Published April 18, 2022
Kyu Han isn’t a run-of-the-mill Picnic employee. A self-confessed New York pizza lover, Kyu, our director of design, has been in the Picnic basket since graduating from the University of Washington with an undergrad in Industrial Design in 2016.
“Originally, I was moonlighting, helping the founders with renders and pitch decks. My other gig was at a kitchen goods company in Seattle called Chef’n as part of an internal design consultancy. We were doing drinkware and food-related products for companies, including Starbucks.”
As one of Picnic’s first employees, Kyu saw the company progress from Otto Robotics to Vivid Robotics before landing where we are today: Picnic Works.
“The vision was to create a fully automated pizza food truck. No people inside, you place an order, and it’s completely self-service for the customer. I was working on slide decks, concepts, and notional ideas of what the truck and customer experience might look like, and, most importantly, where people order pizzas from.”
Kyu’s involvement in the automated food truck didn’t stop there. As a multi-talented individual with a passion for how stuff works, Kyu contributed to “mechanical engineering efforts, prototyping, designing mechanisms, mechatronics…. cool stuff like that.”
Before long, Vivid rebranded to avoid a potential conflict with another company with the same name. This proved to be a pivotal moment. Not only did this change Kyu’s hand in the company, but it also influenced the business direction.
“We discovered that it’s a lot of work to create a full food truck automation, even just to top the pizzas. But by the time we had done the development of the topping part, we already had a product with a huge market. So we decided we didn’t need to build the whole truck. We just need to do the pizza topping.”
“I think pizza may have been invented in Italy, but it was perfected in New York.”
Today, Kyu leads a small design team at Picnic, and his typical working day is eclectic and exciting.
“On my team, we have two UX designers and an industrial designer, and I manage the design work. In the past, I’ve worn a lot of different hats. We’ve grown now to a point where a lot of these responsibilities have been offloaded to dedicated departments.”
For Kyu, a typical day involves “shepherding projects through the design process: the typical research, ideation, prototyping, and then the actual product development work. That involves sketching, CAD, rendering, and creating presentation decks.” Luckily for Kyu (and all Picnic employees), “a typical day at Picnic also involves making pizzas and doing taste tests.”
It’s experiences like creating test pizzas that help Kyu with the creative process and understanding the challenges that industrial kitchens face.
“Kitchens are demanding environments. It’s loud, it’s hot, there are multitasking workers everywhere, and space constraints. There’s so much to handle, mentally and physically, and employee turnover is high. So we’ve designed a product that can be easily understood and used with minimal training.”
While working at Picnic is a challenge for Kyu, the end results make it all worthwhile.
“I spent ten years working in kitchens through high school and college. So I know firsthand how difficult a job it is. How hectic it can be. How easy it is to make mistakes. And that’s really my favorite part of working for Picnic: it’s being able to make workers’ lives easier and continually improve the product for the end customer.”
Looking for an opportunity to take food automation to the next level and join a whip-smart team of cool pizza lovers? Have a look at our open roles.