Five Reasons Markers are Not Dead

“Rumors of my demise are greatly over exaggerated” is not only a famous quote (Mark Twain) and song lyric (Rise Against the Machine), it also accurately describes the state of markers as a tool in the product development and design industry. Long gone are the days when painstaking hours were spent on full color, hand-drawn marker renderings (thank goodness!). However, I propose marker usefulness on a daily basis has not diminished. Here are just five reasons to not write off this somewhat archaic technology:

  • Intentionally Imprecise: A chisel or widesketch exploration tipped sharpie is a great tool for quickly exploring a basic overall shape without getting caught up in details that aren’t yet pertinent. Our industry is detail oriented, and yet large markers can force you to be intentionally vague, work quickly, redirect focus to the 10,000 ft. view, cover ground and experiment with very few consequences. Fail quick, fail often and move forward more informed.
  • Line Weight: This single attribute is often sketch line weightwhat separates a great looking sketch from a less successful version. Thickness of lines is one of the quickest methods to show depth: is the line the closest one to the ground? Thick. Is the line a significant edge not attached to the bottom? Medium. Is the line an interior or contour line? Thin. Yeah, there are nuances to these rules, but if you’re not already using them, these simple guidelines will take your sketches to a whole new level. One thin pen, one medium, and one thick marker and you are in business.
  • Depth: Low fidelity sketches are generally the next step after loose thumbnails. Photoshop brushes and masking can absolutely get the job done well, but they also require scanning your linework, color balancing etc. If getting the basic surfacing ideas across quickly is the most important goal, then contour lines are useful, but can quickly become distracting. By contrast, two gray scale markers in different values (20% and 50%, or 30% and 60%) can quickly add significant depth to any linework in less time than it would take to even prepare a file for digital shading.
  • Color Exploration: There’s no need to own color exploration sketcha 72 pack with 7 shades of orange, but a basic 12 color set can be very handy to have on your desk. Say you’re are working on a water bottle and already have the general shape worked out in analog or digital formats… Scan the original sketch, duplicate, arrange in neat organized rows, and print it out. What does it look like in blue? How does a green grip affect the overall value or impact? You are only seconds away from finding out! This process is a great tool for building consensus at a design review, as everyone can quickly have a say, and there’s less “what if” conjecturing.
  • Simplicity: Have you ever tried to drag Toolsa giant drawing tablet or computer to the airport, on a bus, or even home from work in the evening? While being amazing tools, portability is a distinct drawback. Digital sketching and rendering absolutely have their advantages, but when I can grab some pens, markers and paper, sit down on a flat surface – anywhere in the world – and problem solve a design that others can visually understand in minutes, that’s a distinct advantage, and a force to be reckoned with.

Although the tools of product design continue to evolve in this increasingly digital world, don’t shelve those Prismacolor or Copic markers just yet. You may never do a 6 hour rendering by hand again in your life, but don’t dismiss an incredibly useful tool entirely just because it’s a little antiquated. If nothing else, at the end of the day, analog tools will never run out of battery power…. which is more than we can say about too many products in our daily lives.Sketches

Kirk Turner is an Industrial Designer, and has been bringing his brand of expertise to the Salient Team since 2015.


Salient 2015 Highlights

Another year has gone by, and here at Salient, we have a lot of things to be excited about!  Here are just a few (in no particular order):side-bar

