Ali Kermani is an Inventor, Product Designer, Brand Manager and VP of Digital Media at Razor USA LLC, a developer and manufacturer of scooters and other fun vehicles. He was also one of the judges at The “Get Crazy” Razor Crazy Cart Design Challenge. I had an opportunity to ask him about his work and how he ended up with the Crazy Cart.
How did you end up working at Razor?
My background is in skateboarding and snowboarding. A few years before Razor was founded in 2000, I met the future owner of Razor, Carlton Calvin, at a skatepark where he was trying to collect action sports footage for a project he was working on. Our successful collaboration on that project led to Carlton approaching me a few years later about helping to market the original Razor scooter (which was then being sold as an office accessory) to a younger audience as a new action sport. That second project turned into the multi-million dollar wheeled goods company that is Razor.
What other cool projects you've worked with before?
In my 15 years with Razor there have been too many cool projects to name exhaustively, but some of my favorites include our RipStik Casterboards, the Pocket Rocket and Chopper electric miniature motorcycles, and of course the coolest product line of them all, the Crazy Cart line: Crazy Cart, Crazy Cart XL, and the upcoming Crazy Cart Jr.
What inspires and motivates you?
The fun of active play is what inspires me and a desire to spread as much of that fun to as many children as possible is what motivates me. I recognize my position as one of the very few people with a direct influence on the quality and selection of equipment this generation uses for play, and as the old adage teaches us: “with great power comes great responsibility.”
In regard to challenges, I think those closest to me would say I challenge myself much more than any external obstacle or onus does.
What do you think about two Challenges on GrabCAD with Razor and Siemens?
I think the Challenges we did were a great help for both Razor and my own personal development process. Not having a background in CAD myself, the step of taking my product ideas from scratch pad drawings to a physical prototype has been an important gap in my toolbox for turning a good idea into a profitable product. Seeing what the community and the Solid Edge software is capable of has inspired me to learn the program myself!
Please tell us a bit about the product development process at Razor.
Our product development at Razor consists of multi-pronged approach that could well be called the "100 to 1” process. This process begins with an unfiltered collection of as many product concepts as we can collect or generate. These ~ 100 concepts (100 is just the name I’m giving it… the actual number of ideas is not as important as the understanding that we do not filter out any ideas at this stage) not only include our own ideas and the ideas of other, external designers, the also include ideas from our friends, our families, the people we sit next to on airplanes, etc.
Basically, we start off with every idea on the table that we can. Then, a small group of us discuss the merits and challenges of each project with the goal of narrowing the field down to ~ 10 or so. Those ideas get green-lighted for further development based on our team’s assessment of their potential for development into a viable product. Once we’ve pursued these 10 concepts and fettered out their inherit merits or challenges, if we’re lucky, we will find ourselves with 1 or 2 products we feel are ready for market.
Biggest problem in product development these days?
I think the ‘biggest problem’ is tough to single out as each company’s product development process and challenges are different, but one of the most common problems I see across the board is worrying more about form than function. Though ‘form follows function’ is one of the most basic tenets of product design and development, it remains one of the most important and ignored.
How can you make sure the whole product development team is on the same page?
I’ll let you know when I figure that out! :) Just kidding. To be honest, we’ve recently been able to make significant progress on this front and the keys to our success have been: 1. Clear, open, and frequently used lines of communication, and 2. Working on projects that ignite individuals’ passion! I can’t underscore enough the value of passion for the project.
What are your favorite software tools?
Though my favorite design tools are a pencil and paper, my favorite software tool has to be the CAD software Razor’s design team uses to make their magic: Siemens Solid Edge!
What are you working on at the moment?
While I am working on various stages of numerous projects at this time, the one I am most excited about is the family I am working on building with my lovely wife, Shelby! :)
Thank you Ali for this brief interview and lots of creative ideas!