Final Post! The article is done!
It is hard to believe the semester is over already. Now that my article is published (you can read it here!); I want to reflect on if I accomplished what I wanted to get out of this course. I wanted to do a few different things… First, I wanted to analyze an artist’s and my own authenticity through work. I think I wove those two threads together well in the final piece, connecting Michael’s and David’s practices to my own at MIAD. This piece was way more personal than I initially thought it would be (my triad was originally going to write about Black Cat Alley, until we broke off into writing about our own passions). Second, I wanted to research independent/designer toys and decide if it would be something I would want to do in the future. I am very happy I got such detailed responses from both David and Michael after reaching out to them. Both had very unique products and processes despite their initial similarities. As David pointed out, if you want to do this kind of thing, your product has to be original and not like anything else on the market, what in industrial design we call a “unique value proposition”. I am still not sure if I would want to do this as both Michael and David have to do it on the side. To them it’s a labor of love, pure idealistic passion, but with the duality of still trying to be unique at the same time. Going forward I will keep that in mind when I design my own toys.
To those that have been following this blog, thanks for sticking with me to the end! Please enjoy the final article on OnMilwaukee.com
Finishing up the article...
It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, but I have been hard at work with my article. I have just completed the 2nd draft. Since I don’t think I am going to add much more to the article between now and when we publish, this blog is going to be pretty short. I’ll give a rundown of what I’ve done in the past couple of weeks. After my last blog I finished my first draft, which was about David White and his 3D printed toys. However, after I finished I heard back from Michael Hern of Tecco Toys. So for the second draft I have included his responses alongside David White’s response. I split their stories up between 2 different sections. The first gives details on the designers as a profile, along with what their products are, the second section is about what their process is and how they consider problem solving in their designs. I think the juxtaposition of their two unique processes for relatively similar products will create something readers will find interesting. As for editing the 2nd draft, I hope that it isn’t too long, as of right now it is 1850 words. I just want it to be compelling enough for someone to want to finish the article. If I do anything, maybe it would to trim out the “fluff”, or to try and make phasing better.
You will all be the first to know when the article comes out, so thanks for following along!
What do you do when you are editing writing?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time...
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…
Beginning research for my article...
As our class moves closer to writing our articles for On Milwaukee, Royal invited Jason McDowell, the creative director of On Milwaukee and a MIAD alum, to come in and talk with us. I found some of his advice to be informative, as this week I started interviewing. Jason talked a lot about the freedom he has in his writing, but is juxtaposed with the fine line between high quality articles and not taking the sites writing too seriously, being a site for entertainment content. It almost seemed contradictory, however, Jason gave us enough credibility to show he understands his audience. He takes research seriously and has diverse interests that give his content unique perspectives. These are the qualities that give him (and the other writers though his editing) a voice and draws people to read On Milwaukee’s content. I had a hard time finding local artists and designers that did the kind of work that I wanted to write about, but keeping my own personal voice in mind, I decided to reach out to some independent designers on Instagram that do the kind of work I want to do, even though they are not based in Milwaukee. I thought they can at least give me a baseline to work off of.
I found interviewing to be a bit difficult at first because the designers I found, being professionals, had other commitments. I reached out to 3 different designers to start, and I have interviews committed for two of them. While they were happy to answer my questions I spent much of the week waiting for the right time to call them or to respond to my questions. I thought the least I could do is analyze the work they have up on social media to give an idea of what I want to write about. These designers are David A White, who has his own business called “Mechazone” in which he 3D prints his own robot action figure designs, and Matt Palmer, who wrote and published his own superhero comic book, “The Immortal Red Fox”, which he promotes with videos and live events performing in the hero Red Fox’s costume, much in the style of “Power Rangers”. Both of them have similar passions and interests as me, so I thought I could gain some insight into what I would need to do to make my own ideas successful if I ever wanted to launch a project independently after graduation. I plan on having a conversation with Matt Palmer over Instagram’s video chat feature, while David wanted to type out the answers to my questions on his own.
