Manufacturers develop the products that interior designers and architects use to create exciting, functional environments for their clients, but have you ever wondered who is behind the curtain developing those products for the manufacturers” Vivian K. Mosley is one such wizard. This Ohio-native has stayed put in her beloved state to design innovative products for Marlite, the internationally known supplier of retail merchandising and designer wall systems. Never imagining she could fabricate a successful career from her artistic talents, Vivian did not even earn her graphic design degree until after age 40. A late start hasn’t hindered her, however. In fact, she’s just getting started.
What kinds of creative inclinations – i.e., playtime, hobbies, school projects and/or awards won – did you have growing up”
I grew up drawing, painting and creating sculpture. Mom said as soon as I could hold a big crayon I was making art – usually on her walls! I received a couple of art awards in school, including an Honorable Mention in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art show. I placed in the West Liberty Art show in West, Virginia. I currently enter the Prismacolor Art Competition every year for the deadline to [force myself to] get a drawing completed. I have not won, but the talent represented is amazing. I freelance as a portrait artist and draw for the sheer fun of it.
What kind of positions have you held / companies have you worked for that have led you to where you are now”
My first job was actually painting glass hand-blown ornaments at Warthers Museum in Dover, Ohio. I would paint several designs and personalize the ornaments for tourists. I worked for the glassblower at Christmas time and painted thousand of ornaments. My daughter married a young man who had one of the ornaments I had painted with the very design that hers had. (What a small world!)
I initially went to college for Art Therapy but later switched to Education. I taught in a Preschool program for many years, using art in many activities and to help the children express themselves and learn to control themselves. It was a perfect tool for behavior problems.
I tired of teaching after 11 years and went back to college. I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Graphic Design.
I worked for a short period in a publishing company, then in a very fast paced direct mail agency where I was fortunate to be able to work in radio, television and magazine advertising and learning how to market the variety of products we sold. It was at the last job I began doing some product design, picking finishes and design products that we were producing.
I left there…did I tell you I get restless sometimes and want to try new things” I saw an ad for a Product Designer at a company in my hometown and applied, and the rest is history. I was tired of driving far to work and really applied because of the location.
You are now a Product Design and Development Specialist for Marlite. How did you land this position and what do you do day-to-day”
Marlite is an amazing company. They have been in business for over 80 years and have such a diverse selection of products. Marlite has been bought and sold several times and has been known for many products through the years. The most fascinating product to me is Surface Systems®, a system of panels, rails, and reveals that when it is installed makes a fabulous interior wall. I like the Frank Lloyd Wright look to the wall, and you can make the panels a variety of sizes and create your own design.
The product I think is the most versatile is Myriad™. It can be backlit, which opens the door to many great translucent and transparent products. The beauty of Myriad™ is the ability to replace the panels and create a new look as you feel so inclined. That is valuable to have the creative flexibility to change out wall for seasons, special occasions or just because.
Of course, I have to say our Volta™ artistic dimensional panels product is very special to my artistic heart. I am thrilled that my designs are now carved in MDF…lol. Unlike marble, they will not last forever, but they are extremely attractive, and if an interior designer or architect has a special design in mind, I am happy to get the paper and pencil out and create a pattern exclusively for their project.
From feature walls to elegant primary space interiors to secondary space products like Plank wainscot to some great FRP, Marlite has a product for every room in a building. Marlite sells slatwall and retail fixtures, some of the finest retail stores have Marlite wall panels and fixtures installed and no one knows it’s Marlite. Marlite is truly a one-stop source for Interior designers and Architects.
As a Marlite Product Designer I am always on the hunt for new, exciting things that can be utilized as part of our wall systems. You will see new metals and faux prints that we do at our Dover manufacturing plant. We try to stay ahead of the trends and provide products that are cutting edge in design. And we need to be thinking of our environment…hence the new Azure™ Wood Finishes. We utilize the techniques of reproducing fine art and have a line of fabulous, earth friendly finishes that I am truly excited about.
The door is open wide to more finishes and graphic effects. I listen to the needs of our customers and continuously brainstorm ideas for new products or ways to update and keep our current products updated through finishes, reveals, paint and color trends, and patterns. Our product designers work in the R&D [research and development] department, and we’re always looking for products to give Marlite the competitive edge.
Please let readers what kind of issues you take into consideration when developing a new product for Marlite.
Marlite likes to create products that provide the end-user simple maintenance and ease of installation. Sustainability is important to us, and we explore many products that are recycled materials from sunflower seeds to carpet fibers. Of course, price is always on everyone’s mind. Our products range from inexpensive FRP to a fabulous exotic veneer. The bottom line is that we want products that we are confident are durable, attractive, user-friendly and exciting as to get our sales force out there sharing them with the same enthusiasm we have creating them!
What have been some of the most challenging obstacles you’ve run into when developing new products and how did you overcome / address them”
The custom finish can be challenging, but we have a fantastic guy in the lab who has a flair for color. In minutes he can visualize and create patterns for our customers that blow them away. He is truly an artist when it comes to faux finishes. It takes a team of minds working together to get things done, and we are fortunate at Marlite to have this creative team in-house.
Our two R&D guys in the workshop build mock-ups, displays, entire walls and rooms to make sure a product works or to show a potential customer the finished product. The beauty of Azure™ is the graphic capability to create custom looks. As a designer I see the potential to turn around cool designs and shoot off PDF’s instead of painted samples before going to the next step. This saves a great deal of money and time. We like to pride ourselves on the custom aspect of Marlite.
Can you share with readers any information about new offerings that you are developing for Marlite”
Our R&D team is working on some great healthcare products. We see the need to provide finishes that are offer durability, ease of installation and have our Sani-Coat sealer to provide a healthy finish. We have several products in the works and hope to release these in a few months.
Azure™ and Volta™ Phase 2 will be out soon with even more great finish selections and more creative patterns.
Do you see yourself staying in the A&D manufacturing community long-term or eventually returning to primarily graphic design pursuits”
Marlite brought Marketing in-house recently. It was decided we have enough talent to do this ourselves, and then just outsource when we need the extra support. I am lucky to be able to do design work, help with the web and market a product from the conception to final rollout. The nice thing about marketing a product you helped design is that you know it: you know how it works and you have seen the finished product on a wall. So, I think my desire to do design will be satisfied. And this is an exciting market. The A&D market is a challenge. We have to provide creative, yet practical, materials so that the designers can create their masterpieces for their clients.
What’s the best advice that you could give someone looking to go into some aspect of the design industry”
I think I always knew I would be in a creative field, so if you have those creative stirrings, explore them! Now days we need creative Designers in the web business, we need Graphic Artists creating ads, billboards etc. We live in a visual world. Art and design have always been here and always will. If you find yourself changing direction, just go with the flow. Who would have ever thought that graphic design would have led me to product design” Graphic design really explores many aspects of design, and I think that you will naturally fall into the area where you are strongest.
Now for the lighter side…
If you retired today, what activities would you pursue”
I would love to take a pottery class and throw pots!
What trip(s) will you be taking this year”
Most likely just some business trips that are not to the beach or some cool resort.
Are you an early bird or a night owl, and why do you think that is”
I used to be a night owl. I would do my best creative work because I was tired and let my mind empty out. Now I get up early: 5:30 AM. If you are the first one into work, then you get so much more done because your phone does not ring for a while.
What is the one thing that you wish you knew more about”
I always wish that math came to me quicker… I must not be logical”
Have some product ideas for Vivian or want to talk to her more about how to break into the industry as a Product Designer” Then email her at email@example.com. Maybe she’ll even lend you her awesome Cruella De Vil costume.