OutputPDX: Episode 2 – D’Wayne Edwards and Doug Little

Welcome to Output PDX, the show about
business, technology and creativity in the Bridge City. I’m Hayley Platt and today’s
guests are Doug Little from Wacom and legendary shoe designer and founder of
Portland’s Pensole Design Academy D’Wayne Edwards. Welcome. Thank you. Thanks for being here and so we’re going
to go back and forth here with our conversation but Doug, I want to start
with you. I understand you have a really
impressive brand new headquarters building here in the Pearl, so tell me a little bit about the
motivation and vision behind it. Sure, well Wacom has been a company
that’s been in existence for very long time, so we were founded in theTokyo,
Japan back in 1983. Wa- actually is an interesting word, it comes
from the Japanese word Wa for harmony, and then Com for
computer. So our mantra is “Harmony between humans and technology” that’s
what we do. Wacom has been designing pen tablets
and creative pen displays for many many years, and we were in the Vancouver area
for 27 years. So we were in Vancouver since 1989 and
about probably eight or nine years ago we went to a rebranding
process and just wanted to update our brand make it more modern, make it work
more relative to what we’re doing in the creative community and that’s what
brought us to Portland. So we’re in a new building on 1455 Northwest Irving.
Nine-story building, we’re on the top three floors: nine, eight and seven and then we
have an experienced center down on the ground floor where people will be able
to come and try out our gear, we’ll have seminars, classes, we’ll bring in you know
creative talent people like D’Wayne. During Design Week we did this really
cool program with D’Wayne where we brought in some designers shoe designers
from the local community Keen, Adidas, Nike etc. and it was just a
blast. So do you think that’s going to attract new talent to Wacom? Definitely, definitely I mean that
was one of the reasons for our move here is not only to get closer to the
creative community, which Northwest definitely has, it was definitely a situation where
we wanted to get into a place where we’re in the Silicon Forest, deep into it,
and we’re able to attract more talent. Right, well so speaking of
talent, D’Wayne, you, you know, you use Wacom to design. What
in your opinion makes Wacom so special? To me it makes it special because
I’m very old school and in the sense that I’ve grown up using a pencil, and
paper and didn’t want to use a computer initially when I started
because I didn’t like the point and click process of up having a mouse and
have a look at the monitor and do those things. It takes away a lot of the the
visual intimacy of the process of being able to hold something and doing
something with your hands until the Wacom products came and I could
basically transfer the same process from pencil and paper to a pen and
monitor. Then it then I was embracing the technology only because I loved having
something in my hand to to play with. I guess it’s a bit like a smoker where
you have to have a cigarette in your fingers to feel comfortable, but, I don’t
smoke. But it’s a good analogy, I get what you’re saying. But it’s security quite honestly, its
security to have something in my hand to hold and then being able to personally
make the lines move. You’ve been with Wacom for how long then, D’Wayne? I’ve been using the products for 15 years. 15 years, ok, and you’ve been there for about 12?
I was, so we got introduced. You guys are buddies. Through a colleague of mine who
works in our consumer division. And ironically he was in Houston so he was in Houston at a sneaker store
and the guy who owns the sneaker store is a friend of mine. He’s like, “Hey you ever
heard of Pensole?” And he was like, “No what is it?” We’re like 20 minutes away from each
other but he had to go, he was all the way in Houston to find out about
someone who was so close by. This was a really natural relationship
because we use the product so it wasn’t like it was forced, it wasn’t like a
planted you know, “Oh here’s a Coke can right here,” it was very natural and even the video
was very natural because the students were doing it anyway. We just turn the camera on. Yeah and when we did this thing at Design Week it was awesome cause all of his students are now pros, these were all professional designers. They all came in, they all do
our product, they all knew the software applications and they just did some
really cool designs and it was a blast. It was fun, it was fun. You just shared with us how Wacom’s tablets have made your job easier, right? Makes designing easier, but so
what other things does Wacom do? Yeah, well we make
a variety of products for both consumer and high-end professionals. We make
styluses for use with the iPad for example, we make tablets for enthusiasts
or hobbyist. So it’s much easier to use use a pencil
than it is a mouse. A mouse can be very constrained and it
can cause really injury I mean it really can. I mean, using a pencil or a
stylist is just so much easier. We’ve done so much over the years and
you know we have our we have our Intuos product, we have our Cintiq product which is our creative pen displays that D’Wayne uses at his studio
and these are now found everywhere. So any any animated movie you seen, it’s all
created on Wacom devices. That makes us so proud to be able to be a
part of that. They’re like digital paper.
