Mastering the Craft

Kevin Shinn, FIDSA, Inducted into IDSA Academy of Fellows

He’s been a dedicated member of what he fondly calls the “IDSA family” for almost two decades. Kevin Shinn, FIDSA, was inducted into the Society’s Academy of Fellows at the IDSA International Conference 2016 in Detroit, MI—his home state, and the state with the highest concentration of industrial designers in the United States. “I’m very honored to become an IDSA Fellow,” said Shinn. “It’s a humbling experience to be in the company of such great designers past and present. I will do my best to represent!”

The vice president of industrial design at Altair Thinklabs joined the global company in 2013, after leading design at Dow Corning Corporation and serving as head of industrial design at Rubbermaid Home Products. Shinn has an extensive background in consumer, toy and automotive products. “I realized at some point that I had a knack for helping corporations understand how to use design strategically,” he explains. “This was a defining moment because many of my assignments since then have been around building design divisions from the ground up and integrating design into corporate strategy.”

Shinn says he’s been passionate about many specific areas of design, but most recently he’s really enjoyed working with the prosthetic and orthotic community. “I would like to continue to explore more in this area to help improve the user experience and human/device interaction,” he says.

The Midland, MI native describes himself as being “very artistic and mechanical” in his youth. “I loved to draw and liked to build and take things apart to see how they worked. In school, I always took advanced art classes and shop classes. I always had a passion for creating and trying to improve upon existing products.” But it wasn’t until after high school that he realized that what he loved doing—was considered industrial design. Shinn toured College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. “That’s when I discovered ID, and realized that there was an actual profession that matched what I loved to do.”

He adds, “CCS was considered one of the best schools for design, so it was the perfect choice for me. One of the professors who motivated me the most at CCS was John Steiner. He did a great job of explaining how ID fit in the real world—beyond college. I came into CCS with a business background, and John really helped me understand the power of combining left and right brain.”

Now, Shinn’s son also is on an ID path at his father’s alma mater. “I’m very proud of my son and happy that he is as excited about ID as I am. He grew up around design and designers; however, we never pressured him to pursue it as a career. In fact, we pushed him to investigate many career paths, but he continued to gravitate back toward ID. He’s very talented with a bright future ahead and I look forward to watching him grow as a designer.”

Shinn’s advice to the next generation of designers? “Master your craft and love what you do. Focus on what is right, work hard, volunteer often and remember—as an industrial designer you have the power to impact and change people’s lives! You have the power to impact communities, society and the world! Don’t take that lightly and always strive to make the world a better place through design.”

Shinn has written for IDSA’s INNOVATION magazine; led workshops and spoken at IDSA conferences; served on IDSA’s Board of Directors; and currently leads the Membership Committee. “The value of IDSA for me is the people and the opportunities provided for face-to-face interaction. I continue to volunteer and contribute in the hope that I can help make a difference. In return, I benefit from all of the contributions made from my peers. Ultimately, we are all providing value to one another through IDSA. The Society is the glue and the resource that makes it all happen. Knowing you have friends you can trust around the world—who are there when you need them or would drop what they’re doing to help—that’s the IDSA family.”