A hair comb. A bike helmet. A day planner. A coffee table book. A bottle of nail polish. A plant mister. A chess set.
It’s a collection of things that would normally not be clumped together, except for one connecting fact: they’re all products that have been created by Los Angeles-based design studio Poketo.
The company’s depth and diversity is its greatest strength; following a philosophy of bringing art and design into our everyday lives, Poketo can add its colourful, joyful, inquisitive style to just about anything. What makes something Poketo is, quite simply, the fact that Poketo made it.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” says cofounder Ted Vadakan, standing in front of his company’s bustling booth at the 2019 Interior Design Show Vancouver. “It can be anything and everything.”
Vadakan and his now-wife Angie Myung founded Poketo in 2003, almost immediately after they started dating. It might have been a huge risk for some, but for the two of them, collaborating on something creative just made sense. He had a background in film post-production and she was versed in graphic design, so they melded their minds to create their first art-meets-function product: a wallet. “We had a big party, it was incredible, it sold out—and we thought, “Ok, how do we do a next version? How do we continue this?’” Vadakan recalls. “So that wallet turned into apparel and that turned into housewares.” And the snowball just kept on rolling.
Constantly branching into new types of product may be challenging, but it is a major part of how Vadakan and Myung stay inspired and fresh. “When we started with that first product we knew we didn’t want to be known for that solely; we really felt like art for every day can really be so many different things,” explains Vadakan. “It’s almost like the world is a canvas. We just, for example, launched a line of nail polish, and it seems so out of the blue—but doing these different projects that we have no idea about, with production you have to learn about, is a way for us to stay creatively motivated.”
Aside from Poketo’s ecommerce site and wholesalers around the world, the brand also has four brick-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles and one in Denver. Visiting one is a chance to be immersed in the Poketo world, and to engage with other design-minded individuals through events, exhibits, and workshops. Community remains at the heart of Poketo, which is why Vadakan and Myung decided to produce Creative Spaces: a book featuring creatives across North America, diving into their processes and photographing them in their own interiors.
A handful of the people featured are life-and-business duos like Vadakan and Myung. According to him, the most crucial thing when working with a husband or wife is to keep perspective. “We know what’s important, and that’s our relationship. That’s number one,” he says. “The business isn't driving how we live or what we do. First and foremost it’s, ‘Okay, we love each other and we happen to be doing this business together.’” Myung was supposed to be part of this chat but had to back out due to illness, which gives Vadakan a chance to sing her praises in her absence. “She’s the creative mind of Poketo, so everything that you see on the website, the creative direction, all the products, that’s so Angie,” he says. “That’s her graphic design background and something I really admire about her. She’s very much a get-it-done kind of person: she puts her mind to it and she does it. She’s just such a creative vision.”
Love and passion clearly keep them going, both professionally and personally. Still, it can undoubtedly be hard for them to find separation from their work—but when it comes down to it, their work and home lives are so intertwined that one symbiotically feeds off the other. Travels, cool restaurants, nature walks—they all become inspiration for new ideas, new ways of combining functional products with cheerful art and playful design. “We’re constantly evolving, we’re not static: ‘Where else do we want to go?’ And you see that in the products we make and the stores that we build,” Vadakan says. “And I think the aesthetic for us is that feeling, that joy, that community, that colour. It’s the salt and pepper in life.”