Let Imagination Take Flight| Daniel Shirley

Designers Daniel Shirley and Aaron Puglisi are taking the fashion accessory industry by storm. They are the founders of the Tessel Supply brand and the designers of the Jet Pack and the Anti-Gravity Pack. They take inspiration from the aesthetic cues of stealth fighters. They also tie it into their boyhood fascination of flight. “In January of 2013, Aaron and I were sitting in the design studio talking about things we did as kids. We started to play with the idea of creating emotional connections to products through nostalgia. The backpack prototypes fit perfectly into what was starting to take shape as a product story,” Daniel recollects.

The idea of the designer backpacks took off. Daniel and Aaron sent off prototypes to manufacturing companies. They eventually sought to receive funding to get actual backpacks in production. “ We jumped in the deep end and got lucky, hitting our funding goal in 2 days and then tripling it,” Daniel says. They went through a lot of “growing pains” but were able to sell out their first batch of 2000 jet packs.

Team Work

Daniel and Aaron each have a unique outlook on the designing process. They find that their different approaches to design complements each other. They often like the same things because they have similar taste in design. “Elegance, simplicity, unique interactive qualities, reduction, and functionality were all things that drove us as we developed the Jet Pack,” Daniel explains. They also take inspiration from their childhood. They had many questions about integrating into the working world. This was in part due to the process of coming to terms with adulthood.  For instance, how could they create a product that holds onto the creativity and imagination of childhood? They used that question to fuel the idea of the Tessel brand.

Working as a team has definitely made things easier for the duo. Aaron and Daniel met in the industrial design program at Brigham Young University. Aaron transferred there specifically to study product design. Daniel was studying graphic design. They both took interest in soft goods. By the end of their sophomore year they decided to team up to make some bags over the summer. They did not start off putting all their energy into building Tessel. They were both in school. They also both had part-time jobs. The brand started off as something to do in their free time because they both had a passion for design. With everything that was going on in their lives, working together helped them find a balance. And when they were ready to dive into the designing industry full force, they had each other’s back.

Failure is an Option

Initially, their Jet Pack line found great success. They had so much success, they wanted to launch a new idea. This is when they came up with the Anti-Gravity Pack. It was a no brainer that if the consumers loved the Jet Pack, they would go crazy over the Anti-Gravity Pack. Well, it didn’t turn out as expected. Their initial launch of the Anti-Gravity Pack failed. “We didn’t want to become the “triangle backpack company.” Turn out we should have embraced it and expanded the line. People responded strongly to the Jet Pack. We should have offered them more there before moving onto other narratives,” Daniel says.

The initial failure of the Anti-Gravity Pack was just a minor set back. They regrouped and made some adjustments. The second launched of the Anti-Gravity Pack did well. It showed that it was a great idea all along. It was just executed a little too soon.

“Fail early and often. Decide what’s important to you. Be a good person, find mentors, and take any opportunities for growth you can.”

Moving Forward

Our brand is all about making a product we would actually use. Also understanding when to deliver something reliable versus added utility,” Daniel says. The duo plans to continue to keep that approach as their brand expands. They have a strong emphasis on maintaining quality products that solve real needs. Most important of all, they want to spark emotional responses in their consumers. They are continuing to explore new ideas in regards to adding new products to their line.

Who should someone that want’s to design their own products like this follow (other than you)?

Find someone who you respect and whose values you can emulate. Lots of successful people are dirtbags. No one is perfect, but find someone who is true and is doing something unique. Then be as good of a person as you think they are.

What books should they read?

Lean Start Up was one that we discussed a lot while interns at Puma. We actually both read a lot of fiction (can’t escape that creativity and imagination). World War Z is a fantastically written book. It pushes you to think and narrate – valuable traits for storytellers and creatives.

Who do you consider the icons in the design industry?

While he isn’t  actively designing, we both love Dieter Rams design work.

What style/fashion accessory is your favorite?

We both love bags, shoes, and outerwear. A good watch goes a long way, and simple elegant details. Let one thing speak for itself.

Can you give me a tutorial on how people can best incorporate that style/fashion advice in their life?

Let one thing’s volume be a 10, everything else can be a 2 or 3.

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