TEDxCLE 2015 Talk
René Polin has more than 20 years’ experience in product design and development. He is the president and founder of Balance Inc. – a full-service product innovation consulting firm in Cleveland, OH.
This first generation Cuban-American learned the value of opportunity and hard work growing up in a blue collar neighborhood in East Cleveland. René worked and paid his way through high school and college, becoming the first in his family to receive a degree. Determined to balance his artistic talent with his mechanical skills (and avoid being a starving artist), he obtained his BFA in industrial design. René was recognized as the top industrial design student in his graduating class, being awarded the Industrial Designer Society of America’s (IDSA) Student Merit Award.
René followed a passion for toy design, accepting a position with Fisher-Price immediately following graduation. Frustrated with the pace and scale of the corporate world, and in search of a greater challenge, he quickly moved into design consulting, and never looked back. After gaining valuable experience working for two different Cleveland-based design firms, René decided it was time to establish his own. This firm would be based on a philosophy learned from his father – ‘balance in all things.’ René found that too much of anything often had negative results, and Balance Inc. would give just the right amount of attention to all the elements that would result in not only excellent design but a great work/life balance. The goal would be to balance passion and intellect, aesthetic and function, profits and family, mindfulness and action, simplicity and complexity – and as you might imagine, the list goes on.
He founded Balance independently in 2004 as an industrial design consultancy, and has grown the company into a successful product innovation firm offering a complete suite of services that includes research, strategy, marketing, product design, engineering, prototyping, and user experience/interface design. The Balance team expanded over the years to include marketing and strategy experts, designers, user experience experts, engineers, and researchers. Balance serves clients all around the U.S., and is now beginning to focus on commercializing its own products through licensing and spinoff companies.
René is responsible for hundreds of successful products from baby toys to medical devices. If you’ve withdrawn money from your local ATM, bathed your infant in a baby bathtub, hitched up your boat trailer, or crushed ice in your kitchen blender, there’s a good chance you’ve used something René and his team have worked on. His widely-varied experience includes hundreds of different clients–Diebold, Hasbro, Sherwin-Williams, Lowe’s, Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Moen, Ninja, and Discover Financial Services to name a few. He and his firm have been awarded multiple IDEA finalist mentions and awards as well as USA Today, Business Week, and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio awards. René has also been awarded multiple utility and design patents.
René’s collaborations with his clients have resulted in successful lines of product sold in some of the largest retail chains in the U.S. This includes the first-ever line of U.S. Hispanic market baby toys that were sold through Wal-Mart, the worlds-first biomorphic keychain credit card for Discover Financial Services, and a line of pet products for a start-up company which led to its successful acquisition by a larger market competitor.
His busy schedule does not stop René from dedicating his time to multiple boards and non-profits. He is currently on the Board of Directors at The Cleveland Institute of Art. He contributes to and supports First Robotics clubs at St. Ignatius High School and Hathaway Brown School, and special causes such as The Special Olympics. René has been a guest lecturer and speaker at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Institute of Art, The University of Akron, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
The spirit of his father, and the many years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, lives on in everything René and Balance continue to do. Most importantly, and the true reason for his resulting ‘perfect balance’ – René is supported by his loving wife and three incredible children.