An Interview with CedarWorks' Designer

Who We Are  |  1 year ago

An Interview with CedarWorks' Designer

There are a lot of things that make CedarWorks playsets so special, like using the highest quality materials and construction methods, but one of the most unique things about CedarWorks playsets is the beauty of their design. Our playsets, with their clever modular designs, beautiful architectural touches, fun accents, and whimsical colors, don’t look like other playsets.  Much of the credit for that goes to our Creative Director and playset designer, Heather Telo. 

Heather has been with CedarWorks for 15 years, and in that time her vision (and her love of the color red) has transformed the company’s look - not just of our playsets but everything from our logo and color scheme to our office design. Thanks to her, our playsets, as sturdy as they are, also have a kind of playfulness to them with beautiful lines and fanciful details.

Heather lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their rescue dogs (they frequently foster dogs waiting for adoption). She has been a pioneer of remote work, working for about the last 10 years from her home office with monthly trips to our headquarters in Maine, so she can be onsite to oversee things like product testing or photo shoots.

Can you talk a little about your professional background? What were some of your earlier jobs?

I have a degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn.  In college, one interesting job I had was mixing gouache paint and inks to match yarn samples for a textile print design studio. My first job after graduation was in Tokyo, Japan working for Knoll, the furniture design company. Another unusual job I had was painting scenery for dark rides (indoor amusement park rides)  in Milan, Italy, before I had even learned Italian. That’s where I met my now-husband.

Before coming to CedarWorks, I designed themed interactive play structures for water parks all over the world, big fish slides for cruise lines, and shipwrecked splash pads in Texas.

Do you have a design aesthetic?

Hmmm…Clean but quirky? Whimsical Modern? Traditional with a twist? I have never really thought about it. I am never designing for myself, but for other people, so I am always trying to keep that in mind.

How did you get into designing playsets?

I always wanted to design for children, perhaps because it is just more fun? So many of my favorite jobs have been designing for kids. Starting with play structures for water parks, then modular indoor playgrounds, and then wood play structures. 

What do you like about your job now?

I get to design playsets for children, what is not to like? I like that I am given freedom to explore and try new things. I can always dial it back if I get too crazy. I also like the challenge of making each of our product lines modular, everything needs to be designed so that accessories are interchangeable, so I can’t just design one playset or one accessory. Everything in a product line pretty much needs to work together.

Do you have a favorite product line?

I have elements that I like about all of them. I certainly have favorite things. I think I have a different favorite product line depending on the day of the week.

Our Serendipity product line (now called Architectural) was the first one you designed for CedarWorks, and it had a very different look from our other playsets at the time. How did you come up with Serendipity?

The product development team had already been meeting before I was hired, so they had lots of ideas. I tried to sketch and expand on all those ideas that they had pulled together. As we worked through the design of the construction of the line, I tried to add in details that would make it unique and fun. We didn’t have the capability to manufacture what I was creating at the time! But we figured it all out eventually to get to the Serendipity product line. We’ve also learned a lot since then, and that’s all led to our current product lines, Architectural, Classic, and Rustic.

Last thoughts. One thing people may not know about working at CedarWork, is that cake plays a pretty important role in our work culture. What are your thoughts on cake?

As I always say, carrot cake is not cake, but it is still better than no cake. 

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