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Introducing Guest Blogger Dan Harden: In a Recession, Creativity Starts with How You Run Your Business

About a year ago, Dan Harden, the president and chief designer of Whipsaw the Silicon Valley industrial designand product development firm, stopped by the Fast Company offices bearing anarmload of products that were as eclectic as they were fascinating. A babybottle shaped like, well, Mom. Acrank-up field radio in juicy orange.

About a year ago, Dan Harden, the president and chief designer of Whipsaw the Silicon Valley industrial designand product development firm, stopped by the Fast Company offices bearing anarmload of products that were as eclectic as they were fascinating. A babybottle shaped like, well, Mom. Acrank-up field radio in juicy orange. A shiny little silver box that purported to be a computer but was assexy as a jewelbox.

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Dan Harden headshot

Many went on to win Best of Show in various prestigiousdesign competitions, from IDEA to Red Dot to CES to the Medical DesignExcellence Awards, and they earned Whipsaw inclusion in our own round-up of the country’s top design firms in last year’s Masters of Design issue. The idea that these products all came out of the same 25-person shopboggled the mind.

This year, Harden says, the range of design challengeskeeping the Whipsaw crew up at night is no less diverse. The company’s ion chromatographymachine for Dionex is a cutting edge lab tool for identifying unknown materials– think: the toxic soup of particles surrounding the World Trade Center site.It’ s now the number one such machinein the world, and the scientists who use it, Harden says, are “giddy” withdelight at its ease of use and intuitive design.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Whipsaw’s latestproduct, a super-cool, super-functional lunch box for a new company (of which Hardenis a partner) called Kinsco. TheYubo lunchbox, which will debut at the ABC Show in Las Vegas next week, isdesigned to transform that nasty ritualof opening your grungy, crumb-stuck container, only to find your bananasquashed against your PB&J. Yuck!

Harden’s been one of the industry’s most prolific and heralded designers in the business, with 150 patents and over 100 design awards in his trophy case. Several of his creations are in the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, the Pasadena Museum of CA Art, and the Cooper Hewitt. Prior to founding Whipsaw in 1999, Harden was president of frogdesign. Early in his career, he workd with design master George Nelson.

As with other design shops, Harden acknowledges his team hashad to work twice as hard for the same revenues this year. But he’s notcomplaining. “You have to be just as creative in how you run your business asin how you design,” he says. Asurvivor’s creed if ever I heard one.

Here are some of Whipsaw’s Greatest Hits:

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The Pano Logic Pano Device

Pano Logic Pano

The Eton Emergency Field Radio

Eton Emergency Field Radio

The Adiri Baby Bottle

Adiri Baby Bottle

A Concept Camcorder for Pioneer

A Concept Camcorder for Pioneer

Read Dan Harden’s Whipping Post blog

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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