Q&A: Chris Hawker of Trident Design

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Brilliance comes to life by the minute at Trident Design LLC, a small invention firm in the Short North. The company develops its own products, helps others do the same and has brought to market things like Onion Goggles, PowerSquid and Thirsty Light. Visionary founder Chris Hawker shared more about pursuing big ideas.

I got started with aquarium products in high school. I was just a real nerdy kid. You know band geeks? I was an animal geek. I was breeding birds when I was 13, selling them to pet stores. Then I got into aquariums. I worked at a fish store and started an aquarium-maintenance company.

I started designing my own filters and selling them to my clients when I was about 16 . That was where I figured out I had a knack for problem-solving. The Kent Marine Pro-Scraper was my first breakout product. I sold 30,000 units in the first year of sales. I built the company on the back of that algae scraper.

At Trident De s ign, o ur philosophy of business is fun, impact and profit. We do industrial design, product design, graphic design, branding, naming. Almost everyone here is center-brained.

For the most part, e veryone in our society has everything they need in terms of survival. The people who are winning now are winning because of user experience. I'm trying to add style points to everyday items like vegetable peelers.

I call it bottom-line design. Your life is made up of all these little tasks, and there's an opportunity for them either to be irksome or for them to be enjoyable by virtue of the tool you have. A lot of jobs were just never treated like they deserved the right tool.

Of my inventions, the one I can't live without is the BaZket. It's a handy, collapsible shopping tote. It's not really an invention per se, but it's a really nice design. I use it every day.

I just love looking at things and appreciating design. The same amount of materials - with just a slightly different arrangement or configuration to it - can turn something from garbage to a masterpiece.

When I was 10 years old, my father was doing a woodworking project. He finished the project, and at the end he signed his name at the bottom. He said, "If you sign your name to something, when people see it, they'll think they know something about you by the quality of your work."

Know someone doing cool things around Columbus? E-mail John Ross at jross@columbusalive.com.

Name: Chris Hawker

Age: 36

Hometown: Perrysburg

Neighborhood: Merion Village

Web: trident-design.com

Last Words

Last thing you bought: A latte

Last great meal you ate: My wife Sommer's chicken stew

Last book you read: "Absolution Gap" by Alastair Reynolds

Last song you listened to: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

Last place you traveled: Holiday Valley for opening weekend