It’s been approximately one month since I’ve left New York and finished my stint at Smart Design. I still miss both quite a bit, but I’ve been very excited to flex my newly trained design muscle and exhibit what I’ve learned to my classmates this year.
For my final year at school, I’ll be participating ( along with eight other industrial designers ) in a year-long product development class our school calls “Innovation Space”. In this class, us industrial designers are being put into teams of four with a viscom major, an engineering major, and a business major. The primarily goal of the class is to apply each discipline’s skillset in a meaningful way in order to develop a product or system for a company sponsoring each team. Along the way, it’s hoped that we’ll learn a thing or two about the other discipline’s work and absorb their knowledge in order to become well-rounded and business-minded designers.
Out of the three sponsors possible, my team was given the task of working with Vantage Mobility International, a company that specializes in essentially ripping the floor out of OEM vans and replacing said floor with a lowered-and-wheelchair-friendly version. Out of several research topics suggested, my team has chosen the ambitious task of “reimagining mobility”, a huge feat with many possibilities to look into. I’m incredibly lucky to have landed a team that is sincerely excited to delve deep into the topic and pursue nothing but perfection, and for that I’m grateful. It’s going to be a great year working with these guys.
Ever since the teams and sponsors have been assigned, my team has been busy conducting extensive research into the various subject matter related to disability and mobility and accessibility, all huge subjects in and of themselves. Each one of us is conducting research pertaining to our particular disciplines, with myself focusing on user research – namely ”what is valuable?”, product-user systems, user interaction, ergonomics, and product touchpoints. All the while, I’m synthesizing all of my other teammate’s findings and turning these into various brief insights, which will enable me to (1) better get an understanding of where we’re focusing our attention, (2) turn our focuses into fertile brainstorming topics/sessions, and lastly, (3) turn our research, insights, and brainstormed material into viable options for a designed product and/or system. At the moment, I’m kind of our combination Industrial Designer / Design Researcher / Insights and Strategies person, and it feels pretty fantastic. It’s been really cool to forego looking for solutions right off the bat and instead focus on looking for opportunities for disruption. I know we’ll come up with great stuff.
So that’s it basically for the first update. Unlike previous entries, I won’t be having set times for project updates, so we’ll have to see if I can find a good rhythm for writing. As soon as I’ve finished outlining a few pages of process, I’ll be opening up my Innovation Space Part One: Research project for viewing. Until then!
I’m really going to miss everyone and everything -
- it’s been a good summer. I hope we’ll meet again.
For those following this blog, I’ll be from here on out formatting posts to better fit my personal website blog’s aesthetic. This doesn’t really mean anything obviously, but apologies for future strangely formatted posts, if that even happens. Thanks for following.
It’s beginning to dawn on me that my time here in New York is almost to a close, and I’m in a very strange in-between place –
– on one hand I’ve been working the last three years on a degree I need to finish along with the people I’ve come to know and work with over the course of three years, and on the other hand I’ve gotten to know a lot of very cool people while living in a very cool place while learning a lot of useful things here in New York. I’ve felt it before on trips to various larger cities, but now more than ever I feel I’d like to spend the majority of my life living and working in a bigger city. There’s something about the huge density of people and ideas and things that really inspires me on multiple levels, and it’s a bit weird to be leaving it so soon. I’m definitely hoping to relocate to a large city, if not NYC, after I finish up school.
Work at Smart Design these last three weeks has been quick-paced and incredibly focused. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on two products that are set to be manufactured and produced next year. Being able to see these projects from the beginning to the near end has been an incredibly rewarding experience, both in absorbing the design process of a multidisciplinary design consultancy and in the difficulties that come along with working in such a quickly moving environment. These last two of weeks have been especially hard, and I find myself not being able to get much sleep with schoolwork and other obligations piling on top of all of the design work I have here. I’ve been having a great time figuring out how to manage my work, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t recommend to just anyone.
