Each day during the week leading up to National ID Day 2022, we're publishing the comments of IDSA community members who reached out to us from each of IDSA's five North American Districts.
Learn more about a few IDSA members and friends from the Central District below.
Allen Samuels, L/IDSA
Industrial Designer, Emeritus Professor and Dean, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Over 50 years ago, I wanted to find a profession that included inventing and innovating and creating useful objects. I didn't know much about Industrial Design then. I did know that Engineering was also about making useful things but soon I realized that I.D. was more about enabling people to do useful tasks by Design. The focus was more about serving people and cultures by giving products telling and appropriate form.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? It didn't take long for me to learn that being an Industrial Designer was more than a job, more than a profession. It was and is a way of life. A way of seeing and thinking in unique ways to include how to consider people, cultures, history, technologies, use, possible misuse, fit, nonverbal language and more.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? I joined what became the IDSA when still a student. That membership set standards, provided a community, defined professionalism and created pride. We knew that what we were learning to do was important and would provide lifelong challenges and meaningful work.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA still provides what I described above. In addition, national meetings enabled me to see and hear and meet those who came before me and who were our leaders and heroes. IDSA also provided new information and examples of how to work and how to design. IDSA provided a special and meaningful community.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design is more than a job, more than a profession. It is a way of life that invites each of us to create new images, objects and spaces that inform, educate, provoke, enable and define what it means to be human.
For over 50 years, I have worked as an Industrial designer and concurrently as a Professor of Design. I was either in class teaching young designers or I was in my workplace collaborating with over 30 clients over some 45 years. In class, I taught and I learned about what Design can come to mean. In practice, I learned how to apply what I was learning and to create unique and original concepts and product designs that were aimed at advancing what it means to be human.
Chris Weigand, IDSA
CEO, Neon Carrot (Richfield, OH)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I've always had an interest in imagining, drawing and designing things—an interest in the world. Curiosity drove me to become a designer and is a driving factor today. You can't be a successful problem identifier, solver, designer, without being fundamentally curious. Practically speaking though I always wanted to design cars, so I figured out in high school that the people who design cars are called industrial designers. And then I realized that industrial designers can design other products as well. As I moved into my professional life, I realized industrial designers can apply their skills to design pretty much anything; identify and solve any problem. It's the most diverse, powerful, and balanced of the design disciplines. Maybe I'm biased. :)
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? It has led me in many different directions in design and out of design. It has empowered me to be successful regardless of those things outside of my control. Industrial design makes me more centered and open minded. Empathy is intrinsic and necessary in industrial design. Being empathetic, while challenging at times, has made me a better person.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA connects me to the design community. Through connection and education IDSA elevates my professional ability and visibility.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design is the only design discipline that is responsible for everything—there is nowhere to hide. We represent every tangible aspect of human life. We need to understand the made world, natural world, and the world of the human mind. Industrial designers are responsible for most of the environmental harm and the key to fixing many of the world's ills. I think it's easy for industrial design to be marginalized in our new industrial age.
Lea Stewart, IDSA
Senior Manager Design, Newell (Kalamazoo, MI)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I was lucky enough to be introduced to design through an architectural drafting class that was offered at my high school. As I started seeking out colleges that had architecture programs, I learned about industrial design while on a campus tour. I knew it was for me, because it had what I loved about architecture, which was designing for the needs and desires of others, at a smaller scale. It felt like I could use my creativity to make impact.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? The journey of my ID career is what has had the impact on who I am. The variety of products, industries, and partnerships I've been able to experience have allowed my career to feed my need for continuous learning.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA supports by being a platform to connect people and hear their perspectives. They have enabled my voice with talks they have invited me to speak at. Most recently, I was elected to the WID Committee which has allows me to partner with other leaders in initiatives that will evolve our industry.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA is a platform for an ID community volunteer network. We get out of it what we all choose to put into it.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design at its core is human centered problem solving. We 'solve' by creating objects that are desired, responsible, and provide value.
