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Product Design with Cameron VanDyke

We’re kicking off 2012’s after school workshops with two months of product design. It’s only appropriate to start with a little clip of Steve Jobs, who, we would venture to say, changed the contemporary product landscape more than any other.

For us, it’s helpful to start with a framework: product design is all about problems. Everything that has ever existed has done so because it solved some sort of problem. Farms. Villages. Governments. Cave Paintings. Arrowheads. Ceramic Bowls. Domesticated Animals. Schools. Sparkling Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Etc.

Once you see the products you’re surrounded by as someone else’s solutions to problems it helps you think more critically about the questions you’re asking of your environment. That’s our goal with the product design workshops. What do we actually require of our surroundings? Do we need all that we have? Can we make things more specific to the problems we actually face everyday? What are those problems?

January we were lucky to visit the studio of Grand Rapids maker extraordinaire Cameron VanDyke. So fun! We couldn’t help but smile as approaching the doors of his studio we were greeted with the smell of fresh cut wood.

His studio was stocked with all the woodworking tools you could think of. Even more impressive was their organization.

Cameron always starts his projects by working in scale. The above project is one of my favorites – the hedge rack. Brilliant. One day we’ll have space and a budget. When that happens we’ll be rallying for this to be outside.

Cameron’s public furniture is second to none. Always approachable and fun…super interesting use of scale and materials. This is another one of my favorite pieces – Ice Jam Public Seating. Super fun.

There’s something alluring about wood – no other renewable material is so plentiful or flexible. It can be used for fuel, shelter, transportation, and food. Amazing. Equally alluring is someone who knows how to work with it. A tool for everything.

It was an awesome peek inside a craftsman’s studio. A big thank you to Cameron VanDyke for opening up his studio to our troupe of rebels that were tough enough to brave the weather.

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