I’ve been keeping careful notes on my own progress and learnings and it should be interesting going back over all of the knowledge I’ve collected and distilling it into something I can make my own and possibly teach to other people. As this summer has been culminating, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to “what I want to do” after school is over and done with, and I’ve been giving great thought to the possibility of someday striking out on my own and designing as an individual entity more or less. With all of the experience I’ve acquired through working with the brilliant people at Smart Design, I’ve grown more confident in my ability to communicate ideas and concepts I feel need to be told through the design of a physical product. I’ve always felt the need to teach to a certain extent, and the sentiment hasn’t really changed as I’ve settled into the shoes of a product designer.
There’s always more to learn though, and more talented people to learn from, and I’ll be sure to take away as much as I can from as many people/places/things as possible before considering setting out on my own. I’m convinced that even in my last week here in New York, I’ll still be learning until the very last day.
Until next week!
Last post I mentioned that life/work was busy, and work has essentially maintained it’s course. I’ve recently moved into an apartment in Brooklyn and I’m without internet for a good amount of the time. I’m finding it hard to balance ‘free time’ and ‘work time’ very well, and I’m learning how to deal with that.
Due in part to the frenzy of work and the frenzy of the city I’ve been living in for the last three months, I’ve really come to appreciate the moments of space I find here and there. I do a lot of thinking about things important to me, and I’ve been trying to collect things in writing, as I’ve been trying to improve my writing ability over the last several months. I’m pretty sure my sketching ability has seriously deteriorated over the summer, but I’m hoping that my ability to communicate ideas has grown, as that’s really what I feel I’ve been developing the most while working at Smart Design - the abilities to ‘observe/learn’ and ‘communicate’.
I’ve begun to look at what I’m doing and what I want to be doing, and what I want to express, and what I want to accomplish, and I have a very full plate in front of me.
I’ve been thinking about personal philosophies and what I want to eschew and what I want to keep sacred. I’ve been realizing that I’m tired of all of the irony in the world, and through design I want to express sincerity more than anything.
I’ve been learning that rest is good, and space is good.
Eating food slowly is beneficial in a lot of ways.
I’ve been thinking about design genres and how much they fuck up things. Minimalism for Minimalism’s sake is equally as bad as and possibly worse than Postmodernism for Postmodernism’s sake. Like I mentioned before, Sincerity is beginning to be what I aspire to communicating most in designing an object.
I’m starting something called Mornings. It will be good. I hope it will make people happy.
I want to start cooking as soon as I have money.
I bought six large, two small soft cover recycled paper notebooks from MUJI, and I’m excited to fill them with things.
I have a lot of Other Things to talk about, but more about that later.
It’s been incredibly busy these past two weeks, all of my days have been blurred into working on two products. Most of my time has been leaning into one of the two products, as this entire week we’ve been waiting on a factory to spec out some materials we requested last week.
On top of the two products, ( real work ) I’ve been working on my own intern project which is a way for interns here to apply Smart Design’s working process into a project that relates to something I’m really interested in. This project I’m actually allowed to talk about, but I’ll let it be a surprise and tell you guys about it later.
I’ve managed to compress two weeks into this really short post, which is a good thing for me I think, It’s been a hard two weeks for me and I’m really tired. This place is still a blast to work at though, I’ve been learning so much and absorbing hella design skills/processes, which is always a great plus.
Since literally everything I’ve been working on is NDA, i couldn’t find an interesting post-related photo, so here’s one of our more interesting supply drawers.
I spent Monday testing out a ton of products OXO sent me to gain some insight on how various competitors’ products work. I’ve started off creating my presentation material around self-generated insight on my part; images i’ve found online, usage cases i’ve conducted myself, and user reviews/feedback from various websites online.
All of this material was first processed with/including text and sometimes resized in illustrator before being printed out and pinned to a large wall-sized piece of cardboard. From here, i added comments using post-its. Post-iting is a highly valued skill around here, and i’m pretty proud of my ‘board’ so far to say the least, which isn’t saying a whole lot since compared to the other ones around here, it’s a complete mess. I’ll be checking up tomorrow with my supervisor Lauren to see what I can change to make it more clear/valuable.
