Industrial design students meld form and function

May 15, 2017

Some people have their best ideas while they’re driving. Others find that inspiration strikes while they’re in the shower. For industrial design students at Wayne State, however, ideas spin in a constant loop.

They’re trained to find inspiration in places where many simply see limitations. From vertical bike racks and a neonatal brain-imaging machine to gasoline-delivering drones and wheelchair-based snow shovels, students work to conceptualize and develop efficient solutions that meet all types of consumer needs.

“I don’t spend too much time thinking about the problem – I just jump right into finding a solution,” said David Mayberry, a Kalamazoo native who recently graduated with a bachelor’s in industrial design. “Sometimes, I feel like I have too many ideas.”

For Mayberry and other students in the industrial design program, coursework focuses on using market research to evaluate potential consumers and their needs, tailoring the aesthetics of a product to meet those needs, and building the technical skills necessary to transform an idea into reality.

As a student, Mayberry worked on a variety of design projects, including a low-to-the-ground meditation stool designed to ease joint pressure and a vertical bike rack designed save storage space and provide easy access.

The bike rack’s design was inspired by “Willy Walking” — when the front tire of a bicycle is lifted off the ground and the back tire is planted for balance. To create the first prototype as part of a studio design class focused on batch production, Mayberry used a set of table legs from IKEA. He worked in Wayne State’s studio spaces and his own garage to tweak and perfect the prototype and develop what would eventually become the final design, which is made of lightweight conduit.

“It’s important that design students are flexible and learn not to become emotionally attached to things,” said Brian Kritzman, associate professor of industrial design. “From start to finish, it’s a long process and there will be countless revisions. A designer must be motivated and committed.” 

The finished product meets the needs of many consumer groups, including those with children, mobility concerns, storage space limitation, or those living in an apartment. Mayberry’s bike rack efficiently stores a bicycle in a manner that does not require over-head lifting or drilling holes in a wall, like many alternative storage solutions. 

Mayberry found himself flooded with requests to purchase the rack, and sought the assistance of Innovation Warriors, Wayne State’s entrepreneurship hub, to turn his design into a marketable product. He’s been working with the team there on outreach and acquiring a patent.

“I had a lot of people approach me about the idea, but I just didn’t know who to trust,” he said. “One of the best things about working with Innovation Warriors is that I know they’re always in my corner with my best interest in mind. We’re playing for the same team.”

In addition to collaborative opportunities at WSU, industrial design students have had the chance to work with many local businesses, including Detroit Bike Shop and the Dearborn-based event management company Imagination.

“We value these collaborative opportunities very highly because they offer a different way for students to think. It’s easy to get used to hearing feedback in the same environment,” Kritzman said. “When you open yourself to an outside perspective, it creates a completely different level of credibility.”