Kaiju Studios describes itself as “a design firm focused on creating meaningful products and experiences through poetic simplicity, creative thinking and elegance in function and form.” Founded in 2001 by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) graduates Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton, and joined by fellow RISD alum Christopher Specce, this design firm is a small business with big output for big-name clients, notably Gillette, Herman Miller and Samsonite.
Kaiju’s designers take a company’s preliminary idea for a new product or invention and develop it, with a focus on design and usability. They take into account how the user will use the product, what materials will work best, the cost, manufacturability and appeal. In their studio are examples of their furniture designs for Herman Miller: the multipurpose Kotatsu Work Table, a fun, functional coffee-table height piece designed for collegial collaboration or informal gatherings, with creative storage nooks; and the more elegant Airia Desk, whose sleek curves and angles of white work-surface, dark walnut wood frame and aluminum legs marry the futuristic with the traditional gracefully, with discreet functionality.
A design powerhouse with an international clientele, Kaiju Studios could be located anywhere: so why Providence? The designers explain that after they graduated from RISD they worked in New York City for a few years, but when they decided to launch their own firm they chose to return to Providence because it was more affordable while still offering a high quality of life – they particularly appreciate Providence’s great restaurants, its engaged creative community, and the creative presence of RISD. Specce teaches in RISD’s Furniture Department, Kaiju recruits interns from RISD each year, and a lot of their business is generated through their RISD networks. They love the city’s West Side, where they own a deceptively large live-work space in a former small manufacturing building on a quiet residential street.
Kaiju Studios practices sustainable design and are members of the Designers Accord, a nonprofit coalition of designers, engineers, researchers and others, focused on promoting awareness of sustainable design. They talk to each client about the environmental impact of their product, the materials and the manufacturing process, and where ever possible substitute or integrate sustainable and local alternatives.