Joey Roth Talks To PSFK About Sorapot, Blog-Buzz & The Hustle

Joey Roth Talks To PSFK About Sorapot, Blog-Buzz & The Hustle
Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 3 april 2008

A new generation of creatives are using digital connectivity to bring their work to the market without the need of traditional development processes or retail channels. In this interview Joey Roth, designer-retailer of the Sorapot, argues that creative skills are not enough to be a successful industrial designer and that you also need to be a great hustler to get your work noticed (and a good dose of luck that the blogosphere will spread your ideas helps too).

Joey, We’re fascinated with your tenacity. We must have met at Likemind over a year ago and it was there you told me about your new kettle and there still seems to be much buzz about it. How did it all start?

It’s actually been about two years since I started sketching ideas for Sorapot in college, and I had originally intended it only as a portfolio piece to snag an internship after graduation. Somehow a blogger for CoolHunting found my site and posted Sorapot. You can still see the original post (and original design) here.

Other blogs, including Gizmodo, picked up Sorapot on the same day, and I started getting emails from individuals and retail buyers asking about price and minimum order size. This was my first encounter with the power of blogs as a marketing tool, and with the idea of producing and selling my products on my own.

Since we first met, you seem to have been perfecting the Sorapot. What happened in the design process over the last 12 months, why?

I mainly spent the last year finalizing the design to make it more manufacturable, and also searching for the right manufacturer. I had originally planned to produce Sorapot domestically, but found that metal foundries in the States are either geared towards sculptors or the military, and totally unfordable. So I started searching for the right manufacturer in India and China. The culture among manufacturers is to say that they can produce anything for you upon your initial inquiry, no matter what you want to make. It took me some time to catch on, and I sometimes spent months emailing back and forth with places, just to finally find that their primary product was wicker baskets or windows. I finally found my current manufacturer through a referral, and after visiting their workshop in Shenzhen and ironing out some misunderstandings, I’ve been very happy with their work. I’m still catching up on backorders, but I’m spending much of my time now finding remarkable retailers, cafes, and hotels that would be a good fit for Sorapot.

You appear to be a great networker. We seem to see you at every NYC party that matters. Is it important for a product/industrial designer to know how to hustle?

Really? I still feel like I miss so many events I want to attend. I think hustling is absolutely critical for a designer who wants to start a business and maintain responsibility for product from the factory floor to the customer’s hands. The typical industrial designer wants to design new products within a company or consultancy, leaving the rest to marketers and engineers, and I think a killer portfolio is often more important than networking for these folks. Luckily I enjoy meeting new interesting people, learning about what they do, and getting them excited about my work almost as much as I love design itself. Networking is part of the design process for me, since I’m basically designing the product anew each time I describe it to someone who hasn’t seen it before.

First your product design then your packaging did the ‘viral’ rounds on the blogosphere. Do you understand how this ‘buzz’ works?

I’m still a little perplexed by it, but I basically owe my career to blogosphere buzz. Almost all of my customers find Sorapot through blog posts, and I still see blogs as my strongest advocates and best bridge to new customers, as well as insights on new product concepts.

Which bloggers and publishers help drive new product idea and designs faster and further than others?

Right now I think the most influential design blogs are Notcot, CoolHunting, Josh Spear, MoCoLoco, and Dezeen. A post on any of these sites is extremely valuable.

Finally – is stainless steel going to save the world?

I love stainless because it becomes more beautiful and more personalized over time- it acquires a patina based on the individual’s patterns of use. On Sorapot, the uncoated stainless steel will develop a sheen where it meets the user’s hand, and gradually become more matter in other areas. Over time, this will create a beautiful gradient of surface shine that progresses over Sorapot’s body. My dream is to find a well-used and well-loved Sorapot in an antique shop in 50 years. Because I’ve designed Sorapot to become more valuable to the user as it ages, its chances of being thrown out and replaced are lower than for products that look best when they’re brand-new, and become progressively worn out. Steel’s embodied energy is amortized over its long lifetime, making it a very sustainable material. As much as I love it, I don’t think any one material can save the world. However, stainless, concrete, teak, and cardboard have a lot going for them.

Joey Roth


PSFK's Workplace Vision: Leave The Busywork To The Bots

Syndicated Yesterday

In Popular Games, The Recurring Theme Is Exploration

The much-hyped sci-fi sandbox game proved to be as massive as expected, while Pokémon Go continued to prove inescapable

Design Yesterday

The Best In Wearable Tech From The Rio Olympics

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best gadgets and devices used to track performance


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Advertising Yesterday

This Cookbook Is Inspired By Brad Pitt’s On-Screen Eating Habits

Learn how to whip up meals and snacks pulled straight from the actor's fictional universe

USA Yesterday

Tour The US National Parks From The Comfort Of Your Home

Google's new 360-degree video feature lets people take a trip to Alaska, Utah or Hawaii and see these marvels of nature up close


Will Berman

Teenage Denim Fashion Designer

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Training For Active Shooter Preparedness

SurviVR is an immersive environment to teach civilians how to protect themselves in dangerous situations

Cities Yesterday

Redesigned London Tube Map Aims To Get People Walking

The updated display illustrates approximately how many steps it takes to walk between stations for a healthier commute

Experiential Marketing Yesterday

Nike Creates An Immersive Pop-Up Fitness Experience In London

The Unlimited You space gave athletes a chance to push their limits farther than ever before


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 24, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Automotive Yesterday

Uber Now Lets Commuters Pay With Pretax Dollars

The prepaid cards are a partnership with WageWorks, letting uberPool users save up to 40% on their trip

Home Yesterday

Philips Hue Adds Motion Sensor To Control Lights Automatically

The wireless device lets users interact with their environment without needing to press a switch

Home Yesterday

Beacon Device Takes The Pain Out Of Navigating A New Airbnb

Ping provides new guests with a guided tour of the house or apartment through a simple tap of their phone

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Shelf Makes Its Contents Appear To Hover In Midair

The design uses metal tubes to create an optical illusion when viewed from the front

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Interactive Ceiling Responds To People Walking Underneath

The installation features built-in sensors that cause the undulating surface to morph and react to passersby


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Fashion Yesterday

Declutter And Recycle All Of Your Unwanted Stuff

A new app will help catalogue your possessions and give them away as donations when you no longer want them

Advertising Yesterday

Tokyo Concept Store Disguised As A Parking Garage

The retail and cafe project is designed as a hidden treasure for urban explorers

No search results found.