Martin Keen

Martin Keen
Founder, Design Director and CEO, Focal Upright
Founder, KEEN Footwear

Martin Keen is an entrepreneur and thought leader in industrial design who is founder, design director and CEO of Focal Upright and founder of KEEN Footwear. He led both companies to become successful disruptors in their industries.

Keen’s designs have reshaped and redefined entire categories of consumer products. He was named 2014 Ohio State University Distinguished Alumni for his design work and was the original inductee into the Rhode Island Design Hall of Fame. Keen has received numerous awards including the Chicago Athenaeum’s 2015 GOOD DESIGN™ and the footwear industry’s 2003 Launch of the Year for KEEN. He has earned multiple awards for innovative ergonomic design.

Considering our Past to Better Design our Future

Shoes, chairs and automobiles are among the most designed objects in the world. They are also some of the items most responsible for taking us away from our animal past—literally separating us from the Earth. This hasn't always been intentional, but instead comes from outdated ideas and aesthetic preference (form) over function and utility.

Human-centered design means considering the user during the entire life of the product, not just the beginning. Martin Keen asks, “What are the long-term consequences of using this product every day?” Consider mobile phones and the unintended consequence of "tech neck." Or high-heeled shoes and bunions. Or cars and how they mean that most people barely walk anymore. As a species, we are getting sicker and less reliant on our own bodies than ever before.

If we reconsider some of these original designs, taking these unintended consequences into account, we come up with radical new solutions. Keen finds, we should embrace these new directions and the exciting designs that can result.