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Inside the Design Mind of Alan Pepin

Editor’s Note: I met Alan Pepin, a freelance product designer, at a recent trend talk I gave at LightStyle of Orlando. Pepin has his own design studio, Red Dog Run Design, and works with a variety of retail and manufacturing clients in the categories of home decor, lighting, furniture and textiles. He is the design mind behind the home decor products of several popular retail brands. I want to take you behind the scenes for an up-close look at the creative process of one of the most prolific designers in the business.  In my interview with Alan, he shares his creative process that gets products from the page to the store shelves 

Alan Pepin, freelance product designer, founder/owner of Red Dog Run Design, St. Cloud, Florida
Alan Pepin, freelance product designer, founder/owner of Red Dog Run Design, St. Cloud, Florida

First a bit about his background: Alan started designing products in 1997 at Marshall Field’s department store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He created technical illustrations for ready-to-wear which led to designing for the home division creating products for Frank Lloyd Wright Gallery and Thomas O’Brien. Later, Alan moved to the product development team at Target Stores, where he continued to design for the home division. 

Please describe your creative process. Give us a peek inside your “Design Mind”

Matte black home decor products by Alan Pepin, DCOTA, 2018
Matte black home decor products by Alan Pepin, DCOTA, 2018

When it comes to product design, I begin by collecting information. I need to understand my client’s particular niche and what their goals are. Then I need to take a deep look at the marketplace they are in (or want to enter). My thinking here is to look for missed opportunities or gaps, and where my clients may gain an advantage.

I’m constantly looking at new products, as well as emerging finishes and materials. At the same time, I’ve been taught by some of the best designers it is critical to have a good grasp of the classics, and what makes great design so timeless.

What are your muses in the creative and design process?

Barbara Hepworth - "Sculpture with Colour and Strings"; Jasper Table Lamp for J. Alexander
Barbara Hepworth – “Sculpture with Colour and Strings”; Jasper Table Lamp for J. Alexander

That’s an interesting question. My first love has always been fine art. Painting, drawing, sculpture. At a young age, I learned that art presented the opportunity to share what really moved me.

Over the years I’ve learned there isn’t much difference between art and design. Sometimes the product is useful and solves a particular problem, and sometimes it’s simply decoration. Regardless, in order for people to feel compelled to buy, they must be moved in some thoughtful or inspiring way.

What are the latest design trends driving products for the home since this is part of your expertise?

Metallic Glass at West Elm, Brooklyn, NY
Metallic Glass at West Elm, Brooklyn, NY

We live in such a dynamic time! We’re living so fast and overwhelmed with constant choices. The continuous move towards minimalism, clean lines and nature are still strong. People need their spaces to feel like a retreat from all the noise. Some folks have said that minimalism is falling away and maximalism is the “it” look, but I’m not seeing much of that. The materials are a bit more luxurious; beautifully grained woods, seeded and plated metallic glass finishes and colors that are a bit more deep and rich.

Looking forward, any emerging trends of note?

Ilse Crawford’s Book, Sensual Home
Ilse Crawford’s Book, Sensual Home

As of late, the world outside seems more chaotic and divisive. Whether it’s politics or socially, it just feels heavy and darker. I’m seeing more stories and design that centers on creating a space that invites the positive and the peaceful. It’s not only about minimalism, it’s personal. It’s reflective and inspiring. Maybe somewhat spiritual? I’ve been looking back at Ilse Crawford’s classic book Sensual Home for inspiration.

The design world is experiencing seen a return to craftsmanship and traditional artisan techniques with an emphasis on the handmade. Does this influence how and what you design? 

Red Dog Design studio, inside the S.W. Porter Building, circa 1915, St. Cloud, Florida
Red Dog Design studio, inside the S.W. Porter Building, circa 1915, St. Cloud, Florida

I recently interviewed local designer, Angela Neel, for a project and asked her thoughts on craftsmanship and attention to detail. She said, “You may not be aware of the crown moulding in a room, but you feel it.”

A really insightful observation in my view, and I think people in general are awakening to this. You may not be aware of the exact construction of a given item, whether it’s an acacia wooden chair or a basket woven from seagrass, but you feel it. It’s weight and texture. The depth of its finish. You really feel these things.

Are there any individuals in the creative world, past or present, you admire and seek to emulate or who elevate the bar for your work?

Wow, there are many. Personally, I’ve always admired Eva Zeisel, Gerald Thurston, and Mathieu Matégot’s work. A few contemporary designers I really admire are Kelly Wearstler, Ilse Crawford and Lake and Wells founders, Mark Kinsley and Tamera Leigh Staten.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a freelance writer living in Orlando, Florida with many published bylines in magazines, newspapers, and multimedia sites. As a professional lifestyle writer, Karen specializes in art, architecture, design, home interiors and personality profiles. Karen is the writer, producer and host of the streaming series, The Design Tourist ( that brings viewers a global dose of design inspiration with episodes featuring the latest looks and trends from the world’s premiere design events and shows. She also publishes a quarterly magazine on design travel that you can read by clicking the link: Her journalism background includes seven years on-air experience as a TV news reporter and anchor covering a range of issues from education to politics. Her educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from Northeast Louisiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. Throughout her career, Karen has written and produced dozens of documentaries and videos for educational, commercial, corporate, and governmental clients and appeared in many TV and video productions as a professional host.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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