Industrial Design: Where STEM meets Art

Lately, we have been hearing that we need to invest in STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) education to stay competitive in the global economy. But the STEM model is lacking an important factor that often helps such respected fields innovate – Art.

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Early sketches of a GPS watch for GolfBuddy

At first glance, you may be wondering how art fits into the STEM curriculum. Science is completely objective working with numbers, data and hard evidence. Artists are subjective, creating imagery, eliciting emotions, and its messages can be rather ambiguous. Industrial design can be thought of as the cross point between science and art. We need to craft solutions that have an appealing design, but we must also engineer the product to be functional. The STEAM movement claims that supporting arts education is critical to developing an imagination that will translate into workplace creativity.

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“As practiced today, the arts and sciences have much in common. The studio and the laboratory are learn-by-doing, learn-by-making educational experiences. The iterative process and experimentation are key components to advances and discoveries in both fields. Artists, designers, and scientists alike are utilizing data in new and interesting ways to inform their practices and affect positive change. Productive cross-disciplinary collaborations are being formed in both the academy and in the workplace.” – Stephen Beal President, California College of the Arts

We like to think our products are pieces of art that have been given a purposeful function. As a design company, we must make something that has intriguing aesthetics, but also have a useful construction. We typically start with hand drawn sketches, which then evolve into computer renderings and eventually physical prototypes. Below are sketches and renderings for a phone controller we designed for Mophie. CCI06282013_0000-dela

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For instance, we worked with Sphynx Razor to design a 3-in-1 portable shaving razor. We wanted to incorporate water, shaving cream and a razor into a compact package. We drew up several sketches before settling on a rotating design. After settling on a form, we had to engineer the rotating heads. Sphynx just launched their Kickstarter campaign to bring the product to market. Below you’ll get a peek into our iterative process from hand drawn drafts to final computer renderings.

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Educators are beginning to recognize that creativity is an invaluable trait in today’s workforce. New hires are expected to brainstorm innovative solutions to excel in their field or careers. In order to foster the growth of the STEAM movement, Santa Monica is hosting its 2nd Annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. Teams of high school and college students from all over Los Angeles will be building their own artistic and over-engineered contraptions that can erase a chalkboard. We’ll be visiting the event and talking to some teams! Stay tuned for next week’s recap!

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