Industrial Design Blog has moved!

The new and improved Philadelphia University Industrial Design blog, incorporating both the undergraduate and graduate programs, is not located at

Please update your links and feeds accordingly.

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An Interview with Sir Jonathan Ive

An intriguing interview with the recently-knighted Jonathan IveApple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design can be found here.

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This Business of Design

By John Pickard, PhilaU ID Masters Candidate

As we move forward on the Federal Mogul project, both the designers and business students are learning new skills. One of the hardest, at least for me, is learning to create a product that fits the business needs of a multi-billion dollar company instead of simply making a “sexy” object. For a designer, that means learning how to think about money: what it means and the strategies that are used to make it.

That finance-driven discussion is what’s going on in the studios right now. Our work is focusing on the business plan and how to develop and quantify our concepts in relation to it. In our last class, Bryce Beamer spoke about how to decide on what concepts should move forward using the criteria that Federal Mogul gave us. To evaluate our work, we were tasked with developing benchmarks to measure the suitability of our concepts. These standards will help ensure that the project stays on the right track.

Though most of the grads have previous experience in a professional field, it’s still new for many of us to be tasked with designing a business plan. Along with all the initial head scratching, there’s also an inner sigh of relief that we’re learning these crucial skills. The fog that has, for many of us, long surrounded the inner workings of business and marketing is being blown away. Even at this early stage, our collaboration with Federal Mogul is giving us a better understanding of why businesses make the choices they do. It’s also showing us how we can use design and design thinking to begin transformative dialogues with business.

Like the ID grads, the business students are also expanding their skills by finding new ways to think outside of standard case studies. Unique materials can have market value in the most unexpected places and those are the opportunities we’re searching for. Together, the ID grads and business students are advancing the project as well as getting valuable practice in how to communicate and collaborate with each other once in the field.

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MSID Collaborates with Federal-Mogul

This spring finds the graduate students working to develop new product innovations with a team from the Federal-Mogul Corporation. Design investigations are centered around Federal-Mogul’s Quiet Shield GRN noise-suppression material. Made primarily with recycled materials, the product is currently used as acoustic shielding for construction vehicles & equipment, agricultural machinery and off-road vehicles.

A recent meeting at the company’s Technical Research and Development Center in nearby Exton, PA helped the students better understand the challenges that the company currently faces and the opportunities provided by this groundbreaking new material. Product offering requirements were outlined and the teams were tasked with developing solutions that are both innovative and commercially viable. It’s a great opportunity for practical learning as the accelerated timeframe and focused deliverables directly reflect the conditions faced by designers in today’s marketplace. In May, the students will submit a range of design solutions as well as a comprehensive business case that addresses Federal-Mogul’s challenge. We’re looking forward to a great semester of collaboration and design.

The teams meet at Federal-Mogul's Technical R&D Center.

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New ID Documentary Screened

Last evening the Industrial Design department hosted a screening of the new documentary “Design The New Business”. The film explores ways in which industrial designers can partner with business to manage complexity and create new, vibrant business models that address the needs of a rapidly changing world.

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The Winning Projects

 We often talk about how much students of different years work and interact with each other but the Sprint Project epitomizes that. At PhilaU, the Sprint Project is one of best opportunities for students to learn. During the week, it’s common to see groups of grads and undergrads together trolling the halls deep in conversation, working in concert to innovate and find solutions.  Though the project itself is important, it means more than just getting an assignment done – all the students come to appreciate the vast human resources in the school and the value of working together. For the grad students, Sprint is a great chance to teach and learn with the undergrads. A huge amount of design work is done but more importantly, relationships are built that last long after the project – and even the program – is long over.

This year’s Sprint Project with Armstrong saw 27 design teams exploring 4 distinct areas: Discontinuous Ceilings, Modular Geometrics, Vertical Installations/Blades and Low Relief/3D Ceilings. One final design was chosen as the winner in each category. Read on to learn the details about each teams’ winning design:

The winning design in the Discontinuous Ceilings category was entitled “Floating Planes”. Planes suspended from a grid system create customizable designs that bridge the barrier between ceilings and walls. The pre-assembled units utilize the full spectrum of Armstrong’s acoustic and and light refracting material. The panels are slid into place and are fully interchangeable to reflect shifts in the room’s usage.

In the Modular Geometrics category, top honors went to the “GeoLIFT” project, a solution designed address the needs of the retrofit market – an important part of Armstrong’s customer base. GeoLIFT’s angled modular units sit within the existing suspension system to lift or drop points along the perimeter of the tiles. The result is dramatic visual change and enhanced the acoustics that require minimal installation time and investment.

The simple and elegant “Weave” project won first prize in the Low Relief/3D Ceilings category. Weave is another project designed to fit into an existing drop ceiling tile suspension system. Curved panels are made of formed jute and incorporate edge banding or a fabric surface treament. Brackets are connected by way of puncture and barb and allow the panel to completely hide the existing ceiling grid.

The SkyWave project, a baffle system visually inspired by soundwaves was the winner in the Vertical Installations/Blades category. This design uses a heat-bent panels that form modular units which lock together to create a wide array of large-scale arrangements. An optional lighting system was also designed that utilizes the baffles as both a light diffuser and support.

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Sprint to the Finish

The final day of the Sprint Project is in many ways the toughest. The week has been long and the pace fast. The models are made, the boards are printed and the enormous amount of work that’s been done comes down to this: the final client presentation. It’s time to explain your design decisions, show how you’ve fulfilled the brief and address pointed questions and critique from clients and faculty alike.

The quality of both the projects and presentations this year was extraordinarily high. All 27 teams made their presentations to multiple faculty/client groups. Teams were rated on a wide variety of categories. The combined faculty and client cohort then dismissed the students and decided on one winning team for each of the four project categories by making the case to each other for their favorites. The winning teams are listed below and details about each of the winning projects will be posted shortly. Our sincere thanks go out to all the students and faculty who participated and most of all to the team from Armstrong. Without their generous contribution of time, materials and expertise, the Sprint Project wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you!

Vertical Installations/Blades Winners: Team 7 – Christopher Gradel, Jesse Ferrino, Anthony Land, Andre Bruchez, Nicholas Nawa and Matthew Sheehan

Modular Geometrics Winners: Team 1 – Cassie Caminiti, Alexis Grant, Kristopher Pepper, Tracy McCarthy, and Tara Ridgeway

Low Relief/3D Ceilings Winners: Team 3 – Christopher Mbakwe, Brian Palladino, Alex Rentschler, Steven Metzner and Matt Hedden

Discontinuous Ceilings Winners: Team 25 – Sean Haney, Matt Cracco, Stephen Hamilton and Morgan Gaumann

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