Industrial Design Leaders and Students Discuss the Future in Chicago
IDSA Midwest District Design Conference 2018 Gathers at the University of Illinois at Chicago
CHICAGO — Industrial design students, educators and professionals converged on the University of Illinois at Chicago April 6-7 for the annual IDSA Midwest District Design Conference 2018.
Centered on the theme of “Design > Product,” experts led the largely student crowd through a series of workshops intended to help them develop design ideas into physical realities along with the requisite communication and marketing steps.
Hector Silva, research associate in industrial design at the University of Notre Dame, and the current IDSA Chicago Chapter chair, kicked off the conference Friday with a workshop, “Sketching Stories.” He co-presented the session with Carly Hagins, a first-year graduate industrial design student, also at the University of Notre Dame. The presentation stressed the importance of sketching design ideas to establish context, tell stories and ultimately better communicate a design’s meaning and purpose.
“Most of the time you won’t be presenting ideas to other designers,” Silva said. “You’ll be presenting these ideas to engineers, probably people across the globe, and sketching is a universal language. So you are communicating with people across the globe and the langue is not English. This sketch could really tell a lot. This could tell the person what is the purpose and the features, things like that.”
He said sketching stories, especially sketching the product in relation to the human form, is an underrated skill. He gave the example of rather than just drawing a design for a watch, draw a person using or wearing the watch.
“You don’t have to be an artist, or you don’t have to take figure drawing 101 for you to draw people,” he said.
Among the other workshops were two complimentary talks given by Craighton Berman addressing the “how” of design entrepreneurship on Friday and the “why” on Saturday.
Berman is the founder and creative director of Manual, a brand that creates designed objects for slow food and drink. He provided a veritable how-to on Kickstarter success, pulling from a zine he wrote on the topic. He encouraged the audience to find a niche and a market centered on their own individual passion, and design products for that space. For him, it was coffee, and his first pour-over coffee pot, initially launched on Kickstarter, can now be found in national retail chains. He’s followed that product’s success with follow-up coffee brewing products, decanters for fine spirits and other housewares.
Berman is an advocate for the “side hustle,” or pursing personal projects on the side of a day job. Even if the side project does not become the full-time gig, the lessons learned from designing, marketing, sourcing manufacturing and other ancillary tasks help make the side entrepreneur a more well-rounded designer with big-picture knowledge.
Between workshops on Friday, students had the opportunity to submit their portfolios for professional review. And on Saturday, undergraduate students representing 10 IDSA Midwest membership schools competed for a IDSA's Student Merit Award (SMA). Each student presented their project to the conference at large, and then a jury of industry experts picked the winner. Student optimism often shown through during the presentations, with many projects aimed at improving the quality of life of disadvantaged populations, or fixing or critiquing societal inequalities through design.
The jury-selected winner, Lydia Swedberg, presented three projects as her contest entry. One was an efficient table-top dishwasher pitched for water conservation in drought regions. Another of her projects designed comfortable active wear with hijabs to help Muslim women feel more comfortable and confident when exercising.
“I think what design is really all about is creating opportunities for others,” Swedberg, an undergraduate at Purdue, said.
Another contest entry, by Kevin Wruble, from the University of Wisconsin Stout, aimed to address any region with a lack of fresh drinking water. The “Osmo project” uses metal organic framework invented at MIT, or as he calls it a “fancy air sponge,” to absorb water vapor in the air with no electrical assistance. The device turns the vapor into liquid water. It’s about the size of an extra-large cereal box and could be clamped to stop sign posts or other public places where pedestrians could stop by to fill up a water bottle.
Swedberg will be honored at the International Design Conference 2018, Sept. 19–22 in New Orleans, LA, along with the SMA winners from IDSA's four other regional conferences this year.
During the event, appliance DESIGN also interviewed Paul Hatch, president of TEAMS Design, about the Internet of Things and how good design results in good data. Click here to read the Q&A.
Hatch established TEAMS Design in 1998 and now has five branches, more than 90 industrial designers and more than 1,000 design awards.