(last edited on April 29, 2014 at 1:28 am)
In 1986, I went into electrical engineering because I wanted to make better graphics computers. I didn’t know any better; by the time I graduated, better graphic computers were available everywhere, and there was no longer any immediate need to design a new one. Oops. I don’t regret my brief dalliance with computer engineering, but from time to time I think about majors that I would have enjoyed more. One of them is industrial design, and I’m finding that I’m kind of jumping into the field as a hobbyist. There are two things I’m working on:
- A new binder system for the printable ceo that will solve some workflow issues I’m having with it.
A pen that lies flat, looks cool, and feels good in the hand.
p>While looking into some resin casting links, I stumbled upon this cool thermoplastic forming press for under $100. It’s designed to be used with a material called kydex, which I’ve seen used in the mom-and-pop specialty gun and knife holster market. As it happens, I’m interested in fabricating some rigid pockets for my own use, so this is an incredibly awesome find.
For comparison, check out this tutorial on making knife sheaths without the press; much DIY goodness here, but I really just want to buy a press :-)
The manufacturer, knifekits.com, also has unusually beautiful pictures of its products. It makes me totally want to make my own knife, though I’m not sure what I’d do with it.
And check out this rivet press! I totally want one!
I didn’t make the connection between my recent projects and Industrial Design until last night. I was chatting with buddy Alen about the process notebook I was making for a new binder system, along with the cool pen that would go with it. Alen, himself trained in Industrial Design at University of Michigan, pointed out the similarity and then gave me a few tips on how to approach the materials aspect of the project. On reflection, I really have always been excited about making useful things for people that are also attractive and fun, clear in purpose and psychologically fitted to a particular workflow… duh, that’s Industrial Design!
Industrial Design (ID) is an applied art, dealing with ideas, concept, and process. You’re probably familiar with Product Design, which is the “visible face” of ID: cars, electronic gadgets, vacuums, and droolworthy Apple hardware are all examples of the kind of things that Industrial Designers make. Style is just the surface too; behind every gorgeous curve are thousands of hours of research, design, testing and prototyping. And it takes more than just good ideas: you’ve got to investigate materials, manufacturing processes, and engineering. Industrial Designers are modern Renaissance men and women.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a school that has an ID program, see if you can visit their student studio space. In some respects the ID studio is like any creative space, but unlike pure 2D graphic spaces you’ll feel a deliberate attention paid to scale, and your relationship to it. While you’re visiting the school, you might as well check out the Illustration, Graphic Design, and Architecture departments too. Pay attention to scale and creative energy…it’s focused in a different way.
It’s interesting to see how the Industrial Design firms are encroaching on Interactive Design, formally the purvue of software-side designers. Two of the big ID firms, IDEO and Frog Design, have significant sections on their interactive work. The problem-solving skills can be universally applied, so it’s not really a big surprise. What’s also interesting is how these companies are offering strategic services on top of that: a think tank that can actually make cool stuff. That’s pretty exciting. I’m coming from the other way: trained on the software-side, now exploring my desire to make things imbued with utility and beauty.