her Tizzi.

With more questions answered, we select an appropriate material. The award-winning ZogoFlex material offers indestructibility, is recyclable, non-toxic, dishwasher safe, can be made in the USA and it is less dense than water allowing it to float if thrown into a pond or lake. Material selection alone allowed us to hit some major design criteria which were defined by focusing on the End User’s experience. Ultimately, we were successful in creating a product that makes the dog and owner feel good – good about getting exercise, good about environmentally conscious purchases and good about the enhanced relationship after solid playtime.

By asking and answering questions like these, we narrow down the intent of the product which governs the form and final function – not the other way around. We become intentional designers by just Thinking of You

David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

Get in touch!