Take a change of pace with me and see a completely different side of manufacturing. A side where designers don’t worry about being first to market or appealing to the largest consumer base possible. I’m talking about a side where products are produced specifically for individuals who appreciate the novelty and the art of the object. It’s a refreshing side and one where honest connections can be made between a company and its audience.
Meet Brad Smith, a humble artist, furniture marker, and owner of Bradford Woodworking in Worcester, Pennsylvania. I recently experienced an incredible educational and inspirational visit at his shop to see where Brad and his team produce beautiful handmade stools, cabinets, chairs, and side tables.
Smith’s entire production is housed in two large barns that are filled with a fascinating ambiance of smells, sights, and sounds. His work is half art, mostly craft, with an unwavering mindset to keeping a company and brand that is distinctively focused.
What’s special is that Smith and his team pride themselves with their ability to produce products that are mostly made from in-house fabricated parts. They control their entire production process from aging the wood and turning each chair leg, to assembly and shipping. Honestly, it was nice to not see injection molded parts in his designs or complicated manufacturing lines on his floors. As designers and engineers, we spend so much of our time optimizing our processes for better mass production that we lose sight of making product for the pure enjoyment. Working for enjoyment is hands down the number one goal at Bradford Woodworking.
The work may not appeal to everybody, but that precisely the point. Smith would rather have a consumer who appreciates his craft than have to alter his vision in-order to appeal to a greater mass. I wonder how we can use this inspiration in our product development endeavors? That’s my takeaway and something I want to be thinking about the next time I design a new product and ask myself, “Why would someone want to buy this?” If we can’t connect to our audience’s distinctive tastes then are we doing it wrong?
You can learn more about Brad and Bradford Woodworking here.