Today was pretty relaxed as far as past work I’ve done goes. I was sitting at my desk for once, attending to a single project for once.
Today i spent half the day working on the aforementioned 4 by 8 foot presentation board to prepare for an internal brainstorm on Friday and the rest of the day making models for some internal testing/questioning. After meeting with Lauren and walking her through the story of the research and demonstrating how i’d use the board to guide a brainstorm, we both agreed it needed a few tweaks as well as more information, so it was back to rearranging data.
Unlike most other client relationships, Smart Design and OXO’s work relationship is pretty relaxed, so where we’d be making powerpoint presentations and pretty refined deliverables with other clients, OXO is totally okay (and much prefers) viewing our raw ideation directly on a big board.
We had another community meet today and the event we’re holding soon is looking to be pretty nuts. I’ll be making sure to take lots of pictures. My established role for getting the party ready is to learn how to use a paper cutting machine we’ve recently aquired, so we can make our own popcorn containers.
Ending off the day on a good note, my bike’s been shipped in to our building from Arizona, and I was able to build up the bike back in our shop. Many days of bike touring are ahead of me.
This morning i played football/soccer with my coworkers at 8am, it was really tough in all honesty; i haven’t purposefully exercised in a long time, all I’m really conditioned to is casual bike riding. What made the game pretty interesting was how our teams were divided - Oxonians vs. Smarties. It turns out I was actually playing against one of OXO’s product directors who are heading the new project I’ll be working on starting today.
All day I worked on the presentation materials for the project i’m working on right now. We’re in a hurry now and are already nearing a midpoint checkup sometime in the next two weeks or so.
Near the end of the day, another project was kicked off, with myself and a fellow engineering intern heading the design development of another product for OXO. This project is already looking to be killer in that we’re refreshing a pretty successful product that hasn’t been changed in years. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of a redesign for something that’s had such a long and successful run.
The day ended off with me feeling very sore and shaky. I really need to start exercising more. I think football every Wednesday + riding my bike everywhere is a good start.
I worked on my board all day, missed lunch, worked on my board more, revised it for the 7th time (moving post-its around is a lot more difficult than rearranging boards on Illustrator it turns out.), had my board reviewed twice during the day, and after finding more points to fix, worked on my board a bit more.
Today was a lot of image finding, printing, running back and forth, pinning, and post-it noting. Not much else to take note of.
As soon as I got to work today, I spent the hours before 11am prepping brainstorm questions and adding last-minute images to my presentation board, all in order to round out the research that I had fixed up yesterday.
Going through and leading a brainstorm was pretty fun, and it was great to see the whole process from the perspective of the person who organized it. I began by explaining all of the research I had gathered in rough chronological order; describing interesting personal finds or revelations discovered via talking to people. Along the way, people in the group would ask questions and I would respond to the best of my ability.
After walking everyone through the research, I prompted them with things to think about regarding various product features OXO had requested we develop further, and we began to sketch out many many ideas ranging from the goofiest to the most basic. This proceeded for about an hour, me prompting people with things to think about, and my coworkers drawing responses. I ended up with a lot of material to work with, and after everyone left and I finished taking notes, I grouped related sketches/ideas together and went to work thinking of improvements or ways to fuse the better ideas we collected into several more concrete concepts. All of this went up on a board, and on Monday I should be presenting all of this material to OXO.
So I took the day to do some inspiration gathering around the city and found myself jumping in and out of tons of stores, galleries, and other places. In particular, I dedicated a big chunk of my day to visiting MoMA and MoMA PS1. Having visited about half of MoMA several weeks ago, I spent a bit more time at PS1, which unbeknownst to me had a literal dance party going on, but before I talk about that -
- this architectural model in MoMA is actually what got me to go visit PS1. Recently a large air-cleaning structure was built in the middle of PS1’s courtyard and from it’s description and backstory, it sounded really cool/interesting.
