Storyboard: Nick Garfias

Clarity and the Creative Hustle

Since I was young, I’ve enjoyed a certain peace of mind in knowing I was destined for a creative life. I suppose one could call it clarity.

I was born in Southern California, the child of academics. My mother held several jobs throughout her life, including a stint where she worked for Charles and Ray Eames. I couldn’t have been older than six or seven at the time.

I used to take the bus from my native Santa Monica to neighboring Abbott Kinney to visit my mother at work. Being within proximity of those great minds had a profound impact on me. I was fortunate enough to receive guidance from Ray Eames some years before she passed. She was kind enough to look at my high school art portfolio back when the idea of a design career was a mere pipe dream.

I was no academic in high school. All I could concentrate on was art. Thankfully, I came to learn the ins and outs of Industrial Design during those years, even if the scope of that discipline was not immediately clear to me.

In the four years between attending Long Beach State and ArtCenter, I worked as a paper mechanic at a pop-up children’s bookstore, suffering all manner of paper cuts and X-acto knife wounds while learning about things like budgetary constraints that would serve me well later in my career. At ArtCenter, I very quickly realized I was in another league – of brilliance. There would be no time for screwing around.

Some of my greatest mentors, I found in ArtCenter’s Automotive Design program. Norm Sherman helped me unlock ideas I didn’t know were achievable. Strother MacMinn understood the basics of the craft, and was a pillar of grassroots automotive thinking. Dave Marek had an almost painterly approach, one that I was utterly mesmerized by.

Part of the appeal of joining forces with Oakley, post-ArtCenter, is that we share an interest in transformation. Oakley understands that, in order to create something great, one must scrape the surface of what one knows, take everything off the board, and start from ground zero.

Which brings us to the Kato sunglasses. At Oakley, we subscribe to three tenets when we create a product: who it’s for, what it’s for, and how will the customer use it? At first, we thought Kato would be designed for Olympic athletes. Our only goal was to think outside the parameters of yesterday’s performance and lifestyle eyewear.

We had a breakthrough when we realized that Kato could personify kinetic motion. Imagine a human form moving quickly though a space. If one could somehow put smoke or vapor over that face while it’s in motion, one could begin to observe the contrails that highlight its features – same thing if you used a piece of fabric. Clarity – that would be Kato’s guiding light.

We have an entire department at Oakley whose only job is to focus on the details of the human face. Our goal was to re-think the very idea of eyewear – primarily, so it could be as functional as possible. The Kato frame is essentially a solid shield with two stems attached. The lens is flexible, the frame lightweight. Our original challenge was to eliminate the frame entirely. When you wear a pair of Kato sunglasses, you’ll notice a small flip near the top: this adds a crease, for rigidity, via a built-in, molded-in frame that covers the nose. Plus, the Kato’s just look cool.

There’s an overriding philosophy at Oakley that aligns with my own personal philosophy. We share an interest not only in transformation, but in broadening horizons. It’s important for artists to never shed themselves entirely of their pasts. At the same time, remaining open to transition is important. I stay in touch with that part of myself by spending time outdoors. Whether I’m fishing, surfing, backpacking, or going for a run, I’m never just taking a break from the hustle of a creative life; I’m re-fueling for inspiration.

On one of my recent excursions, I found myself drifting in the middle of the ocean, sitting upright on my surfboard. A text alert on my phone notified me of a pressing work matter. I could have tended to it. But I let it wait. In that moment, I just needed to be. Once again, the word “clarity” comes to mind.

Nick Garfias
BS 95 Transportation Design
Vice President of Design, Oakley
Former Creative Lead, Mercedez-Benz

…in order to create something great, one must to scrape the surface of what one knows, take everything off the board, and start from ground zero.

Nick GarfiasBS 95 Transportation Design
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