What I learned was a bit unexpected at first, but it made more sense after I began to collect my thoughts for this blog. Any independently produced work is really hard, at times it can feel as if you are constantly failing. I know this firsthand just from being a student at MIAD. However, for Matt and David, the main goal of their projects are not being “successful” as in being mainstream or popular, rather their main goal is seeing out their own vision. As simple as that may be, they have stories and dreams they want to share with the world, even if it's just a few of the world’s people. For both of them, they have a small but devoted following of people on social media that understand their vision and support them. They sell their work to them online or at conventions directly to large gatherings of potential supporters. I’ve always known about this kind of business model but for whatever reason I had not put these ideas together: being small is ok, you are probably doing your project on the side anyways. That’s why it's called a passion project. However, (hopefully I don’t contradict myself by saying this) I don’t think either of them are completely ruling out the idea of “being successful”, but to fully explain this will require some more context and examples.
As an industrial designer, I usually think about startups or independently produced ideas the same way I would treat any product, design it around solving a user’s problem. In our Professional Practice class, we were introduced to some MIAD alums that are manufacturing their ideas independently as well such as Dave Joseph who is working on OVIE a smart home food tracking device to prevent waste, and Jeremy Knowpow, who is working on MOTIVO a redesigned and empowering mobility walker for the elderly and disabled. These products clearly are made to solve a user’s problem. The passion and storytelling is much different than Matt and David. Essentially, as an industrial designer we are taught to find issues a user is having with an existing product or method, and justify the purpose of the new product’s existence based on the evidence that there is a user need for it. This is also called looking for “market gaps”. When I put it this way, it appears that the purpose of this kind of design is to be “successful” making money on the product, and not to get across your “vision”. Matt and David are products, while different media, are both essentially what I would call an “entertainment property”. They are being sold directly to a fan or collector market. One of my questions to the both of them is “Do you ever intend to solve a researched “design problem” for a user, or are you a bit more informal?” Which is essentially “are you designing products to fit a gap in a market?”. I hope that when I interview them, their answers are insightful to my own design process, and I can learn more about how the independent collectable market operates, is it all “passion” or is there more “user-centric” design going on.
Do you buy product solely because functionality or does its meaning to you or the person that made it more important? Maybe it’s both? Tell me in the comments!
Until next time…
Reflecting of Todd's talk...
I was late for Todd’s talk in class today as I was researching for a design project. I was able to come in for a sizable portion of it though. Todd’s take away message was, in regards to both writing about art and creating art, to listen to yourself, and let your own intuition guide your insights. I thought this was helpful as I am going down a more personal path for my article than I previously anticipated (like I stated in blog 4). What I plan on writing about is vinyl toys or similar collectable art toys from a local artist. I planned on researching a lot about them before I interviewed them, but based on what Todd said when I asked him about researching context, I think I don’t really need to. Todd gave an example when he went to a show called “Not good with words” (or something along those lines). Rather than going into this show with context, he rather went to the show just to ask the artist/curator directly what they were thinking, and make insights that way. The insight he got was the artist is a mailman on the side, handling “words” all day. He probably could not have gotten this insight without going and talking with the artist directly. After the show he went online to find out any additional context, but by talking with the artist first gave him a better way to frame his article authentically to the original artist and himself as a writer.
Todd also talked about being authentic with his own practice as a painter. His subject matter is nature so naturally one would assume that just by being in nature would be “authentic” enough. However he brought up how he gets inspiration from things deeper than just nature. His anecdote he gave was about painting his father after he died. He wasn't happy how it turned out as a portrait (he hadn’t done a portrait since high school) and smeared all of his paint together in a black canvas. He decided to let himself think or meditate on it for a little while. Then, when he saw an apple tree’s shadow out his window the next day, he was reminded of the apple tree from his childhood, which in turn reminded him of his father. His dad also happens to be named “Ray”. In his painting he decided to paint a tracing of the shadow, on the black canvas of smeared paint, which was once a portrait of his father. The shadow itself had a greater presence of his father to him personally than a portrait would, because of his personal connection with nature within his childhood. Being able to make deeper personal connections like this, and projecting it onto your work is a way of being authentic as an artist. As an industrial designer, I hope I can provide the same profoundness but just in a more subtle way.
How do you try to be authentic as an artist or a writer? Tell me in the comments!
Until next time,
Current thinking on the article...
In today's class my triad (Oli, Iuliia and I), thought through some edits on the intro copy and how it could relate to our final piece for this class. We decided to make our stories about the collections of artists or designers work; how they have progressed, how they have changed, how they have been influenced by their surroundings, and possibly how they have influenced it. Originally we were going to write about Black Cat Alley, but now we want to open up what our pieces are about, as the intro copy has gotten more generalized than we anticipated. When we were considering Black Cat Alley, we wanted to include a timeline showing when the piece we chose were created (one at the beginning of the gallery’s operation, one towards the middle, and one that has recently been installed). I can now see us use this format for our own research, and the timeline graphics/narrative will tie our stories together.