I was actually able to hear PS1 long before I could see it. Bass-heavy tunes were pumping from behind the concrete walls surrounding the museum, and I was pretty pleased to soon learn that this was the first ‘Warm Up’ of the summer for PS1; basically a dance party held every saturday for the next couple months.
This is the courtyard facing the museum itself. Packed with people.
The music was pretty great and I actually lingered for awhile outside just taking in the crowd/music/crazy architecture. The structure/landscape itself was called Wendy, and was an experiment in creating socially and ecologically conscious architecture (or something to that extent). The cloth comprising the main body of the architecture was actually coated with a spray that neutralized airborne pollutants, and apparently the entire landscape created an equivalent effect of taking ~200 cars off the road. Pretty neat.
Right under the DJ booth provided a great view of the crowded courtyard and Wendy in the background. Nguzunguzu was Djing at the time, and I was floored. I’ll probably be coming back in the Saturdays to come for more art and music.
“But wait! What about the museum?”
This room was filled with soil and was a pretty interesting piece. Meeting by James Turrell was most likely my favorite overall work displayed in the museum, but I didn’t take any pictures of it since there’d be no way to convey how cool/eerie/surreal it was in-person.
So there you have it. Research is fun!
I’m a bit sore from walking all over town in yesterday’s mugginess, and waking up was pretty tough. I started off the day working on some soft goods models, and I had a fantastic blip of brilliance in sewing and cutting out a bag-like thing I had been working on. I think it’s safe to say that I really have warmed up to sewing and can make simple things pretty well.
A couple hours passed and I had a meeting with some OXO people alongside two of my superiors to more or less kick off a project I’ll be spending a great deal of time on. After the meeting I was briefed on how to best begin research the way it’s done at Smart Design, and I was able to leave work three hours early to do some research shopping / research photography / research research. I’ve taken to carrying loads of recording equipment on my person so I don’t miss any great inspiration I might catch throughout the day.
I wasn’t able to get much sleep last night due to my roommate having a day off and staying up literally all night, so today was a bit rough; no matter how many espressos I consumed I was still feeling really tired.
Today I collected together some of the product samples OXO provided me along with some products I bought out in the field and took to the computer, researching variants of the particular thing I’m working on and what people had to say about it. Amazon was a perfect resource for collecting varied consumer opinions, and It’s safe to say this is all a great platform to round up ideas on before I take to asking around the office and doing actual use-case research.
On this note, it’s really hilarious/fantastic how used to internal testing everyone at Smart is, anyone can literally approach anyone and ask them to help out with the fit or use of a product, and if said person isn’t busy, they’ll really dedicate a significant amount of time to helping you out with your research gathering. I’m excited to be able to run around the office asking people for help, but for the time being that’s all on hold.
I managed to collect some previous CAD and other work designers had done related to my project to study up on required design language and all of that business. Once again, people in the office are glad to help out with finding just about anything you need, which is incredibly helpful. I hoping that even after my time working here this summer I can email these guys for tips or help on whatever given subject I might be working on. Everyone here is ridiculously knowledgable about their particular disciplines.
I spent the majority of the day sitting at my desk doing research and mocking up some digital boards on which i arranged what I’ve been collecting, and that’s really it. I assisted an engineer on mocking up some models we’ll be having people test out next week, and that’s really it for Friday. Due to the nature of the holiday splitting up the week in two, it’s been pretty mellow around the office.
The beginning of this week started off in an interesting manner; Monday morning I was asked to assist in a project I had worked on before, this time from a design research + insights perspective, which sounded interesting. Right off the bat I was tasked to take half of a massive list of survey responses and sort them out into various stacks of data. Throughout the process I was trying to figure out a way to automate the data-gathering, but in the end I spent about 4-5 hours copy-pasting text into a document - seriously exhausting.
