Onetwosix founders, Nick Kazakoff and Brendan Gallagher are both graduates of the University of Alberta’s Industrial Design program – a program that Nick refers to as a “hidden gem” in the Edmonton region. The program has developed near mythic status in the design world – with students graduating into jobs with firms like Adidas, Nike and Lego to name a few – a testament to the depth and breadth of talent that is coming out of the post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and Onetwosix is no exception.
They’ve seen some substantial growth since they were founded in 2015 and that success is translating into recognition. Onetwosix has recently received a Designer of the Year award from Western Living Magazine. They have developed design solutions ranging from office privacy, to medical equipment, to solutions for safe covid-19 screening. If there’s a design challenge, the pair have proven they are more than capable of finding innovative ways to solve it.
Nick credits the supportive business environment that exists within the Edmonton region for a lot of their success.
“We started out with investing only $4000 and were working out of a garage,” says Nick. “We really benefitted from initiatives like the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce’s Trade Accelerator Program that worked with us to bring our product to market. But on top of that, the local business community is incredible. When it came time to expand our operations and we needed more space, another well-established design firm in the area, IZM, offered to let us share some of their workspace. They could have viewed us as the competition but instead they provided us with incredible support and mentorship.”
The duo’s biggest success has come with their Loop Phone Booth, an office privacy solution made to address the drawbacks that were starting to emerge in open-concept office spaces. The pair’s modern take on phone booths has generated a lot of interest, translating into orders from big name companies like Shopify, Mercedes Benz and even Pokemon.
“The reception to our designs has been incredible,” says Nick. “And working with these companies has been amazing.”
When it came to the decision of where to manufacture their designs, Nick says the decision was pretty simple.
“The Edmonton region has such a strong background when it comes to expertise in manufacturing, it made sense to build our product here,” points out Nick. “The capabilities here are really sophisticated. And while traditionally, a lot of the manufacturing that’s been happening here has been in the energy sector, those same tools, knowledge and skillsets are completely translatable for our industry.”
This decision to establish their manufacturing operations in the region has also helped them in other ways. Being located in the Edmonton region meant much faster shipping times for their North American clients compared to some of their competitors and it provided a gateway into the US market.
“We’ve also benefitted from government incentives like the Canadian Export Grant,” says Nick. “This really helped us break into the US market with our office furniture solutions.”
But this innovative firm is not content to simply focus on one niche market. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of this innovative firm lies in their ability to apply their design skills to a broad range of industries.
“We’ve always approached design by thinking about the people that will be using our product. And we look for the solutions that are unique to that person and their situation – it’s truly a human-centred approach,” says Nick.
It’s this attitude that has seen the duo successfully take on the daunting challenge of designing the housing for an MRI machine, to help make patients feel more at ease, and on the complete opposite side of the design spectrum, they’ve developed a new design for a line of curling brooms.
More recently, Onetwosix has shifted their focus again, using their unique skillsets to address some of the challenges that have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they’ve designed the Loop Rapid Screening Booth, a modular design that creates a safe environment for people administering COVID-19 testing, making the procedure quicker and safer and eliminating the use of some PPE equipment – which has seen a huge surge in demand throughout the pandemic. Their design has been authorized as a Class 1 medical device for use in relation to COVID-19 by Health Canada and the pair is working hard to bring their concept to market. They are actively building partnerships with airports where rapid testing could support the air travel industry – arguably the hardest hit industry throughout the pandemic.
“A product like this has the ability to impact a broad range of industries though,” says Nick. “From airports to healthcare, to schools, to almost any businesses wanting to create a safe environment for their employees – we see the potential for our Rapid Screening Booth to have a broad impact.”