Personally, I would want to write about a toy designer, as I am interested in getting into that industry (as I’ve stated before). However, I don’t expect to find much toy design locally. To get around finding “toy design” per-se, I want to find an artist or designer that is “playful” that can “inspire” toy design, or uses toys as a medium (such as vinyl toys, I already talked about Connor Kriha in my last blog post). I would also be open to looking at other artists to anything that inspires me, as long as there is a collection of their work available for me to analyze.
While reading Todd Mrozinski’s article, Why I love “Degas to Picasso”, I was interested in how he was moved by so many juxtaposed pieces of art. To me, I find it hard to fully appreciate art in museums without knowing the background of the artist or the time it was made before going. I think our goal as a class should be to make our series like this exhibition, that we allow for a reader to be moved by multiple pieces of juxtaposed art. However, since we are writing articles, we can add thorough context an exhibit might not be able to provide.
What artwork inspires you? How do you think it fits within the context of your life? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time!
This blog post is about designers and how they show their work on their websites. I also have a website I show some of my design work. I will be looking at one designer local to the Milwaukee area, and another designer who focuses on toy design, the industry I want to go into.
The first designer I will look at is Zach Gracia, I found the website through google images for “toy design website”, which is what I like to do sometimes to get a rough idea of precedent. Zach Gracia appears to be a recent graduate but has been working alongside his degree program. His resume features a cartoon character self portrait which enforces a creative and fun personality. The education section is highlighted and separated from the rest of the resume and work experiences are the main focus on the right side. He has worked at Disney consumer products and has risen up through positions there. His cover letter is short and probably his weakest portion. It says he wanted to play basketball, but then his parents bought him a sketchbook. It offers little on his life and work style. His portfolio itself is really good showing off a variety of work with callouts as well as finished products. He does more traditional illustration work in addition to his toy design work. However, he doesn’t get too far into details, and does not really offer his projects as a “story” with problem statements and a full process development. There is a level of confidence shown with his restraint. (Best resume page, lettering could be more clear). I think that his resume layout is a fairly good standard to set myself too, but his craftsmanship is pretty high standard to set myself to. Websites like his show how much more I’d like to improve my own technical skills.
The next designer I will look at is a local designer, who also happens to be a recent MIAD graduate Connor Kriah. Connor is also a toy designer. His website has a lot less information than Zach, but he has more information on supplemental websites, such as his linkedin profile. The work he shows on his website are his personal toys/figurines. He has a very specific and consistent style to his figurines. Animals that are wildly proportioned and eccentric, with big eyes and little bodies. His photos of them are really well composed. The figurines themselves are all solid colors, and appear to be molded. He also includes a sketch of one of his figurines that highly resembles a finished figure. While these figures are nice and well presented, I would like to see some more of his other design work that involves his design process. His linkedin says he is currently employed so maybe its not updated because he doesn’t need it to be. I knew Conner my freshman year and he’s a really interesting person. I’m glad to see he is still making crazy characters. I wonder if he is still making new characters to sell in the future.
What information do you think is most important for a designers website? If you are a designer, what insights do you have?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,
For my research, I tried to focus in on industrial design work, but I don’t think I was very successful in this regard. This doesn’t strictly have to be “product” design in the traditional sense, but also “experience” and “interactive’ design. Maybe this is a place that was designed for specific users in mind. In addition, I also looked at local films mainly because of my general fascination with them. This is where I found most of my research. I will analyze them from a problem solving point of view, such as why were these places/initiates/films made, what problems do they attempt to solve (if at all), and were they successful. I chose some websites that were on the list and some that were not. These are the examples I found.
First, I found an article about an amazon prime original TV series, which was made by local filmmakers. This series is called “Shangri-LA”, and I found out about it from this article on Shepard Express. The series stars Milwaukee filmmaker and actor Nick Sommer, who plays a struggling actor in Hollywood and the other people he meets that also try to become stars (or try to exploit them). What was interesting about this to me is that a local business, Riverwest Film & Video is featured in the series, including its owner Xav Leplae. I took it upon myself to find out more about this place and why it was featured.
