Kurt Gauss of GSI Outdoors is one of our outdoor design wizards making the core product we just can’t live without. He has degrees in design from Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He’s taught product design and led undergraduate and postgraduate programs of electrical and electronic robotics and product design at the University of the West of England and he’s led the design efforts for over 13 years at GSI outdoors.
Introduction to the Outdoors
My father grew up on a farm and his idea of summer vacation property was to buy a farm. And so much to my mother’s chagrin, he bought a farm. My mom kind of wanted the Lake House North of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But he got the farm and so from Memorial day through labor day we were basically dropped off and the older siblings and I, we had 70 plus acres just to Rome and build forts and camps and teepees and sweat lodges and ponds and fishing and all that. That was pretty fun. And also learning the trade of farming when I was a teenager. That was good hard work mucking out barns and stuff like that. You get over some of your phobias quickly when you work on a farm.
Things we talked about
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Other Outdoor Activities
Hiking, Mtn Biking, Nordic and Alpine skiing, Sailing
There are two sides of the outdoor business. There’s the sales side and customer service side. And so if you want to get into the sales side, my advice is to get an entry-level job in customer service. Try REI and places like that and what that teaches you, that shows you a whole lot about the business. It teaches you about the issues of closing a sale and customer support after the sale and the whole ecology and ecosystem there.
And then if you want to get into design, a lot of people say, Oh, I love the outdoor world. I want to get an internship in design in the outdoors. And that really casts a very, very small, very small net. And I would say, you know, most of the people I’ve hired have had experience not in the outdoor industry. They’ve had other experience, which is actually from a design director’s point of view, what you want, You know, what kind of skills from designing washing machines in Michigan can you bring to GSI?
So really look for internships and, and for me from again, design director’s point of view, getting an internship, whether it’s a non paid internship during the summer or a paid internship after graduation where you just getting basically minimum wage, you know, doing the grunt work, that is what I want to see. I want to see how you work with people. And what you do with your time as a person working in a group and how you can talk about that and bring that experience forward. It’s a lot about group dynamics in a creative world and so you want to make sure that that person that you’d be looking at has had some experience in it designed for them.
Favorite Books and Podcasts
I’ll go to a Sci-Fi novel or a spy thriller that just takes me away.
I love to listen to wooden boat building, podcasts, sailing, adventure, podcasts, these people that are taking their families or even taking themselves around the world. And in doing that, that’s just living vicariously.
And Ted talks. I love Ted talks.
Favorite Outdoor Gear under $100
Solomon hiking boots
Connect with Kurt