With an entrepreneurial background in leading-edge design and engineering, Ethan Imboden brings a unique blend of business acumen, technical savvy and aesthetic sophistication to Jimmyjane. Imboden founded the company in 2003, seeing an opportunity to leverage his integrated design philosophy to radically transform consumer experience within a category of nearly universal interest.
Prior to founding Jimmyjane, Imboden spent over 10 years in brand and product development with some of the world's top design firms. Under the auspices of the Arnell Group, Ecco Design, Frogdesign, Alchemy Labs and Plink, Imboden has consulted for diverse clients such as Ford, Motorola, Dell, Herman Miller and Nike. In recent years, Imboden has received more than ten ID, IDEA, AIGA, and Good Design awards in recognition of his contributions to the fields of product and graphic design. A prolific innovator, he is listed as an inventor on over twenty registered patents and applications.
Early in his career, Imboden worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he collaborated on the development of an ultra high speed DNA sequencer and other cutting-edge automated lab instrumentation for the Human Genome Project. He earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins and his Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute.
We asked Ethan to set aside a few minutes to answer some questions for us. Here's an excerpt from our conversation.
You studied electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins, then received your Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute - with these credentials, why design for sex?
After years of working on everything from eyewear and cell phones to footwear and furniture, I was very surprised to come across such a significant area of our lives that hadn't yet received significant design attention. As I see it, if anything should be beautifully designed, it's the products that are involved in our sexuality. I'm focusing my creativity here for three simple reasons - it's fun, it's extremely important for our health & happiness, and I like to push people's boundaries - including my own.
Boxers or briefs? Primarily briefs these days - skinny jeans are incompatible with boxers.
What's your morning routine?
I'm not much of a morning person, so I usually get up about 30 minutes later than I should have, scamper to the shower and get out the door as quickly as possible. The first cup of tea at the studio is an important milestone.
In your travels, have you ever been pleasantly lost? I've been pleasantly lost in more than just my travels. I like to be in a bit over my head, and this results in a lot of adventures (and misadventures). Meandering around Paris and Hong Kong without a map or destination are recent favorites, but believe me - I can get lost anywhere.
With both a design and engineering background, what do you find frustrating in your everyday world? The timeline to bring products to market – I want them out in the world the day after we dream them up. Is that too much to ask?
You have a fairly unusual occupation. What still surprises you in your daily work? I've spoken with thousands of people about their sexuality, and am fascinated by the diversity of experiences and desires. I'm also continually surprised by how people react to Jimmyjane – people that one might expect to be hesitant often end up being the most open and enthusiastic.
With over twenty registered patents and applications and numerous ID, IDEA, AIGA and Good Design awards, which product are you most proud of? That's like asking a father which is his favorite child. That said, it was extremely gratifying to return to FORM 6 and take it to the next level with the new generation. This is the benefit of having a design studio at the heart of your company. FORM 2 was a very satisfying collaboration with my friend Yves Béhar.
What are your New Year's resolutions? 1. Speak in my own voice. 2. Love without fear. 3. Do the work I love.
What would be your perfect Valentine's Day? I'd extend Valentine's day to a week, then go somewhere we've never been, do things we've never done and create secrets never to be divulged. We'd probably also have.
The item you can't live without? My skateboard – it's meditation on wheels.
Even your mom blogs, why don't you? First, cut me some slack - my mother is a professional writer. Second, I DO blog— I occasionally write for the Huffington Post.
What turns you on creatively, emotionally or sexually? Individuality. I'm drawn to people who stand in their own shoes, find their own path and walk with conviction so that they can live as they dream. That's as sexy as it gets, and it's my constant aspiration.