Luckily the work wasn’t too bad, and both the organizers and us sorters realized that the next time around there were a couple of things we could do to increase efficiency so we all learned something, which is always great. It was interesting to sit in on the brief meeting with the people we were delivering the data to and see how they responded to it. Things were very quickly paced and to the point. Our meeting probably lasted about 10 minutes.
I’m beginning to learn that visual presentation/communication in a job like this is all about clarity and obviousness as far as presenting information goes. In terms of 2d visual communication, I’ve always been a stickler for the (really) small details and having everything perfectly proportioned and aligned to some type of grid, but in reality these non-designer types really only care for understanding your main points as quickly as possible. Smart Design does an incredibly great job at maintaining a guide for presenting concepts to clients in both a visually pleasing and to-the-point manner, and I’ve been getting plenty of ideas for creating a type of ‘personal visual communication guide’ for myself to follow.
At the end of the day I accompanied a good deal of my coworkers to a nearby floating bar ( a bar on a boat ) to have drinks for the aforementioned Smartie who’s soon leaving to be a professor at Virginia Tech. It was the first time I’ve been on a floating bar before. I learned that Smart Design was indeed behind the redesign of all the taxis in NYC, and I was pretty impressed, to say the least.
Not very much happened today, due to the holiday tomorrow. Many people are taking work off for vacations and other exciting things. I spent today working on a project I spent the majority of last week on.
I think I’ve finally warmed up to how sewing works now. I can load the machine properly and I’ve learned to always save cutting until the last steps.
I managed to surprise our model-making master with a great technique for gluing together two sheets of different material (fabric and plastic) using spray mount. He knows -everything- , so this was a big deal for me ok ?
Lauren, one of my supervisors, confirmed that I’ll be more or less ‘lead designer’ on a project starting Thursday. This is incredibly exciting obviously, and it’ll be great being able to witness the design process around here from the beginning onward. If you’ve been reading these since I began, you’ve noticed by now that I’m often running between projects that are all over the place in terms of how far along the project is. This is great fun, and it’s keeping me very busy, and I’m learning -tons-, but I’ve been feeling that it would be nice to be dedicated to a single project that I can really put my name on.
So that’s Tuesday.
Fireworks on the roof. I am incredibly lucky to be here right now.
Monday and most of Tuesday were two of the first days that I had little to nothing to do. Not wanting to be left sitting around moping about no work, I actually managed to get a lot of thinking / sketching done regarding my intern project, which is beginning to take a more valid form both in my mind and on paper. This isn’t exciting to discuss, so I won’t.
While mulling about trying to keep productive on Monday, I came up with a new system of writing that I’ll begin to try out; rather than ball up my thoughts into one belated post at the end of the week, I’ll write day to day, hopefully keeping more of my experience intact. I know this strategy sounds obvious, but I never considered trying it until now, so here’s hoping I end up with more informative recordings.
I helped out other interns a bit on projects they were working on, I really love how there’s no sense of competition against your colleagues here, so helping people finish projects is a great way to spend time if I have nothing better to do. I’ve always liked teaching people how to do things, so this was good.
I drafted out an overarching theme of ‘intern project ideas’, and decided if it was worth it to do some initial research on the subject before presenting it to my superiors. I’m a bit worried I may be putting a lot of care and thought into something I really am interested in, only to have it shot down. We’ll have to see.
Tuesday was a bit busier than Monday, but not by much. I spent the majority of the morning doodling some visuals and coming up with various representations of the mini-community I’ve been placed in. I may have glossed over Smart Design communities, so here’s a great chance to explain.
Several months / A couple months ago, Smart Design had split it’s many Smarties into groups representing each discipline, i.e. all of the industrial designers had a group, all of the communications/copywriting people had a group, and so on and so forth. Each group was formed in order to gestate good vibes and good ideas within the company on a smaller scale, yet being a multidisciplinary company at it’s very core, this segregated approach seemed a bit off.
