End of Semester Reflection and Portfolio

I’ve definitely grown a lot as a designer over the course of this semester. One of my successes is that I’ve become more confident in my design abilities and I finally feel comfortable in this major. Before, I looked at the projects the third and fourth year students were doing and thought that those would be impossible for me to do but after going through this semester I feel like when the time comes, I’ll be more than capable. Another success is that I’m better able to critically look at my own work and others’. I’m better able to see what makes something successful.

A pivotal moment this semester was during the sheet metal project. I was really unsure about what I was going to do moving forward with my idea for a match container. It was making me really frustrated and even unsure about whether I wanted to be in this major or not. But then I looked at the project from a different angle, instead of making something that contained the matches, I could make something that holds the matches. This seems simple but it changed my whole design outlook and I was then able to come up with an idea I really liked.

I still have many challenges ahead of me. I need to continue to get better at the iterative process. Too many times I come up with an idea that I think is great and want to be the final but I need to continue to iterate to better the product. The more models and sketches I make, the better the outcome of the project will be and the better designer I will become. Another thing I need to get better at is interacting with the third and fourth year ID students. I’ve met a lot of them this semester but I haven’t kept up with most of them and I think they could be a great resource for me.

I think the main thing I want to get out of the next semester and the course in general is the skill base that an industrial designer possesses. I really want to learn how to use all the different tools that are at my disposal. I also want to gain the design mindset that it takes to be an industrial designer. Thinking about the future, I don’t know if I’ll ever get a job working as an actual industrial designer, but I would like to get a job where I use the skills I gained from this course, whether that be in model making, graphic design, or a more technical field.

If I was the professor and could choose a project for us to do next semester I would choose to do something with woodworking. I’ve been interested in woodworking since high school and I think it would be cool to improve my skills in it with a project. I don’t know if it’s true but I heard that one year, the students designed puzzle boxes and to me that sounds super cool. I’ve always thought interesting opening and locking mechanisms are really exciting so that’s a project I would give if I were the professor.

Here is the url to my portfolio: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/wesleyrogers/portfolio/

A Dual-Purpose Milk Container

When you consume milk, its usually from a cup or from a bowl. Designer Efkan Cetin has created a new type of milk jug that combines the two options into one container. The “+hem” is a concept milk container that is the shape of a bowl but with a screw-off cap on one side. You can either peel off the plastic and use it like a bowl for cereal, or you can leave the plastic cover on and unscrew the cap, using it like a milk jug. It’s disposable so you toss it when you’re done.

I think this is an interesting concept but I can’t really see it being an actual product. I think its much simpler and easier to have milk in small cartons and then the cereal in a disposable bowl if you want something that functions similarly. I do think this is super cool, and I could see it being produced and sold at certain European stores. I like when disposable products like this have interesting functions or uses which is why I really like this.

Packaging “Surprise and Delight” – Is it a Good Thing?

I came across a post and subsequent discussion by u/drewablo in the Design subreddit that really intrigued me: Surprise and Delight: Or Why Packaging Matters. I urge you to check out the post and discussion because it’s very interesting. I’ll summarize it if you don’t feel like clicking. The original post is a series of pictures contrasting the packaging of two knives. The first knife has very elaborate packaging, you can imagine it would be very satisfying to open.

The second knife has packaging that seems very standard, nothing wrong with it, but nothing special.

The intent is obviously to show how much more exciting it is to open the first knife than the second one. I really appreciate exciting package design so I definitely liked the first one better but there were several comments that made me consider my position.

The main argument against this type of interesting package design stemmed from the fact that there is usually a lingering anxiety about what to do with the package after you have opened it. Sure it looks great, but sometimes its so complicated that you feel bad throwing it out, so now you’re stuck with something that you didn’t even want but aren’t sure what to do with! Sometimes you can store the product in the packaging or re-purpose the box for other items so it’s not too bad, but lots of times with interesting package design, its too specific or tight for those uses.

Another argument against package design like this is that it is wasteful. The more extraneous material you use to make it look nice, the more you’re wasting. Even if you use cardboard, it’s still wasteful because you can only recycle it so many times.

So I guess it comes down to this: Is the “surprise and delight” from opening the package worth it for the anxiety and wastefulness? I would tentatively say yes to a certain degree because I think interesting package design really adds a whole new level to the experience of the product. I think it is possible to go overboard but it also depends upon the item. I think as designers it’s important to consider this factor when designing a product and packaging. Interesting package design is great but there are several caveats to consider.



Modeling Floods Before Computers

In 1927, rain in the Midwest caused the Mississippi River to flood, causing 27,000 square miles to be put underwater. It’s estimated that up to a thousand people died in the disaster. The next year, Congress allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to study and alter the Mississippi river system in order to prevent future catastrophes. The Corps planned on physically altering the path of the Mississippi but they needed to test their plans first. How they did it is incredible.

In 1943, the Corps constructed a 1/2000 scale of the Mississippi River basin. It spanned over 200 acres. German prisoners of war were used to help build it. The model successfully predicted future floods and saved millions of dollars in flood damages.

This was an incredible design undertaking. The planning and study involved to make this perfectly accurate model of the Mississippi River was monumental. Because of the advent of computers, projects like this have become defunct and I don’t think you’ll see a project like this ever again. It’s was a beautiful model from a time before computers, when this was the best option that they had. I think it’s important for designers today to remember accomplishments like this to know what people were and are still capable of. For more pictures and information about this project, check out the original article.


A Design for a Problem that Doesn’t Exist

I came across this product called the Orion Onyx which is basically a walkie talkie that works over an unlimited distance. Sounds cool at first but it’s actually pretty lame. It pairs with a smartphone app and only works while you have connection to the internet. And since you have to pair your phone with it, it begs the question, why don’t you just use your phone? Maybe you’ll say “Oh but it can clip to your shirt and be hands free.” Well yes, but you can do the same thing with apple headphones or any other headphones that have a microphone. And if you still don’t think it’s stupid, a set of two retails for $200 on amazon. In my opinion, this is a device that was designed for a problem that doesn’t exist. It looks cute but there’s really no point in getting it.

Design in North Korea

A while back, I came across an article titled “An Introduction to North Korean Design” which summarizes a book that recently came out discussing graphic design in North Korea. The book, Made in North Korea, is a look into the secretive world of package design in the authoritarian Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

One thing that I found interesting is that product package design in the DPRK is almost completely functional. Oftentimes there is a picture of the food contained inside the package and then a label in both Korean and English. Unlike in capitalist countries, the packaging is not designed to imply that one product is better than the competitor’s. There are English labels because of the relatively large amount of English speaking tourists that visit North Korea. In classic North Korean fashion, there is still anti-American messages on the labels of some products. Here is a sample of images from the book. For more pictures and to learn more about the graphic design industry in North Korea, go to the original article.