An image of a man sketching on a new retail design
Jeffrey Brummer
Senior Creative Director

On Industrial Design

A Personal Insight into the Versatile Field of Industrial Design

Talk about a specific product of industrial design that made an impact on you:

Believe it or else? The Little Tikes ‘Cozy Coupe’.

As a freshman at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI, I was enthralled, as were many young designers, with ‘car design, car design, car design’. This mentality shifted when some casual conversation at an IDSA regional conference informed me that there was an entirely different way to play this thing called ‘industrial design’: through product design. Little Tikes was one of the presenting sponsors and I recall being mesmerized by the product design they had developed. Upon further investigation I would learn that the aesthetic was completely driven by the roto-molding plastic process which further piqued my curiosity. Upon returning from that conference, I promptly switched my major from auto design to product design…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why does Industrial Design matter to you?

Personally, because I get to solve complex problems by drawing. In high school, I was terrible at math. Terr-i-ble. Growing up, I thought I would become an engineer. I was always a fairly competent at drawing, but the whole math thing remained elusive. I stumbled onto Industrial Design through reading car magazines. ‘Industrial Design’ first revealed itself in my mind as ‘car design’. But as time progressed, the opportunity to manifest ‘anything’ from a pen sketch into reality revealed itself by way of my college education, an internship at Crown Equipment Corporation, and an impromptu conversation with a classmate who worked at a retail design firm. I started my career in Industrial Design as a junior in college, working part time.

Industrial Design matters because there is always a better, more thoughtful, more functional and less earth-impactful way to do things. In this regard, Industrial Design will never be done. There is always a better way to reinvent ‘it’, to reconstruct ‘it’, to experience ‘it’. Industrial Design is truly a limitless avenue to express your creative “ya-yas”.

I’ve now been in the retail design industry for over 20 years. I still come to ‘work’ every day refreshed with a new challenge, a new idea, and new path forward to innovate. That’s what matters.

How do you see the field evolving over the next 20 years?

Well obviously, through technology. The tools themselves will allow us to visualize more concisely. Virtual reality will allow us to substitute actual prototypes for the immersive experience that technology brings. Point cloud technology will allow us to quickly scan objects for use in our work with utmost accuracy and less guessing.

BUT. And this is a big one… there will never be a substitute for the ‘big idea’, the napkin sketch, the doodle. It’s the pebble at the top of the hill that gets the whole thing rolling. Schools and newbies in the field need to be mindful of this. The tools can only take you so far. What sells the idea or allows the solution to take flight is the idea and the inspiration behind it.

Be a storyteller. Read. Don’t take the emotive factor of a solution for granted. It matters. It matters a lot. Those with the ability to rethink, reshuffle, and generate those big ideas will continue to flourish in this ever evolving field. There are only so many notes but those who can arrange them in fresh ways will be the composers of the Industrial Design future.

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