Let’s face it: everyday life can be complicated — but the design of our everyday objects doesn’t have to be! Hunter Craighill’s design philosophy is a delightfully simple one: create things that you would want to have. Hunter Craighill originally studied to be an architect, but after dabbling in product design in various roles, he found his stride building relationships with American manufacturers before ultimately founding the company Craighill in 2015. From these basic principles, Craighill designs and manufactures simple goods that never lose sight of functionality and long-lasting utility. Each of these carefully crafted objects, from key rings to wall holders, tells a story of curiosity and experimentation by refreshing everyday, outdated, or non-functional designs. Craighill now operates out of a manufacturing warehouse space in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and sells their goods online and in several retail stores, big and small. We were able to step inside the studio/manufacturing spaces where designs are concepted and fabricated. Read on below for an interview with Hunter Craighill on what inspires him in his business.
Photography courtesy of Craighill.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Craighill is an American manufacturer and design brand, producing distinct and useful objects for your person and home. Our products encompass a wide range of materials and functions, unified by a design philosophy that marries efficiency and exploration. The result is a decidedly contemporary, yet familiar, aesthetic.
We strive for honest and precise manufacturing — whether that is in our New York workshop, or at one of our specialized American manufacturers. It is our belief that a well-designed product should be perfectly functional, while telling a story about its creation and potential.
Creative Director Hunter Craighill draws from his background in architecture and industrial design to build a diverse collection of home goods and personal accessories. Hunter’s work designing for Best Made Co. and Maxx&Unicorn helped lay the foundation for launching Craighill in late 2015. Personal curiosity, industrial experimentation, and basic utility are the primary creative drivers behind Craighill.
What originally drove you to create, as you describe, distinct and useful objects for everyday life?
The simple answer is that we design and manufacture things that we want to have. It’s slightly selfish, but it seems to be a good litmus test as we’re considering what to work on in terms of product development. Sometimes you find yourself looking for a specific product that doesn’t seem to exist already, and we often find ourselves making those products and filling in perceived holes.
Tell us about your studio space.
It’s very small! Our two spaces are located in a really cool old factory building in Williamsburg. This neighborhood used to be entirely comprised of these types of buildings, but at the moment we’re entirely surrounded by big new condo buildings. So it’s fun to be in a building in which things have been manufactured for a very long time. We have one little room that’s our office/studio space, in which all of the designing, 3D printing, prototyping, photography and general creative work happens. And then right across the hall we have another small room that’s the dirtier room, where we do a lot of metal finishing, sanding, grinding, polishing and generally make a big mess. We also pack and ship all of our orders in there. We used to do all of this work in one room, which was truly chaotic, but we’ve stepped it up a little bit. Overall it’s still very much a work in progress, but having limited amounts of space is good in a certain sense. We have to try to be as organized and efficient as possible, and that type of thinking then radiates out into the rest of the business.
Craighill goods are now manufactured out of multiple factory locations in the U.S. Where did you originally get your start and what has it been like to see the business expand like it has?
My first experience working with factories was when I was leading product development for Best Made Co. I got thrown into the deep end and spent lots of time on the phone talking to extremely experienced manufacturers all over the country, trying my best to hide the fact that I didn’t really know what I was talking about. Over time I learned a lot about the unique capabilities of different factories, and I began to develop some knowledge and experience. When I launched Craighill I was lucky enough to be able to continue to nurture some of those relationships I had already established. Seeing the business expand and grow over the past couple of years has been very exciting. Launching a business is a scary process, and then seeing it gain some level of traction is really gratifying and relieving. I think if you’re really pushing yourself you’re never fully out of the woods, but I’ve been getting a bit more sleep recently.
Where do you seek inspiration for each design?
My design process is largely inspired by the manufacturers themselves. The more I learn about the machines and processes that each factory specializes in, the more I’m able to conceive of designs that are in their wheelhouses. It’s really nice to be boxed in and have a specific set of limitations, and from that I try to design products that can be made extremely efficiently. Lots of these factories are largely focused on industrial products, and so making consumer products in those types of environments is really fun. When it works out it often feels like unlocking some latent potential that’s been hiding in plain sight.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
It honestly depends on the day. We’re a very small team and we all wear lots of different hats. I love designing and sourcing new products more than anything, but in order to keep things running smoothly I spend a good amount of time solving problems as they arise. We work with lots of different factories, so I spend a lot of time on the phone making sure production runs are underway and on schedule. I also spend a good amount of time talking to the rest of the team here, making sure that our internal processes are running smoothly and that orders are completed and going out to our customers on time. It’s a really multifaceted operation and every day is a bit different, but that’s part of what makes it exciting.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
It’s fascinating. Through our experience at trade shows and pop-up market places we’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of other brands that we really admire. The sense of community and entrepreneurship is inspiring, and definitely pushes us to work harder and continue to tighten the screws. And then customers seem to be increasingly conscious of what they’re buying and how it was produced, so it’s cool to see our ideology aligning with quality-minded shoppers.
What do you love most about Brooklyn?
Probably how convenient it is. I’m lucky to be able to walk to work, and most of my friends also live within walking distance. So I don’t wind up having to take the subway too often, which
sometimes makes it feel like I’m living in a small town. But then when it’s time to go to a museum or a concert or a cultural event of some kind, I can get on the train and be there in 15 minutes. So it’s a real best of both worlds type of situation.
Top 5 places you need to visit in Brooklyn?
Samesa for the chicken Shawarma, Ontario Bar for the air hockey, McCarren Park for a game of bocce, Kings County Imperial for fancy Chinese food, The Commodore for a Pina Colada. As I said, my orbit is very small.