Joe Doucet is one of the most recognized product designers, with accolades and awards from Cooper-Hewitt, Good Design, Fast Company, Wallpaper* to name a few.
Joe never attributes his success to having had one big break, it was the accumulation of years of hard work and thoughtfulness.
How did you get started with design?
Design isn't really something I chose to get into at a certain point; it was something that really came about more as early opportunities.
When I was in High School, I got a job at a printing company called Anchor Printing. Every now and then, we had a customer with new business come in. As we'd be printing their menus for a new restaurant, they would ask if we did logos. Being an individual who had some drawing skills (I thought I might be an artist earlier in life), I'd often volunteer. I found the process quite enjoyable, and it was a revelation that I could do something I loved and make money.
Until that point, art had always been a passion but not something I thought would be self-supporting. After some research, I determined that if this was something I wanted to pursue, I wanted to be very good at it.
I ended up moving from my little town in Texas to study in California at the ArtCenter College of Design. While in school, I worked a bit professionally. I would tell many of my clients that I was a teacher at the ArtCenter so I could get them to pay regular rates.
It was there in a packaging class that I stumbled into product design. We were given a project and I decided I wanted to actually design the product and not just the packaging around it.
I came to the conclusion that everything in the built-world is created by someone. Until that point, I had always thought about the execution of it. We often think of things being built or constructed instead of conceived.
I decided I loved the idea of controlling a product through conception to initial business plan to production/messaging. It's the ultimate form of control, after all. After that realization, I created my own program on top of Graphic/Communication design and really became a self-taught product designer.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you end up in NYC?
I was recruited right out of school by the Arnell Group- they do everything from architecture to graphic design to advertising. I ended up getting a very special job in which I could float around and work on whatever interested me. It was the dream job and spoils you when you're right out of school. After that, it became apparent that I couldn't just go take a regular job; I was having too much fun working on things that were very cross-disciplinary.
Following Arnell, I was recruited to run the design group at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners. I was the youngest partner ever made.
After the company sold, I decided I was just going to work on projects I wanted to work on. I began working with many different brands and entrepreneurs on projects from designing furniture to a new type of textile design for infants.
What's the highlight of your career?
I can't point to anything specifically because I've intentionally taken a very thoughtful approach to my career. Things don't just "happen" to me, I try very hard to make them happen.
A lot of people ask, "Where'd you get your big break?" and the answer is: I never had one.
Instead, I've worked very diligently with companies that I respect, people I admire and said no much more than yes.
I always try to keep my eye on the road ahead of me. A lot has happened in my career but I'm just getting started. I try not to revel in past glories.
What do you do for fun?
Designing is fun. It's my passion, hobby and career. The truly blessed are those that get to combine things that make them financially successful and spiritually rewarded.
Outside of my family, I'm most fulfilled when I'm working on a project I love. For me, that is true joy.
What are your favorite places to hang in NYC?
I love a good dive bar. So many people want to go to the new hip place in town, but give me a dirty bar and a grumpy bartender and I'm extremely happy.
You can find me at Floyd's on Atlantic in Brooklyn at least once a week.
Oh, and my absolute favorite thing to eat I Ramen. I've spent a lot of time in Tokyo, so I'm always on the hunt for best new Raman place.
Rai Rai Ken is still an absolute favorite, and I recently discovered Gonzo, outside of Brooklyn Heights. It's phenomenal and I would put it up against anything in Tokyo.
Also, since I'm originally from Texas, I'm a bit of a BBQ snob. Every time someone tells me about a "good" BBQ restaurant, I'll flat out tell them they don't know what they're talking about. I love Hometown BBQ in Red Hook. I drag my kids there every Saturday at 12 and force-feed them some good BBQ.
What’s something people who only know you through your work would be surprised to know?
Usually, it surprises people to learn I have 3 children: ages twelve, five and one.
Also, I did Tae Kwon Do for 15 years. I guess that doesn't surprise most people, since I have a calm temperament... but I'd like to think it's pretty interesting!
Photography by Brian Cason.
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