Where I Work: Kyle Hoff of Floyd

Where I Work: Kyle Hoff of Floyd

Detroit-based Floyd launched in 2014 with the goal of creating quality furniture that was designed for the home and not to end up in a landfill in a couple of years. Over the years, the brand, co-founded by Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell, has become known for their practical, well-thought out designs that are minimal and easy-to-assemble. They started with simple yet clever table legs and have since expanded their catalog to furnish just about your entire house, with a dining table, platform bed, sofa, shelving, and more. Floyd recently finished construction on their newly expanded, 5755-square-foot headquarters in Detroit’s Eastern Market district, and for this month’s Where I Work, co-founder + CEO Kyle Hoff is taking us inside the space and his work life to see more.

Kyle Hoff

What’s your studio/work environment like?

It’s an energized place with a lot of different things going on. The 34 person company is comprised of a product, marketing, customer experience, tech, and supply chain team that all work very closely together. Product is at the heart of what Floyd is and we like to think we’re building one of the most exciting places in the US for an industrial designer or engineer to come and work.

How is your space organized/arranged?

The office is pretty open and we like to think of it as a democratic space, that even includes product development. Counter to the typical practices of an “R&D Lab”, we firmly believe in open R&D that is accessible to anyone on the Floyd team and even our customer (we love sharing what’s happening in the space). We do everything we can to get all members of the team at Floyd, from tech to customer experience, to spend time in the Lab and contribute ideas. As we continue to grow, we want to treat it as the heart of the business and ensure that like our products, understanding design and the process is accessible to our customers.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

We’ve been in our current space for about a year, and expanded it this past summer. Prior to being in Eastern Market, we spent our first few years as a company working out of a more DIY space in Detroit called Ponyride. Before that, Alex and I launched the company out of a garage in Corktown, which is quintessential to any startup story!

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

More space. We would love to be able to dedicate more space to R&D and have more dedicated rooms to each project we’re launching at the company. As with any growing company, product rooms and conference rooms are a precious resource.

Is there an office pet?

So many! The Floyd team has 20 dogs and counting.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

We love to have music on and the vibe depends on the day of week/weather. We have a lot of self proclaimed DJs at Floyd, so there isn’t any shortage of new music. In the R&D lab, you might hear some Theolonius Monk put on by our head of Product Development, Dan. He’s an amazing musician. If you’re looking for jazz recs around Detroit, email him – Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is a favorite.

How do you record ideas?

It’s different across the team. I use a Moleskine, but collectively when we’re working on a project, we work to document ideas and the process through decks. I know it sounds business-y, but being able to distill ideas is a really important part of how we communicate across our company and then ultimately to the customer. There’s a lot of research, thought, design, and positioning that goes into all things Floyd, so bringing it together in a cohesive way is a critical step.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

We have stuff pinned up all over the place from marketing concepts to product concepts. It’s pretty fluid and transparent.

What is your typical work style?

I’m a morning person, so I like to tackle the more complex challenges in the AM and avoid using that time for email, etc. My schedule isn’t overly regimented, but I require focus time.

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

The framework stays pretty similar from project to project. We always start by first identifying the pain points we’re solving for and digging into what the customer needs. Thereafter, we can really identify the constraints which is really at the core of how we develop product.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

Plenty of Eames shell chairs, a few Noguchi lamps, a Nelson Day Bed… We draw a ton of inspiration from the other great furniture companies in the state (Herman Miller, Steelcase, Haworth) and designers that practiced 10 miles away at Cranbrook (the Eameses, Saarinens, Florence Knoll) – so plenty of inspiration scattered about from them.

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

Yes, we have an array of equipment for fast, scrappy prototyping. We’re also actively building out our R&D capabilities with the launch of the new Floyd R&D Lab.

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

Felt tip pen and a sketchbook is where I start. As we dig in more, I like to use an iPad Pro. It’s a great tool for communicating and working off of existing ideas. For example, I’ll often photograph prototypes and sketch over them.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

Once we get past the conceptual phase, the team will use SolidWorks because it’s the best way to work closely with our manufacturers, which is a critical part of the process. Plus, it keeps us honest if the product can really be produced.

What’s on your desk right now?

Nothing. We share desk space and encourage the team to move around. That said, some folks set up more of a basecamp. We’re not really hardliner “open office” people, but we take more of an organic approach to how people use the space.. Depending on the team, the space needs vary.

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

They’re all great, but I’ll focus on the bed frame because it’s been around the longest. It’s a quintessential Floyd piece and it’s been amazing to evolve the product over a period of 4 years. We keep making the product better – we just added underbed storage this year. I like to think we’ll still be selling it in its same form in 50 years. The bookshelf just came out and has been a quick hit with our customers. That said, the team is giddy to make it more modular and functional than it already is, for example, a cabinet add-on that we’ll be introducing this year.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

The team has a handful of products in R&D, but I’m most excited about the dining chair because it’s something that customers have been asking for for a while. We’ve already sent a pretty lengthy survey out to our community about what they’re looking for in a chair and got some really amazing feedback. Stay tuned!

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

My home is, of course, full of Floyd products. Beyond that, I have some of the first Floyd legs prototyped and a few tables that predated Floyd – all of which I have a close connection with.
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