  1. The “inherently leak free” valves developed by Salient for Big Horn Valve passed
    two of the most stringent tests for oil and gas
    valves validating the technology as “emission-free” and the
    “Best Available Valve Technology to keep our environment green and clean”.
  2. Salient President and Co-owner, Steve Sanford was recognized in the Southwest Montana 20 Under 40; people, entrepreneurs and employees in southwest Montana who have achieved success and improved the quality of life for others in their communities.
  3. Salient’s David Yakos and maker, Parker Thomas, co-presented “The Mindset of a Maker” at PlayCon 2015
  4. Salient leadership team experienced  HATCH2015, a summit of 100 thought leaders from around the world to HATCH a better world.
  5. iBike Powerpod Kickstarter Success reaching 150% of their goal, and already fulfilling orders.
  6. The Salient team had 4 amazing college students shadow them on real life projects as part of Salient’s mentorship program
  7. Launch of the award-winning Maker Studio Construction Sets to inspire youth in engineering
    and creativity, co-invented by David Yakos
  8. Kickstarter success for Hydaway collapsible water bottle – backed by over 5,700 supporters, and raising over $260,000, 13x their goal!
  9. The Salient team is growing with with the addition of master Industrial Designer, Kirk Turner
  10. Team Salient helped facilitate HATCHedu to Design the School of the Future at DSEL Labs, Montana State University.
  11. Salient Co-owner, David Yakos was recognized in Origin magazine’s 45 Top Creatives
  12. In 2015, Salient provided Industrial Design, Prototype Development and Manufacturing Drawings for over 100 client products.


Kickstarter Success, New Employees & Patent Law

Client News: PowerPod Kickstarter campaign successfully funded!

iBike PowerPodSalient client, Velocomp successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign for the PowerPod cycling meter this past September, raising over $128K of their $50K goal in just 30 days!

PowerPod is a bicycle power meter that uses Velocomp’s patented power measurement technology. When c
ycling, more power means faster speeds and longer distances; better physical fitness and calorie burning.

Salient continues to support John Hamann and the Velocomp team as pre-production and tooling begin this November and production begins in the next week. If all goes according to plan, Velocomp will begin shipping fulfillment orders from their headquarters in Jupiter, FL by the end of the month. Check out the PowerPod Kickstarter campaign and post-campaign
updates here. Great work, guys!

Kirk Turner

Salient News: New Employee, Kirk Turner

The Salient team grew this June with the addition of Kirk Turner.

Originally from Maine, Kirk migrated west to the University of Utah before attending Western Washington University, where he graduated with a BS in Industrial Design and a minor in Sustainable Design in 2014. Happy to relocate to Bozeman and all the outdoor activities it has to offer, Kirk is an avid fisherman, skier, climber, cyclist and adventurer.

Kirk brings creative, precision artistry to Salient, and has expanded our in-house capabilities with his excellent Industrial Design chops.We’re excited to have Kirk on board, and all the skills he brings to the table!

Product Design Tools:  Patent Law Q&A Series with Toni Tease & David Yakos

Filing for a patent, and the entire patent process can be intimidating and confusing.  This spring, Salient’s David Yakos sat down with patent attorney Toni Tease of Intellectual Property and Technology Law to break down the patent process into bite size pieces.  You can view the Q&A series on the Salient YouTube channel. We’re still adding episodes, so check back for new videos!

The Benefits of Patent Pending – Patent Law Q&A Ep. 4

What does it mean to have a Patent Pending, and what are the benefits of being Patent Pending?

Patent Attorney, Toni Tease and Product Designer, David Yakos explore the perks of having a patent pending, and how it can impact the future of your invention.

Click the video below to listen in on their conversation, and check out other Patent Law Q&A videos on the Salient Technologies YouTube Channel

Find more info on Ms. Tease at her website, and check out her blog Intellections®

David Yakos is Co-Owner and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

Best Practices for Disclosing an Idea – Patent Law Q&A Ep. 3

Sharing an invention or idea you’d like to patent can be a pretty intimidating prospect.  It can be difficult to determine with whom your idea is safe, when a signed NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) should be in place, when you’re able to speak freely, and whether you’re becoming completely paranoid, or being appropriately careful.

In this Q&A session on patents and patent law, Toni and David discuss when and with whom it’s safe to speak about your invention or idea, when NDAs needs to be in place, when an idea becomes public, and how that impacts the timeline for filing your patent.

Find other Patent Law Q&A Session on the Salient Technologies YouTube Channel, and keep an eye out for new videos.

Toni Tease is an experienced Patent Attorney and Owner of Intellectual Property & Technology Law in Billings, MT

David Yakos is Co-Owner and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc., a product design firm in Bozeman, MT

Provisional Patent Applications – Patent Law Q&A Ep. 2

What’s the difference between a Provision Patent Application, and a Non-Provisional Patent Application?  Are there benefits to filing for a Provisional Patent?

