An Interview With David Yakos, Salient Technologies

August 24, 2014

 

When I met David at HATCH, what struck me was how creative he was.  He was always thinking outside the box and doing clever things.  I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to work with him professionally this year and I’m thankful our paths crossed.  When I first met David he was extremely interested in the Toy and Game Industry.  The best way to learn about our industry as an inventor is to attend Mary Couzin’s Chicago Toy and Game conferences in Chicago.  So I invited him to attend.  That’s all he needed.  He’s now working with many amazing toy and game companies and I know that our (ThinkFun’s) product will not be the only or the last product that we will see from David and Salient!

 

Thank you my friend for participating in my series of interviews!

 
IN ONE SENTENCE, WHO ARE YOU?
 

I am a big kid, inventor, engineer, artist, dad, adventurer and co-owner of Salient Technologies Inc., a product design company that develops consumer products for leading brands around the globe.

 

WHAT ARE SALIENT TECHNOLOGIES’ SPECIALTIES?
 

Salient Technologies Inc. is a product design firm that provides industrial design, prototype development, 3D Printing, patent drawings, photorealistic renderings, animations and manufacturing support for leading brands that want to achieve a competitive edge in the marketplace. Salient has developed countless products from lines of wheelchairs, to award-winning, environmentally friendly pet toys that boast indestructibility; from breakthrough cryogenic valve technology for NASA to a ventilated welding helmet that was awarded by Popular Science as Prototype of the Year for 2013. 

 

WE MET AT HATCH, A COMMUNITY THAT UNITES CREATIVE THOUGHT LEADERS TO HATCH A BETTER WORLD. HOW WOULD YOU HELP TO HATCH A BETTER WORLD?
 

I hope to inspire the next generation of creative people who also like to confuse the world of art and engineering.

 

HOW HAVE YOU BROUGHT MENTORSHIP INTO YOUR WORK AT SALIENT?
 

Salient offers a mentorship program to engineering/design college students in their junior or senior year that are interested in product design and development. This opportunity allows the students to be involved on a project basis. In 2013, 6 mentees from Montana State University were able to shadow a designer on a real life project. This exercise allowed them to be involved in the actual creative process including brainstorms and idea presentations in front of the entire team. Students don’t always get to experience the tangible application of their knowledge until after college. Salient’s goal is to inspire and encourage students to pursue their passions of product design.

 

WHO IS OR HAS BEEN YOUR MENTOR? WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE DID S/HE GIVE YOU?
 

My parents have been instrumental in my growth.  From day one, they recognized where my passions and abilities lined up, pointed me in that direction and have unceasingly encouraged me to keep going.  

 

YOU AND STEPHEN SPOKE AT HATCH ABOUT IN 2011 ABOUT THE DESIGN PROCESS AND BRINGING INVENTIONS TO LIFE. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THIS BRIEFLY FOR US?
 

After developing countless products, we discovered there was a process that was consistent whether we were developing a valve for space or a dog toy. We broke the process into three stages. 

 

From Ideation To Production includes:

 

1) Conceptual design, where you explore the look and function of the concept. 

 

2) The prototype process, where you physically and digitally test the feel and function.

 

3) The production design, where you communicate with the factory the design intent using manufacturing files and engineering drawings.   

 

HOW TO YOU ACTIVATE CREATIVITY?
 

I wouldn't say I “activate creativity”… I just try not to think like a grown up all the time or take my self too serious. I live in a safe place where it is okay to have silly ideas and safe to fail.

 

IF YOU COULD ONLY HAVE TWO TOOLS TO CREATE WITH ON A DESERT ISLAND, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
 

I would likely take a large stack paper and a hatchet. I could make a pencil out of a bit of charcoal and then chronicle my adventures of how hard it actually is to make life comfortable using just an old hatchet.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY OR GAME AS A CHILD?
 

I loved Popsicle sticks as a kid along with a bottle of Elmer’s glue… I could make any and every toy if I had that on hand.

 

WHY AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY?
 

As co-owner of Salient Technologies, and a serial inventor, I have developed products in most consumer industries. Naturally, I was drawn to toys and games because of the sheer joy of play. I find it to be a natural place for me to ideate with my childish imagination. I have been able to look into this fun industry with a lens that was focused on broader technologies including defense and medical. Thankfully, when introduced to a few wonderful people from leading toy and game brands through friends at HATCH, I jumped right in with both feet.

 

WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE INVENTORS WHO ARE ALSO JUST GETTING INTO THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY?
 

Inventors need to be careful not to get too attached to a single idea. You need to take a broad sweep of ideas, polish the best ones, present them in their best light and keep moving on.  Tap into the creative parts of your imagination where you can come up with an original concept rather than smashing two existing products together.

 

WHAT TRENDS DO YOU SEE IN TOYS AND GAMES?
 

There is a digital trend of toys and games due to the speedy advancements in technology. Part of me clashes with this trend since I was a tactile, hands-on learner. I want to encourage my kids to build, get dirty, and experience play through mental stimulation as well as through physical motion. Toys and games used to be more dynamic and have become more stationary. I believe that is coming around and we are starting to see a balancing of action and technology.

 

WHAT OTHER TRENDS YOU SEE?
 

There is a trend of autonomous technology, a shrinking world, and we will soon not be limited by the processing power and speed of technology. We, people, have come to rely more and more on it to the point we don’t have to remember anything. We can just ask Google or Siri.

 

WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MAKER MOVEMENT?
 

Before there was a “maker movement” there were just craft supplies like Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, and paper tubes. On a personal note, my parents recognized that I had a passion to make, invent and design as just a little boy. My