2012 SMA | Haley Toelle | California College of the Arts
There are makers of things. There are artists. There are problem solvers. And there are people who do all three. Often simultaneously. Like Haley Toelle.
Once upon a time, Toelle studied sculpture to satisfy her interest in the handcrafting of physical things. As she was exposed to the study of sustainability and the processes of 3D modeling and 3D printing, a different interest was triggered. “For me, being an artist was about reflecting and translating the world around me,” she remembered. “As a designer, I can create the world around me. That is a very powerful thing.”
Toelle’s studies have taken her from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) to the California College of the Arts (CCA). Along her travels she has deepened her interest in the urban experience and the various design opportunities city life offers. She has also deepened her experience in the process of creating objects.
“My first internship was at frog design as a model maker,” she said. “I really embraced working in the model shop at frog. I learned that physical problems require physical solutions. In my experience, many of the real insights come from the physical prototypes. How better to test an idea than to make a model of the idea that you can hold in your hand?”
A subsequent internship landed her in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. She recalled, “Being at Nike really confirmed my hands-on approach as well as pushed me to think not just about designing products but designing everything from the user experience to entirely new processes for production. My time there really inspired me to think BIG.”
That outsize thinking reveals itself in two standout projects from her portfolio. The Flex Ice Pack reimagines the common icepack as a piece of gear—a cousin of the bike helmet, if you will—that aids urban athletes in recovery by providing a solution that conforms and moves with the body.
“The body and the way we use our bodies aren’t exactly standard or predictable,” she asserted. “For the Flex pack, I had to figure out how to make something work on many different parts of the body and also for many different sizes and shapes of people. It had to be comfortable and easy to use.”
The resulting design features an adaptability that removes the awkwardness of applying ice or heat to an injury and improves the device’s ability to support the healing process.
Toelle’s scheme for the VendShare Pod system offers a different take on sustainability. Her solution provides a legal platform for small business owners who have limited capital and limited spatial needs. The system of customizable, pay-by-the-hour stands creates a mini-marketplace that leverages solar power to operate the pods and increases safety by producing low-cost light for night-time use. “Although it’s not strictly about the environment, it is about sustaining people, entrepreneurship, communities and culture,” she remarked.
After winning the IDSA Student Merit award and completing her studies at CCA, Toelle will spend the summer doing an industrial design internship at Lytro, a new camera company that uses light field technology to capture images, which enables a user to focus after taking a picture.
“I’m just starting to figure this out,” she said. “I’ve been getting a taste of everything and I think as long as there’s opportunity for me to grow, learn new things and have something to offer, then I’ll be happy.”
To view more of Haley Toelle’s work, visit haleytoelle.com.