Exactly it’s just it’s genius and it’s like it sort of makes creativity happen
more easily I have a feeling it, right? Yeah it
doesn’t make it a whole lot easier, especially for someone who trained who’s learning
the the technology because I grew up differently. Sure. Where the kids now they’re growing
up with the Wacom tablets. And you mentioned, you talked about innovation, and one of
the things that I wanted to talk to you both about really, so the pace of innovation, right? I mean
it’s picked up a lot in in recent years, so what about inspiration and design I mean with the pace of that continue
to change and evolve as well? Yeah, I think so. The the cool thing about the digital era is it allows you to do
things that you could never do before. I mean you can communicate faster, you
can produce things quicker. For example if I have somebody that I want to send
something – who’s in another country I can’t do it immediately he or she can make comments send them
back to me, so it’s just the way it’s the speed and feasibility of
technology is really really cool. That’s neatest thing about
what we do. What do you think about as far as
inspiration and design and following that pace that we have? You have to keep up. I mean I love that point because I
think as a designer it keeps you sharp because you’re constantly looking for new
things and points of inspiration and contact. I was doing to talk a few
days ago and I was talking to some younger kids in the room and I was like
you know believe it or not like a long time ago we would get a book in the mail
that told us what was on TV. Yeah, I remember that. You’re aging us all though. You know? And they were like, “Huh?”
“What do you mean?” You had to wait for a book?” Like yes, but now you can
just flip the screen and you see it. And even that experience is
evolving to now you can buy things that you see on TV. Before was just a commercial, and you have to go to store or jump online now you can physically by from
television. So I think the innovation is going at such a fast rate that as
a creator you have to stay on top of it because you you have no choice but to
stay sharp at your craft. And you know, just as a creative too, you know your
geography is no longer your prisoner. You know, you have your digital
outlets and you know now you almost have no excuse not to be as creative as you
possibly can be. I want to shift gears a bit and and talk
specifically about Portland and Doug I love for, I’m curious, I’d love for you to
tell me what you would say about the health the
overall health of the Portland Business and Technology community. Oh I think it’s I think it’s extremely
healthy. It’s just great first of all to come down to a town that is
so vibrant. Yeah things are happening in the
Pearl. Absolutely, there’s so much going on. And clean air too, I’m from LA, so. So just look for example just being so
close to D’Wayne now. We’re already seeing D’Wayne more than, we’ve seen him more in the past month than we’ve seen him in like 10 years.
So it’s been great. So the ability to be so close to so many
technical and design companies is just going to make Wacom even more special. Right. Well and as you just said, you’re
originally from California but you’ve been in Portland for 16 years,
right? So, you know, what do you think it is that draws people to Portland and
then keeps them here? You know I can tell you what drew me
here what kept me here. Well obviously what room he was Nike, but what kept me
here was the people, quite honestly. And the environment and
the creativity that’s in such close proximity. If you if you’ve ever been to California
and you know you have to drive everywhere? Oh I lived in LA too. Okay, so there’s no walking but to
your car and from your car. Where here what I love about it is
everything is within a square mile or two. Especially if you’re downtown
Portland in the creative area that we’re in. Yea, we both walked here today. So we equally did it from different
directions, but we we got here. But what I love about Portland is the
small you know kind of centric zone of
creativity that’s here. I mean I challenge any city in America to have
the same amount of talent in the short distance that exists in the city. And
because we’re so far north people don’t know that there’s this much
creativity here. I know, but shhh. That’s kind of the, yeah we don’t want to say too much but we also don’t want to tell people about the weather. Correct. Yeah, I was gonna be real rainy
tomorrow. No it’s going to suck tomorrow. But you know on one-half
I want to talk about it the other half I don’t. I want to talk about this I’m tired
of Portlandia being the representation of the city and I know
there’s so much more than in this city. There’s so much creativity coming out of
here than any other city. Yeah well so what you know ask him about
business and and technology here in Portland but so let’s talk to you about
just creativity in Portland. What does that look like for you? Well I mean if you take just my industry,
we’ve had several companies that do not have heads bases here move here
specifically because they need to hire talent and the talent wasn’t going to
move. So they moved here. Where I think that’s a huge kind of, that should
say something for the city and the talent pool that’s here. We had these major
corporations, billion-dollar corporations, saying, “Okay, we’ll bow down and come to you.” Where
that’s why other people are moving here as well because there’s a talent pool of
people who are working at these bigger institutions that are leaving, like
myself, and opening up their own businesses, opening up the door own
design firms or opening up their own companies where it’s just as this fostered
creativity. It feels like it feels like a big city but it’s really really small
because it is big in numbers but the people i mean the people are so
concentrated in one small area. And what I love about it, being the opposite of LA, no one like brags and flaunts and
everyone speaks and you know everything is really understated here. I mean where we’re located like
you couldn’t even see where we are unless you’re right on the front of our
doorway because we have no outside signage, but
right across the street from us is Airbnb right across street from us is
the Ace Hotel headquarters and then Uniqlo’s headquarters in there is no
signage. Alright, D’Wayne and Doug thank you so much for being here today and sharing your
insights. Yes, thank you. Thank you very much. And that concludes
this episode of Output PDX, we’ll see you next time. Thanks for watching.

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