Put A Bird In It—Featured Maker, Cinco Design

Cinco Design is a branding and product design agency that creates platforms, products, and experiences across fashion, sports, entertainment, and digital lifestyles. They’ve designed brand identity for Nike Baseball, brand campaigns for Microsoft, and product design for Nixon Watches and Logitech to name a few. Some of their other clients include: XBox, Dell, and NBC. This is their second year participating in Put A Bird In It and we couldn’t be more honored. I visited the studio and spoke with Creative Director Sean Barrett and Principal/Creative Director Kirk Jamesabout their approach and process for designing for the birds.

From the moment I walked up the stairs and into their large hallway I was captivated by a massive wall devoted to birdhouse brainstorming. A multitude of ideas and thought processes spanned the surface like a gallery of inspiration, delighting any onlooker. Sketches next to beautiful drawings and 3D renderings included traditional materials as well as other unusual forms. It was quite a sight to see.

With two creative divisions—traditional brand and product design, Cinco offers a unique client experience. This year, they decided to create a few birdhouses with each division developing their own ideas. 

YPE You have two teams and have decided to create a few birdhouses, did you start out that way? Are they competing against each other?

SB Currently, we are at the idea stage with plenty of cross pollination. Right now we’re trying to keep it team based but there’s a healthy dose of competition amongst the two divisions. We will be voting to determine which houses we make. 

YPE Cinco is among a couple of agencies having multiple teams, I think that’s cool and interesting. How many people are in the agency? Have they all been involved in the idea generation process or did you start out with teams?

SB We are pushing about 50 people in the agency now. It’s been an open call these first few weeks. Anyone who wanted to contribute could. I think that’s cool because then everyone who comes with their ideas feels included. From here we’ll see who is really engaged and then the teams will just sort of happen.

YPE So this is kind of a nice team building project.

SB Absolutely. This is the stuff we love doing between the cracks of client work, it keeps us fluid and fresh. 

When you rush into a new medium you start to find out where people’s skills lie, and what new things they can bring. We had no idea that our project manager could draw like this. Being able to work outside the box actually allows for that opportunity to happen. 

SB New mediums help inform new solutions. Once you break out of the rigid confines of how you’re used to working, all of a sudden you’re free. There’s a part of us that gets off of on the design aspect of this project, and another part that thinks of what the bird would want most in terms of functionality. What would they like in a dwelling? Some of these ideas are on the side of personal studio expression and some on the side of how do we make something that is made to be lived in.

At this time Principle and Creative Director Kirk James enters the room.

YPE What do you think about this project and this wall?

KJ I think birds will be happy! The intent here is to create a modern twist on the typical birdhouse structure—something that a bird might actually enjoy. That’s the fun we are having with this. We want to be imaginable but also look at it like any other project we do. There are some really cool concepts for how people have done this in the past. The approach is what we are trying to get at, something that could be a good experience for the bird—something treated in a thoughtful way.

YPE Because you often work in 3D what about this do you like, how is it different for you, Kirk? 

KJ This project is a great creative platform to do things we love to do. We love telling stories and using design as a tool to do that. In the case of all the different things you see out here [pointing to the wall], there are some that are unique in formal studies of what a house could be, but each of them has a slightly different kind of story. For us, that’s what a successful creative experience is. Ultimately, the birdhouse is an icon. it’s something we all understand and recognize, but it can become so many different things. There’s a certain point when it will break and stop being that. That’s a pretty interesting idea to see.

KJ With this project we are able to bring together many different things that we love doing: building, form, product, and user experience.  Making it fun and refreshing and maybe having it transform an environment, those are the things that come right inline to how we work and what we do. The fact that we get to do it in a way that is part of the community and share this experience is a bonus. It’s cool to us.

SB It’s been awesome that WeMake has included Cinco two years in a row. We feel super lucky and happy to be a part of this project. We are always trying to be more involved in the community, and this is a great opportunity to do that.

YPE Would you do it next year?

SB Absolutely. Or anything similar.

Cinco’s birdhouse last year was a simple but beautiful design. They constrained themselves by using wood from the kit provided.

We can’t wait to see which ideas they develop into their final designs. You can see from the brainstorming wall that the teams are thinking far beyond the scope of last year. I’m sure whatever they do, the birds and the new house owners will be awfully lucky!