Thusly, a couple eclectic mini-communities were formed, each mixed with various people representing various disciplines and roles in the company. Our group’s called ‘Slim Fridays’, another group is dubbed ‘Turduckens’ (Turkey Ducks combined?), another group is dubbed The Femme Den (which actually may or may not be related to this whole mini-community formation, i’m not sure), and there are a couple more groups I can’t recall the names of right now.
I’m not sure if it was only Slim Fridays meeting to discuss the group brand this week, or if any other groups were having similar discussions, but a big chunk of my Tuesday was dedicated to finding material to present for the meeting. There’s way too much we discussed to go over in this post, but here’s a good summary of what we came up with:
Happy Days, The Fonz, 50s Americana vibes
Pirates, seafaring life, other nautical themes
Smart Design’s annoying little brother (pretty sure we downvoted this)
Alcoholic milkshakes, burgers, and fries
And I’m pretty sure you get the idea, or maybe you don’t. Loads of fun!
After all of this great stuff, I managed to score some afternoon work building models for user testing, and that was that.
Wednesday was a gem compared to the last two days, as far as work is concerned. My work from the previous day was extended, and I’m now contributing a nice chunk of work to a single project. The majority of work was refined model-building, once again for user testing, so I won’t go in-depth with that.
I haven’t really mentioned it since it’s not work/culture related, but if you’re new to the city, as in you’ve never been here before, and you’re spending several months living there out of the blue, make sure to bring lots of medicine and hand sanitizer and tissues. I don’t know if it’s my immune system (which i’ve always thought was fantastic), the pollutants in the air, or the ‘mutant pollen’ our shop guy was telling me about, but I’ve been having the worst congestion and dry-throat coughs i’ve had in awhile. It’s pretty embarrassing, especially when I’m trying to communicate important ideas and/or speak like a normal human being, so once again, be prepared folks. I’m hoping I get better soon, because I’m over this crap.
After the work day, I was able to visit a lighting gallery in midtown with two other industrial designers and a fellow intern to check out an event hosted by IDSA called ‘Spark in 60’. The gist of the event was to showcase the beginning of a new website where nyc creatives spoke in 60 second blurbs about what most inspired them, whether it be conceptual or material, and a lot of designers from Smart were actually featured, which was one of the reasons we were going. It was pretty great and I was able to meet a couple fellow young designers/engineers, which was very cool. Here’s to a good rest of the week
Thursday had me continuing with Wednesday’s work. Also began a project focusing on ergonomics. Very neat. In order to continue being useful with one of the projects I’m working on, I needed to learn to sew. I’m still pretty bad, but I’m hoping I’ll get better with practice. I was able to go out and get lunch with the two industrial designers who essentially got me hired here, I really wanted to blurt out my thanks to the two of them, but I decided to hold back.
Not much happened today besides continuous work, so I’ll leave Thursday at that.
Friday was a pretty great day, I was able to spend a good deal of the day testing out various cleaning tools and take notes on why each was great or terrible. This segued into many small bursts of productivity, and I was actually able to engage in a couple brainstorms today, which I haven’t done in awhile. It feels like I haven’t sketched for work in awhile, though I still keep up practice by sketching people on the subway, among other things.
Today, Happy Hour was started an hour early to celebrate the leave of a Smartie who’s been working there for the last 7 years. He’ll be moving on to teach at Virginia Tech, which is really cool because in my limited time of knowing him, he really does seem ‘teacherly’. Also being celebrated was one of my fellow interns who had finished her 3-month stint at Smart Design. She’ll be continuing to work at Smart as a freelance engineer, which is really fucking cool! I can only imagine how that’d feel, being in that position. Almost makes me wish I was already out of school to a certain extent. It’s really evident based on today how much of a family Smart Design really is; the way everyone interacts with each other is really something to experience.
All-in-all, this was a pretty great week, it ended especially well. Next week I’ll begin a project that will be resting squarely on me as far as design input goes, or so I’ve been told. We’ll have to see!