Riverwest Film & Video, is an independent and locally run film resource. A documentary about its local influence was recently shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival, which I found out about at the Milwaukee Magazine website. Riverwest Film & Video is one part video rental, one part equipment rental, and one part radio station, owned by Xav Leplae. The documentary is a meta narrative about the lives of the many people that use the space as a resource to create films, and how the space is also offered to people in the community (for instance, the article states that a man “they call Rabbi”, has lived at the store and cooks meals for people. It was a little unclear if he is an actual Rabbi or just a homeless Jewish man with a deep love of film and the Riverwest community). The people that make use of the store may come from a background where they may have not had the resources to realise their visions and tell the community (and the world) their messages and beliefs. It is clear to me that the space was designed to be as inclusive as possible, and because of this the people who use this space are influential to the people of Riverwest. It is also evident that the store’s influence is taken with the people who move on to bigger projects outside of Milwaukee. This space has a spirit of self empowerment; taking initiative on your own, and helping out people with similar goals as you.
The Milwaukee Magazine article referenced a Huffington Post article that was about the radio station part of Riverwest Film & Video, which is called Riverwest Radio. This article is a lot about Xav Leplae. In the article it gives Riverwest Radio’s mission statement (much like a design statement in industrial design) is to “provide a community platform for education, advocacy and creativity, as well as an outlet for marginalized and alternative voices.” This is pretty close to what I inferred in the last article, but this one really fleshed out what the space is all about, and why Xav Leplae made it that way. Xav was born in Belgium, but moved to Milwaukee. For a few years he was a New York City taxi driver, but eventually he moved back in the late 90’s to found Riverwest Film & Video and in 2012 he launched Riverwest Radio as a new part of the space. His goal was to operate Riverwest Film & Video like a food co-op, because Milwaukee (Riverwest included) is a very segregated city (by race and wealth) but Riverwest is become more race integrated in part to initiatives like his. He also travels to underdeveloped countries such as Haiti and creates artwork to raise money for them. His end goal is not to create a product (while, could be made to solve a user’s problem, is ultimately) for profit; all of his resources and initiatives are for the community. Everything he does is to better the people around him and bring them together. To me, seeing an experience design like this, one that is entirely made by and for the users is really eye opening. Usually, I am taught that design happens when there is an unaddressed need by the users, but in this case, the users addressed themselves and took matters into their own hands. Anyone can be a designer to solve problems.
Have you ever experienced a place like this? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,
Blog #1: An introduction...
In my rapidly decreasing time at MIAD, I have been thinking a lot about what design means to me. I certainly feel like it has been a journey. I came to MIAD from an engineering prep high school, and my personal philosophy clashed with the new skills I was being introduced to. I had been conditioned to think in a concrete and sequential way, were there was very specific outcomes to problems, often represented as numerical values. At this early point, I did not really understand artwork. I was being presented abstract ideas that I was attempting to analyze without context. I also did not understand how artists came to the conclusions that they did. I would think, what were the exact reasons why you made this piece? Does being in your particular circumstance automatically result in the kind of artwork you produce? I was thinking about art and design, and the artists who make them, in simple terms of inputs and outputs. I quickly realized something needed to change.
The first lesson I learned was that design is not an equation. It is an iterative and spontaneous process. An artist may or may not have a specific outcome they want, at least not from the start. Influences can come in so many different ways, whether it's a critique, another artwork, or a shower thought of an idea. You have to constantly be thinking of what you are trying to do from every different angle, but there is no particular order to this. It's seemingly anything goes, but the strongest ideas come from an emotional argument. The only other requirement is craftsmanship, and this only comes with dedication and patience. Both artists and designers who have a strong emotional argument and craftsmanship in their practice come across not only as masters, but that their work is effortless; it makes too much sense to have not been done before.
In terms of this class, which is about art analysis, criticism, and discovering practice outside of the school, I want to discover the kind of design I want to make someday and figure out on a deeper level why it resonates with me, and how to share and articulate this resonation with others. I think I struggle the most with this in my portfolio (you can find my public portfolio here at... https://jasonward.myportfolio.com/ ) and when applying for positions. I want to get better at explaining to people my perspective of design. Part of this involves my craftsman ship, but the other half is the emotional argument. The “why I do what I do”. I want to get better at this in this class by seeing how other professionals do it.
Well, with that being said, what is your definition of the design process?
Tell me what you think in the comments!
Until next time,
Welcome to Jason's Blog!