I had the honor of asking Rachel Gant a few questions about Yield Design, the independent design house she owns with Andrew Deming. Founded in 2012 while living in San Francisco, the team has since relocated to Saint Augustine, Florida. Yield produces an array of well thought out designs including bags, furniture, jewelry, lighting, ceramics and other home wares. Their pieces have been featured in Dwell magazine and the New York Times, as well as many other recognizable publications. What attracted me to Yield was their clean, modern designs that still draw on both nature and a bygone era . Their pieces have a minimal aesthetic but are designed with intelligence and an impressive attention to detail. Rachel's background in architecture is easily visible in their pieces. While Andrew's degrees in graphic design and design strategy no doubt play a major role in their flawless presentation.
Yield is a great example of a company who manufactures their products in a responsible manner both domestically and internationally. This team has done their research when it comes to manufacturing and have found that some of their pieces are a better fit with overseas production. They have also found that this does not mean they have to compromise on their ethical or environmental standards. We were thrilled to get to know a little more about their products and their company.
You met while at California College of the Arts, was there an original piece that kick started Yield and then you branched out? Or did you form the company knowing there were several different design areas you wanted to work in?
We started with a single bag that I designed in school and then refined it together to launch on kickstarter. It’s kind of funny to look back on now, as we no longer have the product in our line and have moved a long way from that initial starting point, but there are some clear threads that continue through to today. We knew we wanted to build a brand defined by a set of values rather than a specific category. That has remained consistent, it just took us a few years to get here.
What are some of your influences? What helps fuel your creativity?
Travel has always been an outlet and source of inspiration that we’ve valued. Lately we’ve not been as good at traveling purely for pleasure, but it doesn’t always matter. We find it’s just incredibly important to break routine and get some distance and perspective on the work we’re doing. We’re also into good food, coffee, cocktails, beach outings, bonfires with friends.
Was your move from San Francisco, California to Saint Augustine, Florida a personal one or was this the best place for you to grow your company?
The idea was initially sparked by personal desire for a change of scenery and lifestyle but we also had a strong belief that it would open up new opportunities for Yield. We wanted to be able to draw more manufacturing in house and to grow our team here. It’s a beautiful historic town but not really known for design. We were excited about the idea of doing our small part to change that while tapping into the great production capabilities and makers in the area.
Can you give me a break down of your USA made products? I know your Endwell collection of rings are domestically produced, what are some of the other items?
All of our bag styles, all furniture, aprons, photo bars and cup sets are produced in our studio in St. Augustine. Our lighting and spun planters are produced an hour south of us in Florida. It was a major move to shift all of our bag production in house, but it is has allowed us to make them a central part of our business and the increased control shows through in quality and consistency.
Which of your products are produced overseas? Can you talk a little about how you found your manufacturers and what lead you to choose them?
Our ceramics, copper cups and geo stands are produced responsibly with overseas manufacturers. Our French Press is an interesting example, because we tried for the better part of a year to source domestic manufacturing for it, but ended up expanding our search after many samples that didn’t cut it. The precision required to consistently produce ceramic pieces that would fit our plungers proved beyond the skills of most. Ultimately we found our partner in Vietnam, a fair trade ceramics house with a 700 year history. I found that Oxfam had worked with them, so that was a good sign. Their first sample was nearly perfect. It’s always so rewarding to work with skilled craftsmen.
What is it like as a small business choosing between domestic manufacturing vs overseas, (or like in the case of your company both)?
We start by looking locally. Can we make this here? Is there anyone we know? Then we expand our search within the U.S. and only after do we look beyond. We want to give people in our community a shot first, but if that doesn’t exist and we believe the product should exist, we move on. We’ve both had extensive education in life and in school that prepares us to analyze the life-cycle of products and their impact on the world. We value the inner-workings behind the process over the location. In many cases, overseas manufacturers are so well set up for the craft they perform that they out-perform local options in quality and efficiency while still achieving an ethical, supportive work culture. So when we consider these aspects of ethics and environment, we are happy to support businesses outside of the US.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you are excited about and want to share?
Yeah! We have some new bags in the works for the Spring and more furniture pieces coming. We’re also in the process of expanding our Endswell Collection of rings and will begin involving collaborations from more designers in the line.