I have continued to interview this week, and heard back from David “Mecha Zone” White. He gave me very detailed answers on his work process. For this blog post, I am going to do an analysis of his work based on the answers he gave me, and retroactively determine if his practice is passion based or user centric based and if it is authentic in either of those ways.
My first impression of David’s work was how detailed they were for being manufactured just by him. His answers revealed an interesting fact about him. Despite his incredible digital sculpting skills, David is actually not an industrial designer and does not know traditional “CAD” like Solidworks by practice, he is actually majored in illustration from the Columbus College of Art and Design. He learned and acquired all of his 3D printing skills on his own. However, the reason why he knows 3D design software is also really interesting, one of his earlier jobs was working on the video game MechWarrior 4 for PC. David confirmed that he makes his Mechanauts and Predanauts action figures on the side of his regular work, as making all of the figures on his own wasn’t worth the time and expenses for him, however it wasn’t always that way as he spent a couple of years just on his toy lines.
One question I asked was “what are some unexpected challenges you have had to overcome trying to pursue your business?” He brought up that the internet’s negative effect on the publishing industry has been his number one hurdle as it used to be his main source of income. His toy lines are just one of the ways he is trying to make additional money. David also teaches at a university local to him in Massachusetts. Based on his other answers though, I like to think that David enjoys designing his Mechanauts and Predanauts action figures. He has a strong emotional connection to the toy lines of his youth such as Zoids and Micronauts, the influence of them on his his work is very clear to me (even down to the name). However, one comment he said at the end of the interview, which had to do with advice he would give to a young designer wanting to do similar work, was to develop a unique style as “too much work out there is derivative”. At first I thought this would be his statement about being true to his dreams, but he added the following… “My work may be retro and fueled by nostalgia, but at least it doesn’t look just like everything else.” The way he phrased his own work being “fueled by nostalgia” almost seemed like he was being critical of himself for choosing to work within this category. He is showing that his work is different on a market level but maybe he doesn’t feel like his work is all that different personally, it could be more authentic to him. To me, it seems like David wishes he could do more, and I think many independent artists are in his same position. He talked a lot about how he wishes he could spend more time with his social media accounts, learning CAD programs, and just developing his own ideas. This effort to constantly improve is very genuine.
David’s response to “Did you ever intend to solve a researched “design problem” for a user with your product offerings, or are you a bit more informal in identifying a user category?” was that “it was a personal project so there was no specific design problem to be solved”. However, he found my phrasing to be too vague to understand my intent, which was more along the lines of “are you designing products to fit a gap in a market?” like I talked about last week. However, I feel like he is trying to fill a market gap, but maybe its not in a traditional “design problem” stance that I’m used to. The user needs are not as specific or defined in such a niche industry that is relying on personal uniqueness, as David puts it, to stand out. In this case it seems to be having a good design problem, or at least a “well defined” one, does not equal authenticity, rather it is your work ethic and your individuality shining through your craft. Part of the article Royal referenced in the comments for my “Reflecting on Todd’s talk” blog, titled “Fake It Before, During, and After You Make It” (linked here… https://jacobinmag.com/2019/10/the-politician-review-gwyneth-paltrow-authenticity) is that people are starting not to care if their emotions are authentic, and that they use them only as a commodity for their own gain. I intended to see if the designer's problem statement aligned with my assessment of this same designer’s authenticity. I feel now that this is not the best way of coming to the conclusion of authenticity in David’s case because he was pretty clearly trying to be as authentic as he could, but didn’t even use problem statements for his products. Not all products are going to be framed in this way because not all products, especially niche products like David’s are made to solve a problem. David made Mechanauts and Predanauts to help himself more than anything, in just in that virtue, people bought them. Handcrafted and inspired by classic action figures, they are perfect for a toy connoisseur. Why does it need a problem? What more does it need?
You can check out David “Mecha Zone” White on all of his social media channels linked here!
If any of you are designers, do you think you need to solve problems with your designs? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…