So it looks like these last two weeks are blending together thanks to my inability to sit still and write a nice insightful story, which is a skill I really need to work on. Anyways -
- This past past week’s been incredibly fast-paced, due in part to only having worked on (mostly) one project. This was interesting in that really being able to focus on one project really enabled me to see a bit more into some of the more detailed aspects of ‘working as a team’. Previously I mentioned I’d try to focus on stuff other than work. So here’s the brief summary -
Working on one project as a team in this case was being able to join about 8 or so Smarties in the shop working on different pieces of a final project, which was to be tested via in-house user focus groups in New Jersey. This week I unfortunately wasn’t scheduled to go out to accompany the group of people doing user tests, but I’ll be able to have the opportunity soon enough. Fortunately, working in the shop assembling these models in and of itself was a pretty amazing experience; along the way I was able to learn several silicone-related techniques, use a crimper, and witness the amazing usage of foil-backed vinyl, which can be implemented in amazingly true-to-life packaging making. Week three has been incredibly insightful.
In addition to all of the above, I was able to attend a couple client meetings, one of which involved being briefed on the start of a project I’ll be hopefully contributing lots to.
Week four has lasted ages. Much like last week, I’ve been working primarily on one project throughout the week, with hour-long or so side projects occurring when people need things done quickly. The numerous side projects are due in part to a good handful of Smarties discovering that I can use Photoshop and Illustrator reasonably well, and for better or worse I’ve been drowning in work. No complaints here!
Throughout these past two weeks I’ve been able to witness a great deal of Smart Design’s ‘company culture’, ranging from community meetings in which small groups of people share info on various design-related topics, to this Thursday’s ‘About Smart’ meeting, in which the three offices meet via videoconferencing and share insight on business-related stuff, as well as a single project, from start to finish. It’s great to see how close-knit the three studios remain, despite the huge separation in both time and place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the inevitable intern project that’s required to be finished by the end of my stint here, and while I’ve been interested in building small modifications to the office (to increase efficiency, usability, save space, etc.) it seems as if everyone I’ve talked to has warned me that it probably wouldn’t be a great idea. I’m hoping that as I absorb more of what’s really great and what also needs fixing around this place, I may just be able to come up with a great idea to work on.
So there you have it, my terribly overdue update on work here in NYC. I’ll try not to ball up two weeks again!
I began this entry on Friday, and ended up finishing it late today - it’s hard to really sit down and write something ‘cohesive and thoughtful’ when there’s so much running around to do in this city.
I’m sitting down at my computer a bit buzzed after Happy Hour, and it’s looking to be that way every Friday when I get around to writing weekly posts, which isn’t too bad. The past five days have been my first full week of working at Smart, and I’ve been busy to the point of needing to arrive early and stay late so I can get work done. This happens a lot more often than it should admittedly, but I’ve been having loads of fun and I seem to be doing important work, which is good to know. So far, the most ‘mundane’ work that’s been needed of me was to help package a CNC’d volumetric model to a client who was preparing tooling, and even that work taught me a crapload about client interaction, model preparation, and how to wrap a box correctly! (harder than it appears)
When I first began work, I was ecstatic to learn that after four days I was already working with six project codes in my timesheet, but I’ve learned since that it’s incredibly difficult to manage time around all of these projects which require the same amount of dedication. Within the first week I had been warned multiple times to ‘be careful of what i wished for’ when I’d tell people to put work on me anytime, and this week’s been a great example of tenuous time management on my part. I know now to limit the work being placed on me, which has resulted in having to decline several people who need help on various projects. They sure like to work their interns here. (it’s a fantastic thing)
As far as my actual work goes, I unfortunately can’t show any pictures of models or screenshots or drawings or sketches or moodboards or post-it walls (read: anything), but I can give a bit of insight into how a typical day has been.
