Kyle Cunniff

Location: Brooklyn, New York

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How did you become a designer?

Doing anything with my hands comes naturally. I always took things apart as a kid. I liked to look at the gears, little motors and the tiny parts that inevitably got lost. I loved to build birdhouses. One year I made a birdhouse for almost everyone in my family. That was my first production piece. When I was ten I started working on a small house in my backyard, a project with my dad. Six years later I finished. The only thing the house didn’t have was plumbing.

I taught myself enough Photoshop in High School to apply for an Arts college and without really thinking too much about it found myself at Pratt Institute. At Pratt, I wanted to study the process of design. It wasn’t easy for me until I started working out my ideas more abstractly. Sometimes I’d hand in doodles for homework.

I spent a year working in a Model Making shop after school on projects for Heinikin, IBM, Microsoft, Yellow Tail, Janet Jackson and much more. Recently I began designing for a mass market lighting company for American homes all over the country. It’s been an exciting start. My greatest aspirations at the end of the day are still to work on my independent designs for KPKC Design.

Where are you from originally?

Outside Chicago. Best food. Lake Michigan. Millennium Park. Excellent art scene and great comedy.

Who were your main influences growing up?

P.T. Barnum. The man invented foreign fun. He was also an entrepreneur. I did a book report about him for 3 years straight.

Did you go to art school/college or are you self-taught?

I studied at Pratt Institute. Self teaching is constant.

Any advice or tips to novice designers?

None. I’m still pushing. If someone has some advice for me I’d love to hear it.

What has been the most rewarding and challenging project you have worked on?

I did a piece which began abstractly studying the patterns of flocking birds. From there I developed a safety clothing system of interlocking vests for children. Towards the finale of the project I stayed up all night sewing vests for a group of children and tested it with them the next day. Seeing the reactions and watching all the hard work takeoff in front of me was an awesome experience. Kids who didn’t get to wear a vest were crying. One kid tried to steal one. Parents scolded me for not having enough vests for everyone. I was congratulated. The idea was a winner.

What is your favorite portfolio piece? Why?

My favorite piece is still the Droop Light. It continues to dominate the ideas in my head. I’ve spent more than 3 years tweaking the project and in the last year have steadily been noticed for it. It’s cool when people notice your work.

What art or artist inspires you most?

Lee Bontecou and Vito Acconci are both sculptors that push their ideas to a new realm. Though I discovered their work only recently, I put them here because every little glimpse I do get of their work is like “Oh yeah, these people know how to make art!”