Find the answers in this conversation between Patent Attorney, Toni Tease, and Product Designer, David Yakos.

Click on the video below, to listen in on their conversation, and explore more Patent Law Q&A on the Salient Technologies YouTube Channel

Toni Tease is an experienced Patent Attorney and Owner of Intellectual Property & Technology Law in Billings, MT

David Yakos is Co-Owner and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc., a prodcut design firm in Bozeman, MT

Filing for a Patent – Patent Law Q&A Ep. 1

Where is the best place to start when you’re pursuing a patent?

In this issue of Patent Law Q&A, Patent Attorney, Toni Tease and Product Designer, David Yakos answer that question by exploring what qualifies as an invention, what makes an invention patentable, and the steps necessary to file for a patent.

Click on the video below to listen in on their conversation!

Find other Patent Law Q&A Session on the Salient Technologies YouTube Channel, and keep an eye out for new videos.

Toni Tease is an experienced Patent Attorney and Owner of Intellectual Property & Technology Law in Billings, MT

David Yakos is Co-Owner and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc., a product design firm in Bozeman, MT

Patent Law Q&A

Pursing a patent can be a long and tricky process, and here at Salient, we’re often asked for advice on how to navigate the road to a patent number. Our best advice for over 15 years has been to contact Toni Tease at Intellectual Property & Technical Law in Billings, MT.

We collaborated with Ms. Tease, who allowed us to pick her brain in a Q&A session, and we’d like to share what we learned with you in bite-sized pieces.

Here’s the first in an upcoming series of Patent Law Q&A videos we’ll be releasing over the next several months. Enjoy!

Find more info on Ms. Tease at her website, and check out her blog Intellections®

David Yakos is Co-Owner and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.

The Mark of Mentorship

How did we come to be where we are today? Looking back we recall myriad decisions; some good, some poor. Milestones; moments of right place, right time. Wonderful people that either encouraged us or pointed us in a more focused direction. Those encouraging people may have shared a moment with us while others have been with us for a lifetime. Whichever category they fall in, we call them Mentors. People who share their deep insight and experience that is beyond our own – and therefore, extremely valuable.

As designers, we think back to who mentored us. Likely it was a parent who saw artistic or problem-solving ability and pointed us toward industrial design or engineering. Perhaps a teacher took extra time to customize a project, making it more interesting and inspiring. Some of us were lucky enough to have a successful leader occasionally take us to coffee for unfiltered Q&A ranging from personal to business.  Here at Salient, we are grateful for those people in our own lives, and so we take mentorship very seriously, and try to give back too.

2015 Mentor GroupSalient brings in a handful of students each year to shadow on real-life projects, as part of the Salient/HATCH Mentorship program. We give students a chance to see how they might fit in a design career prior to graduating from college. Having a chance to work side-by-side with professional designers on a project that will actually be manufactured and sitting on the shelves of Target is a stark contrast to the educational scene that can only engage the theoretical.  The theoretical is a necessary stage, but having the opportunity for hands-on creativity gives students a better idea of what they might enjoy or be good at in a way the classroom cannot.

Forming character is similar to creating good design. It does not take shape on accident.  When designing a new product, we create many sketches, and often have to iterate and test many prototypes. Before landing on an ideal product, we sit down in a group and brainstorm the possibilities from multiple perspectives. By the time we are done, the product has been touched  by the whole team in one way or another, and has the signature of the collective creativity of Salient.

2015 Mentor Group

In the same way, character is formed through a process. It is honed when we re-invent and test ourselves. It is created when we regard others’ insight. Just as the first version of a product hits the market and we call it 1.0, there are more versions to come. We keep developing the 2.0, 3.0, … 6+ versions of our character. We never stop growing, inventing, prototyping, and making. That synergistic magic takes place on both sides of mentorship, it stamps its mark and its benefits on both the mentor and the mentee alike. We’re grateful to be on both the giving and receiving ends of Mentorship.

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


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.

Get in touch!