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iPhone in Business


“I have my iPhone in my pocket, and that’s all I need.
I just go. It releases me from the burden and stress of planning ahead.”

Seth Grizzle, Co-Founder, Architect

Bringing art and business together through iPhone.

When young architects come together to start a design firm, the results can be electric. That’s what happened at graypants, a Seattle-based design firm founded by friends Seth Grizzle, and Jonathan Junker. Lights — striking fixtures hand-fashioned from cardboard boxes — were the company’s first product to make it to market.

“We’re finding new ways to use discarded material,” Grizzle says. “To give it new life, new breath, and make it beautiful.”

They’re doing more than that. With their lights, chairs, and tables, Grizzle is engaging in a new type of hyper-responsible design, using repurposed materials to create objects that integrate seamlessly into the lives of the people who use them.

And to realize their vision — artistic, environmental, and commercial — graypants’ founders wanted to harness the best technology they could find. Enter iPhone.

Telling the graypants Story

For Grizzle, iPhone serves as a pocket portfolio. “When I’m out on the street, or at trade shows and conferences, and somebody asks me what I do, I pull out my iPhone and start flipping through our work, showing them images of our lights,” he says.

He can do the same with a potential retailer or supplier. “At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, we can tell a story just by using iPhone. We can give a mini-presentation to anyone we meet throughout the day.”

Grizzle can do full-scale presentations, too, using Keynote on his MacBook coupled with the Keynote Remote app on iPhone. “I can just move through the slides on iPhone and not necessarily concentrate on the content behind me. It gives me the freedom to talk as the images are coming up.”

Content in his Pocket

Because it allows him to navigate as he goes, Grizzle loves to travel with iPhone. “I can show up in a city, instantly download the subway and city map onto my iPhone, and know how to navigate.”

That means that Grizzle no longer has to plan ahead. “I don’t have to do any prep work, spending hours in advance planning my trip. I just go. So I literally gain time back by having my iPhone in my pocket.”

He appreciates the small size and easy handling of iPhone, too. “Recently I was traveling with a messenger bag and a big bag of lights,” he explains. “And to pull out a map would have been inconceivable. So just to have one hand free to pull up my iPhone, slide, unlock, and navigate was amazing.”

Plus, with iPhone, Grizzle can access any graypants content, anytime. “iPhone allows me to be anywhere in any city, and I’m actually connected to my content,” he says. “My photos, my website, my marketing material. And it’s not about the phone itself. It’s about my content. And my content is in my pocket.”

Apps at Home

“So much of what I do is just easier on iPhone. The core functions of iPhone are great to begin with, and the apps just add so much more.”

Back in Seattle, they have loaded iPhone with apps — starting with Zipcar, the on-demand car service. “I go to my iPhone, make a reservation, pick up the car, and load up cardboard,” Grizzle says. “And if my meeting’s running longer, I pull out iPhone to extend my reservation.”

Throughout the day, Grizzle, Junker, and Gentry stay in touch with MobileMe on iPhone. “Our contacts and our calendars are synced,” Junker says. “So we rely on the fact that the data is always the same in all different locations.”

They also upload images to common MobileMe galleries. “When we’re working on a project, any image we come across, or any snapshot we take, we fire it up to that gallery immediately, which we all check,” Junker says. “It’s a great way to keep each other inspired and keep fresh ideas rolling.”

Those image galleries also help Junker field on-the-spot press requests. “We always try to issue very high-res, very large files, and that’s something I can do on my iPhone with the iDisk app,” he says. “I can pull up an entire folder of high-res images and just immediately share a link with anybody.”

Sketching apps have been instrumental in graypants’ creative collaborations. “All three of us are napkin sketchers,” Junker says. “But what the iPhone has allowed us to do is sketch, take a photo, email it, and save it. The other guys will open it in Sketchbook or Brushes, do some quick lines over it, and email it back. It’s been very useful for the exchange of ideas.”

Streamlining Social Media

Jon Gentry loves the social media apps available on iPhone. “I use TweetDeck, which feeds our Facebook and Twitter accounts from one location,” he says. And he uses BlogPress to update graypants’ blog. “Throughout the day, any kind of inspiring photos or images we see, we like to post those — from anywhere in the world.”

In fact, for moderating comments on graypants’ blog, Gentry prefers iPhone to anything else. “Using the WordPress app, there’s a comment moderation tool that allows me to fly through the comments as we get them in real time, approve them, delete them, or mark them as spam,” he says. “And that relieves me from the burden of logging on to a computer. It takes less time. It’s just easier on an iPhone.”

Gentry can even use iPhone to change up the features on graypants’ website. “I go in through the WordPress app,” he says. “It’s extremely easy. I can feature different projects on our homepage, you know, while I’m on the bus.”

Marrying Art with Commerce

At graypants, Jonathan Junker deals with PR and sales. And for him, Bento is an indispensable app. “It allows us to track any database we want, whether it’s potential customers or sales we’ve made,” he says. “I can pull out my iPhone, scroll down, and see when a particular customer bought her light. If I get an email, I have her order history right at my fingertips.”

Another app, called Analytics, allows Junker to track the graypants website and online store. “I can see where our visitors are coming from, which sections of our site they’re looking at, and which sections they leave. And that allows me to tailor who we’re marketing to and how we set up our site.”

All of which has helped graypants merge art with commerce — and monetize its creativity. “iPhone allows us to take graypants from an artist’s perspective, and as a business that needs to be run properly, and merge those two things together,” Junker says.

“iPhone has allowed a level of multitasking that’s not cumbersome. It’s actually enjoyable. And that helps our bottom line.”

“iPhone has changed the way I think about a phone,” Grizzle agrees. “It’s not a phone. It’s beyond a phone.”

Company Snapshot

  • 3 employees
  • Seattle, WA
  • www.graypants.com
  • Every one of graypants’ lights is hand-assembled, so no two are the same. Each light takes anywhere from 2 – 4 hours to create.

Let the music play

“One of the best things about the iPhone, to me, is the iPod,” says Jonathan Junker. “I don’t think I could live without the iPod on my iPhone. Until I got an iPhone, I dreaded having separate devices. And here’s a device, in my pocket with me every day, that can do all of these wonderful things—running a business—and I can still be listening to my favorite songs. And that’s all while doing every other multitasking thing it can do.”

DJ iPhone

At their stylish live/work space in Seattle, the graypants team is fond of throwing parties. When they do, iPhone plays a role. “One of the great iPhone apps we’ve come to love is Remote,” Jon Gentry explains. “We have speakers set up in all three of the bedrooms and the living room, and wirelessly, we have those linked together. With iPhone, we can DJ from any space in our studio. Whether we’re out on the deck hanging out with a group of people, or inside in the workspace, we can still be DJ-ing and requesting songs.”