Poppin, the maker of stylish but affordable office products ranging from thumb tacks to notebooks to ping pong conference tables, launched its beta site the spring of 2011. Since then, the much-buzzed-about company has more than doubled in size, growing from 12 to 30 employees. With its official launch in September 2012, it debuted a refined website and a range of new designs and product offerings—the latter led by its head of product design Jeff Miller.
Reimagining ubiquitous, mainstay office products has been an exciting challenge for Miller, who previously designed consumer products for companies such as Colgate, Oxo and Herman Miller, as well as high-end furniture for Cerruti Baleri and Itoki. "It's a giant sandbox to play in," Miller says. He notes, however, that with so much room to explore in the realm of office products, it was necessary to consciously keep the design simple: "It's very easy to make something very interesting, but it's very difficult to do it in a way that both evokes desire and keeps [the object] as concise as possible."
Since joining Poppin around the same time as its spring 2011 soft launch, Miller has focused on improving the products' functionality with subtle design tweaks. For instance, Poppin's pens had initially been designed with a flat clip. When that shape had functional issues, the solution was to create a curved clip, which both streamlined the design and allowed the pen to pinch more securely to a folder or a pocket.
Standardizing color across products has been another central priority for Miller, not to mention a significant challenge given that color is absorbed differently on plastic, metal, cardboard, rubber and other materials. In some cases, it took 15 trials by manufacturers before the Poppin team was satisfied with the color of a given product.
"We're still asking for more than what the computer says is possible."
"I've been told that no one tries to get to this level of fluctuation of color matching in most of the factories we're dealing with, let alone across different products," Miller says. Poppin actually bought sophisticated color matching software for its China-based team so that they could numerically measure variations in color before shipping the product from the manufacturer. Poppin plans to buy the same sort equipment for its New York office. "We're still asking for more than what the computer says is possible," Miller said.
Poppin plans to introduce new colors to its core palette every six months or so. The company has also begun producing a handful of patterns, looking to the runway for inspiration. "We have been working with a fashion designer to look at some trends and patterns, and just getting inspired from that," Miller said. For example, the patterns in Poppin's 2012 notebook collection primarily reflect two main runway trends: black and white stripes and color blocking. Two other major fashion trends, polka dots and geometric shapes, will appear in Poppin's back-to-school notebook collections.
As far as new products, Miller is particularly excited for the new office furniture, especially chairs, that Poppin plans to release in the near future, which he sees as an area in need of simple, comfortable and affordable options.
"Ten years from now, as Poppin is huge and as other companies start to get into the mix, we will have to work harder to distinguish ourselves," Miller said, "but we will have the luxury of having been there first and that will be that classic design that no one had done ten years ago."
Poppin products are currently available on the company's website.
Images courtesy of Poppin