I normally arrive at Smart Design anywhere from an hour to two hours early, which can be good if someone’s already there and unfortunate when the doors are locked, and I have to sit around and wait for someone to open up shop. People here still poke fun at me, as most Smarties don’t arrive until anywhere from 9:30 to 10:00. Getting there early ensures I can make myself a great espresso/americano/whatever and experiment with the amazing espresso machine in our kitchen.
After preparing all of that, I sit down at my desk or make way to the shop depending on the type of work that needs to be done, which is varying all the time. When people begin to trickle in, I keep a lookout for my supervisor for any given project and make sure to check up with them on what needs to be done for the day. Following this, I jump to work and usually just work until lunch, though since Tuesday this week I’ve been skipping lunches to finish models that had deadlines later in the day.
Modelmaking is a heavily relied-upon skill, and most of my work has been in making iterative + volumetric models to present to clients so they can get the overall ‘feel’ of how a product will look in the real world. I’ve been working primarily with polystyrene, foamcore, and various high-density polyurethane foams, though I’ve had the chance to work with what Smart Design calls “Frankensteins”, or models created from the chopped up pieces of other products. I was never the greatest modelmaker back at school, but I feel as if I’ve been learning vast amounts of techniques and skills our school’s own shop owners would never dare teach or encourage us to use, which is unfortunate. I really owe it to one of our two modelmaking specialists, who worked at Marvel making all things super hero.
Apart from modelmaking, I’ve been taking place in many sessions where the goal is purely to ideate forms using low-fidelity sketches, and it’s just fantastic to see the way engineers and industrial designers communicate ideas. These drawings are then posted up and heavily edited and commented on, which results in finely tuned ideas from which to focus ideation, or to make rough models from.
Owing to all of the work this week were client check-ups on Thursday, which were meetings in which people working specific projects would prepare presentations that showed progress on any given project. After all of the various meetings, it was back to work on further iterations of models/ideas they liked, with comments or suggestions they made in mind.
Without saying too much, this is basically how the week’s played out, though there is definitely a fantastic addition to be made that i’ll be working on heavily for the next several weeks - I’ve been assigned to help out with a branding project for a company currently trying to break into a specific fertile market in a large way. What makes this news especially exciting is that the director leading this project compared this company’s current relationship with Smart Design to early OXO and early Smart, in that this is potentially a huge opportunity to redefine an entire market. As I write this, I’m busy going over their research to date and making notes on what’s been done so far. Lots of research to do before next week, when I’ll be really thrown into this project. I’m incredibly excited to see how this specific project plays out, as it’s looking to be one I’ll contribute heavily and significantly to.
So there’s week 2 under the belt. I’m excited to write more on what’s going on over here, and since I’ve really focused on work-related stuff this week, I’ll try to write about other stuff that may or may not be interesting, including work of course. Until next week!
This is the building where I work, and a closeup of the entry. It’s pretty ridiculous how many design firms/studios/agencies are stuffed into one building, every morning it seems like the elevators are crammed with expensive clothes and good taste.
I’m back in my building after staying a bit late at my desk, and it’s safe to say I learned more about dealing with suppliers and clients and other fickle manufacturing-related issues over Happy Hour at Smart Design than I’ve learned in two years of school. Over Happy Hour.
To be brief, the last four days have been rather hectic, with six projects already underway (not including an “intern project” due by summer’s end), each requiring at least some time working with rough physical modeling in the shop. It’s been good to be so busy, and I’m quickly learning that the designers who work at Smart pay little distinction to whether or not I’m a full-time designer there. Many times I have been asked for my opinion on what seem to be major design decisions, and it’s unsettling and extremely cool to be potentially giving usable input on something that could be actually produced.
I’m more tired than I’ve ever been in a while (due in part to the crazy heat and humidity plus walking everywhere), but it feels really great to be so productive. I love the amount of work I’m receiving, and everyone here exemplifies traits every designer should strive to emulate.
I’m tired and I’ll stop now, sorry for the short post! I’ll be writing more about work here every week or so.