Interview with Mitzi Vernon
Why did you do the form exhibition?
I think students learn quite a bit in the foundation year, and I think there’s something very specific that they ought to have before they start to do very technical things. It kind of emerged three years ago, and I was interested because I wanted that to be true for industrial design the way it’s true in architecture.
Why did you make the displays rather than purchase them?
We were open to purchasing an extruded aluminum system, and it did come up when we were having a really hard time figuring out who was going to make these. But we realized that we loved this thing we had designed so much that we didn’t want to give it up for something off the shelf. When you can design a system with a joint that can work with everything, that’s the very best of industrial design. It’s like architecture. You don’t put a thousand different conditions in a good piece of architecture, you have a system that you build on. I wanted them to understand from the beginning what it meant to design something that you have control over so that you can have a system that’s not thoughtless. There are seven different flavors of the joint, which is the heart of the project. I call it tinker toy for travel, because we needed it to break down to be shipped around the world. The guys in the metal shop felt that they could CNC mill them, and they worked overtime to make these happen when we needed them. Our fabrication team of students cut, degreased, deburred, filed, and then brushed every surface on over 1100 pieces. It became an intense commitment to architecture, really. It’s architecture. I think we all felt crazy, none of us had slept for about two weeks before the opening happened.
What message are you trying to convey to the public?
For academics and students- the intellectual importance of the stuff we buy and use. For the general lay public- that product design is not skin-deep. I think the timing is good because people now can understand the beauty of an Apple product, and that wasn’t true so much twenty years ago. But I think now people have a different level of appreciation for the thing that they hold all the time. So part of it is showing people that there is a level of thought beneath the production of things they buy. There’s a deep, layered foundation in order for students to do this professionally, like in architecture. To me, this should go other places,
other people should see this. We’re currently talking about sending it to Japan, we also have a venue in Sweden that’s interested in it. We’re going to San Francisco to display at the AutoDesk headquarters as well. We wanted to share it with other academic places where students could participate in this exchange and show what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and that it’s important.
Interview with Amanda Phung
What was the process of the exhibition?
Well, Mitzi had asked us in the end of fall semester if there was any interest in helping the team. I thought there were going to be more people joining the exhibition team from my class, but I ended up being the only one and that caught me off guard a little bit. I just remember seeing the third and fourth years sitting around the white table, and at that point they were picking which pieces would go into the exhibit. It was really interesting to me to watch them identify the pieces that showed the qualities we wanted the most. At that point it was the only thing I had really seen, and it caught my interest. One of the third years who told me his platter went to Europe two years ago. And I thought “that’s really cool, that you can say your work has been displayed internationally.” I didn’t know at the time if we were going to be traveling, but I just kind of assumed we would, and I was really excited to be a part of something that big.
How is it working with the upperclassmen?
I love it so much! I love my studio and I definitely feel like ID is a lot tighter than architecture and other disciplines. I’ve gotten to know them and most are really friendly. Initially I watched people work and asked a lot of questions. I would say definitely that they’re like another part of my family now, like my studio and then their studio. We had a conference this past weekend, where a good amount of people went down to Savannah, so I would say that we’ve definitely bonded a lot. I’ve learned so much from them experience-wise, like what to expect next year, photography skills and light organization. It was quite worthwhile.
Interview with Matthew Cox
What was the biggest lesson you learned throughout this entire process?
I think craft is one of the big things that I feel like a lot of people missed out on, and I really had the opportunity to learn more about. For your work to be in an exhibit it’s got to be top-notch, and that just shows you that craft is extremely important. If the idea’s there but it’s not well-crafted, you don’t want it in the exhibit. I put a piece in there and I’m not happy with its craft, and every time I walk by it, I don’t like looking at it because I know that I could do better. And once I get that thing back I’m going to redo it. So I think craft is one of the things I definitely took into consideration and learned a lot about.
Was there a specific project or a form of yours that was a success?
I loved all of mine. But I feel like my most successful, not in the sense that it’s finished, but in the sense that it’s well-designed and well thought through, was a platter that’s up there right now. It’s really great because I got to learn all about the process. I made it by hand instead of CNC-ing it, and the process was something unbelievable, I can’t even begin to explain to you how intricate it is. It involves about ten machines, just going back and forth between machines and adding false pieces to turn it on the lathe and then taking off false pieces. But I don’t know, I know that it’s not done and I want to finish it a little bit more, there are some curves that I want to fix, but every time I look at it I know it’s one of my most successful pieces because I went through so many different iterations and so many specificities of how it’s made. Process-wise, it was really awesome.
The exhibition is comprised of over 200 forms from over 100 Industrial Design students.
Interviews conducted by Austin Ledzian, Kevin Garcia, and Luisa Lacsamana
Photos by Matthew Cox and Austin Ledzian