Who he is: Mark Ejnes runs the newly launched product design firm Motatoe. He’s worked on residential and large-scale commercial projects with firms including Gehry Partners in Los Angeles, Hammel Green Abrahamson in Minneapolis, and Maria C. Romanach Architects in Philadelphia, and now is a sole practitioner with MOE ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN, a design, architecture, and consulting firm in Santa Monica, Calif. AboutFace is the first of 12 products that Ejnes says were designed based on observations and issues curated during two decades as an architect. He launched the Kickstarter campaign in early September and hopes to raise $17,000 to facilitate the clock’s manufacture.
How the clock works: AboutFace is available in two models—one is either rectangular or round and laser-cut from hand-formed, powder-coated steel, the other comes in the same shapes and sizes, but is made from cardboard. Each features a faceted back with multiple attachment points that easily connect to a wall-mounted bracket. Its angular form, minimal aesthetics, and lack of numerals on the facing allow for easy rotation at a number of angles.
How did you come up with the idea for AboutFace?
This is the sort of stuff I would do on the side for years while working on building projects. I have a whole closet full of sketches and prototypes. But I’d been thinking about the clock so much that I just couldn’t let things sit there without doing something about it. More than anything else, I just wanted to see it through. And having my own practice gives me the opportunity to devote some time to developing the product.
And its design?
It’s really function-driven. I wanted to be able to put a clock in a corner, instead of needing to put it in the center of the room. From there, it was a matter of hanging it at an angle and making those angles changeable so you could place it in different corners or above a soffit and then point it toward the middle of the room. Because the face has no numerals, you also can rotate the clock, change which orientation is the 12, 3, 6, and 9 (by removing and reapplying the magnetic labeling), reset the time, and it will still work.
Why did you choose to launch on Kickstarter?
It’s a great place for independent designers to get something out there. I prototyped this a million times to hone the design and was able to do that pretty cheaply and quickly. The product is designed and the manufacturing process is figured out, but to take it over the hump and to actually make the product requires some capital. That’s where the Kickstarter campaign comes in: to raise the money to buy the dyes, to make the plastic molds, and to purchase licenses for the graphic designs. Kickstarter is a great platform for putting the idea out there to see if it’s worth putting all that capital into it.
How soon will we see these clocks on the market?
It’s analogous to a building project—I’m an architect, so that’s how I think about it. It’s designed now and it’s ready to go into construction. I’ve talked with retailers, buyers, and the design industry. It’s all figured out but it lives as an idea until it’s able to be manufactured. I’m using social networking to get the word out about the funding campaign. Since starting the Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of September, I’ve been promoting it on Facebook and Twitter and have received interest from design blogs as well as Wired magazine (which named it “Kickstarter of the Week” for the week of Sept. 10). And that’s really the way a Kickstarter campaign is usually promoted.
Will you combine your design and architecture practices?
At this point it’s hard to say what the outcome will be. It could be that Motatoe takes a life of its own and could operate by itself, or it could be that it just becomes another extension of my architectural practice. It all depends on how these first few products fare. It seemed natural to keep the clock launch self-contained, mainly because you’re dealing with different players than with architectural projects.
How does product design compare to architecture?
I tell people all the time that as an architect, as a designer, I could really design anything as long as I understand the problem to solve and I have a set of criteria from which to work to solve the problem. It’s just a matter of scale and of different problems to solve, but it’s a very similar process.