Some strong voices in the design community are saying that designers have sold out to the
capitalist system. That instead of using our talents to create better products, we have
become mere decorators in the service of big business. That we are guilty of making
products that are in essence the same appear to be better, different, made in “olde England,”
or whatever. Some designers are saying that we ought to be “bad” and say “no” to our
clients. TIERNEY: I agree. You should. But that’s not the way things are at The Nature
Company. We’re not asking anybody to make anything look better than it is, to make it into
something that it’s not. Just put it in the right environment. Do you and Kit ever disagree?
TIERNEY: All the time. In a very healthy way. As a company we’re constantly pushing
ourselves, and Kit and Pentagram along with us. To lead us to the next plateau in design. To
be on the leading edge of catalogs. We spend time together and talk about these things, get
that tension going. As I said, many clients will say to their designer, “You will feature this,
the product with the most profit potential.” Kit will see a $19.95 rubber reptile and say to us,
“What a wonderful design element! Look at the way the tail curves!” And he’ll use it across
two pages. He makes the photo selections himself? He’s that personally involved? TIERNEY:
He spends the time on it. Kit and The Nature Company go back eight years. And we can still
call him up and say, “We’re concerned about this,” or, “We don’t like the way that is
working.” He’ll listen. And he can be the same way with us. So often clients complain that the
only time they see the design firm principals is when they’re selling or presenting work.
TIERNEY: Sure, Kit has assistants and a photo stylist we work with. But we won’t have a
meeting without him. Tell me about your entry into product design. TIERNEY: Proprietary
products are something people can’t get anywhere else, and they’ve become quite important
to us; they now account for about 10 percent of our sales. They’re often developed with the
help of a design.