Scott Klinker, IDSA
Principal, Scott Klinker Design, LLC (Bloomfield, MI)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Because mass production has the potential to insert new ideas into the public imagination at a scale that exceeds many other forms of cultural production.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? I'm acutely aware that the human-made world shapes values, behaviors, and experience. The outcomes of design can make this world better or worse. My worldview is shaped by this knowledge—from the mundane, to the political, to the philosophical.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA helped me to understand many models of practice and new methods across the field. Through IDSA functions I've met many designers that have served my overall network as a professional and as an educator.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA serves as forum about new developments in the field through its publications, conferences, and awards. It also serves as a network of professional connections.
Why do you think industrial design is important? As stated above, the outcomes of design can make this world better or worse. The scale of mass production has the potential to spread human care or human suffering. Ideally, design is a form of care.
Industrial design has broad connections to architecture, fashion, film, art, and other areas of creativity. I wish we would spend more time on the inspiring questions of the profession, rather than the nuts and bolts of the business of design.
Jonathan Mills, IDSA
Chair, Department of Product Design, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Truthfully, I thought I wanted to be a car designer—it sounded cool. Instead, I was introduced to tools and mindsets that allowed me to expand on my innate interest in complex systems, and I've followed that passion ever since. A significant part of my non-design career was as a maintainer of aviation propulsion systems and, again, design allowed me a place to nurture that complementary focus on the longevity of the products and systems we choose to put into the world.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? From my earliest introduction to IDSA, the organization has been a parallel resource to design education curricula, both new and established. Through largely-student focused regional conferences as well as individual chapter events that make connecting with professionals manageable and digestible for students, IDSA has kept—and will continue to keep—programs in touch with professional practice and advances in our ever-expanding discipline.
Why do you think industrial design is important? For any new (or rediscovered) technology, process, or knowledge to be implemented, it needs to align with human behavior. Designers operate as a bridge between these two areas, either adapting the 'new' to human nature, or providing a pathway for humans to adapt their behaviors to the 'new.'
Marketing Manager, Sundberg-Ferar (Detroit, MI)
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Industrial Design has shaped my thinking and problem-solving in all spheres of life. Its tools empower and train your mind to think flexibly and from many perspectives both sweeping and minute. The power of the Industrial Design process lies in being able to confidently embrace the ambiguity that shrouds so much of our lives—professional and personal—without fear, drawing out of it the most relevant information, and refining it into a clear solution. It is not wishy-washy. It is a scientific process aimed at understanding human behavior and making evidence-based predictions of the optimal solution.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has provided one of the richest communities I know of to interact with other designers who are solving problems in incredible ways across diverse industries. In turn it has stretched and enriched my perspective and understanding of the scope and possibilities of design.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA is arguably one of the single biggest gathering points of Industrial Design minds and practitioners across North America. It is a catalyst for the entire field.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial Design is the genesis of the physical artifacts and many of the experiences and services that make up our society. Now of all times, the role of Industrial Design is exceedingly important because it acts as a rudder and is one of the most effective fields by which we can steer the future of how we make, use, and discard these artifacts, not just for humans, but for our planet too.
Karl Vanderbeek, IDSA
VP of Design and Human Factors, Kaleidoscope Innovation (Cincinnati, OH)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I always loved the intersection of functional objects and art. I love solving puzzles and there are many in that intersection.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? I get paid for thinking, drawing, building, and working with smart people! I continually see the world around me differently.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? It is a great connector.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA provides a concise voice for what ID is and provides forums for discourse.
Why do you think industrial design is important? I see ID as the practical application of iterative design thinking. I use that way of solving problems and creating opportunities in all parts of my job now that are not ID related.
David Allan, IDSA
Director of Design, Stryker (Kalamazoo, MI)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Growing up in Scotland, I was inspired by the landscape and loved to draw and paint. I also happened to be fascinated with taking things apart and understanding how they worked. I had not heard of Industrial Design until I was 16 but knew that the things around me must have been created by somebody. During my teenage years, I was fortunate to have amazing art and craft shop teachers who taught me woodwork, metal fabrication, photography, materials, proportion, scale, form, problem solving and critical thinking. Frustrated that the things around us were not as good as they could be, I used my newfound skills to modify and make them better. This was the training ground that prepared me for the world of design and product development.
The world is still full of human centered and technical problems that need to be solved. It fills me with gratitude to have had the opportunity to work on so many exciting and meaningful problems over the years. Most recently, being able to apply design to healthcare problems has been incredibly rewarding.