In 1991 David Powell and Tom Kramer joined forces to create Kablooe Design®. Tom was a recent industrial design graduate, and Dave was a student of audio electronics; both were doing freelance design and prototyping work for Tonka Toys when they met. At the time, Tonka Toys was one of the premier corporations headquartered in the Twin Cities area. Dave rented a small tin shed in Osseo, MN, where he had some tools and equipment he used for his freelance work. Tom was working out of his basement, and it seemed like a good idea to join forces in their efforts to design and prototype for Tonka Toys, their one and only customer.
They considered themselves “Exploding With New Ideas,” which seemed like the perfect slogan for a creative toy design company, and a perfect fit for the name “Kablooe Design”. On the very day that they joined forces, they were working on their first project together in the work shed with the radio going, when they heard the news that Tonka Toys was shutting its doors, closing down and moving to the east coast—it had just been bought out by Hasbro. On that fateful first day (after quitting his day job the week before), Tom turned to Dave and said, “I think we better find some new customers.” Fortunately, toy work continued with Hasbro, and they picked up Ertyl and Galoob as toy customers as well.
At the same time, efforts were being made to design products in other fields of interest. Dave and Tom soon were designing guitars, consumer products, industrial items, and even a few medical devices. They took a grassroots approach, and offered our customers high-quality results quickly, cost-effectively, and without a lot of nonsense. They began to build a customer base and added talented and creative individuals to the team. Many of these people have moved on to pursue other interests, but their contributions to Kablooe will always be remembered. Kablooe is thankful for the many friends we have made over the years through the wonderful people that have worked here or passed through our doors.
In the early 90s they moved their facility into one half of a small warehouse in Blaine, MN. During the next few years company focus began to shift away from toys and prototyping to more in- depth product design efforts, and in the mid to late 90s engineering products for production was added with the use of Solidworks 3D modeling software. At that time the workshop became used less for producing prototype parts, and more for 3D experimentation during the design and development process, although final prototyping capabilities remain to this day. Matthew Rust joined the staff in 1996 and eventually became director of design and development, and now oversees the internal design affairs while Tom operates as company president.
In 2000 Tom made a personal decision to have the company focus mostly on medical devices, and began working to gain clients in that arena. Kablooe scoured the nation, looking for the best and the brightest designers and engineers to put together a top-notch, world-class staff to provide their customers with the best possible product development results. The idea is simple: find the best possible people, pay them what they’re worth, and give them the freedom to use their talents. The company’s mission statement changed its focus from developing products to providing a fun, satisfying, and lifelong means for the employees to have the families and associated life that they desired.
By 2008 Kablooe’s customer portfolio was approximately 85% medical devices, with the remainder in consumer, electronic, and industrial products. This was an important achievement for Tom, as his interests and passions revolved around using product design as a tool to improve the lives of others. Throughout this time the company gained valuable medical device knowledge through educational channels as well as good old fashioned experience. During that time Tom attended Stanford University’s Cardiovascular System in Health and Disease program, as well as part of the Stanford Biodesign program. Later he attended Northwestern University’s Master of Product Development executive program, and by 2010 had racked up countless medical CEU credits as well.
By 2010 Kablooe was working on many different kinds of medical devices. Design assignments included surgical tools and devices for atrial fibrillation ablation, drug injection, benign prostate hyperplasia, vein harvesting, tympanometers, audiometers, ECG testing, and coronary bypass procedures to name just a few.
Kablooe had learned many lessons in medical device development. Based on these experiences, Tom saw the need and an opportunity to streamline the medical device development process by focusing on important areas that so many medical device developers miss. This gave birth to the D3 Design Driven Development℠ process. Tom now travels and lectures about the product development process, pointing out pitfalls and showing developers and designers how they can infuse innovation into a process that will help them develop outstanding and successful products.