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MICHAEL DI TULLO

Most people will never own a Picasso. They probably won't look at an  Agnes Martin daily. They might not purchase a Brancusi sculpture for the living room, or live in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. On the other hand, they most likely will wake up to look at their alarm clock each morning, drive their car to and from work, and look at their watch countless times. It is easy to underestimate the impact of interacting with these objects. They are part of our daily routines. It is all too easy to discount them as mere products.

A person strapping on their watch, glancing at it throughout the day, every day, possibly for a period of years, has the opportunity to come to know it on an intimate level. It could be the last thing this person sees before drifting to sleep at night and the first thing they see in the morning. This person will know every line, every detail, every nuance of colour and shape, even if only on a subconscious level.

From the standpoint of a designer, this is an opportunity to provide people with something above and beyond an object that performs a simple function. It is an chance to give them a work of art. A work of art that they personally interact with every day. A work that people take notice of and admire, or one that blends into the surroundings and makes its statement with a whisper. A work that is a sculptural marvel and technical feat, or one that performs a function with such clean simplicity it takes on an elegance of its own. A work of art that can stimulate every sense, based on the desire of its
designers.

In this way an object's form takes on a function of its own. The form of a product transcends styling and becomes the manifestation of an idea. The form is a medium that melds functionless sculpture and sculptureless function into a unified whole creating something entirely different. Creating a piece of art for everyone. Creating a well designed product.

For me this train of thought quickly became the way I designed after I graduated from the Rhode Island school of design. I had the opportunity to not only go to RISD, which was a very conceptual school, but also to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art which was a school very grounded in getting designers ready for the real world. I also spent a summer studying in Milan. After graduation I had some time while I was struggling to find a job to synthesize all of these diverse ways of designing into a cohesive middle ground. Ironically the founders of our profession thought much the same way. It was always Raymond Loewy’s philosophy to push the consumer as much as he possibly could, while still selling products. Riding this fine line of mass produced great design is very difficult, I wish I could say I achieve the balance all of the time, or even regularly, but it is always my goal.

I freelanced for six months with various transportation and product design firms before I finally landed at a top notch US design consulting firm for five years, Evo design. There I got to see first hand what happens when corporations did not understand this philosophy. As a team we where committed to doing not just good, but great design. Unfortunately our clients did not always see the difference, and preferred to create low end appliance products. Products that made no lasting impression on the consumer. Unfortunately not only is the result bland design, but also a flawed business strategy that unravels as soon as another manufacturer can produce something similar at a more inexpensive price.

During my five years at Evo I did get to work with some really fantastic clients like Chantal Cookware, Nike, Burton Snowboards, and Bose, who really understood design and what it could do for them. It was working on this team, led by Evo design director, Aaron Szymanski, that my real education began as I learned to put theory into practice. Aaron taught me to turn the big talk into design.

The one client that always stood out the most to me at Evo was Nike. Not only did they understand design, but they did their best to understand people. Not as walking wallets that just happen to purchase products, but as real people with lives, aspirations, and goals. I moved to working fulltime for Nike in 2003 and spent two years in the newly formed lifestyle division. There I began to understand the true complexity of footwear. Designing footwear is particularly challenging as we are always balancing seemingly contradictory factors. Fashion and Ergonomics. State of the art injection molding, with hand sewn leathers.

After working on the Nike side of the business for two years doing mostly limited release boutique products, I was fortunate enough to be asked to move over to the Jordan Brand as only the 14th designer ever in our 21 year history. In the Jordan studio we have a tight team of 5 designers directed under the expert mentorship D’Wayne Edwards, that works on all products. Since I’ve been in JB I have worked on signature athlete product, performance basketball product, lifestyle shoes and boots, as well as women’s product. We have an extremely small seasonal collection so each product is loved to as close to perfection as we can get them. We don¹t have the luxury not to do this. Our consumer is eagerly awaiting our products and is lined up for blocks on launch dates. To let them down would be a personal failure to all of us. Since I have been in Jordan I have also been able to collaborate with our Watch, Bag, and Apparel design teams to help bring a diverse array of products to market.

Being a designer for Jordan has been something of a lifelong aspiration and I never thought I would achieve it so young. As a kid, Air Jordan's and Cars are what turned me onto design. Seeing the newest Jordan's drop or going to the NY auto show as a kid, I just new there had to be a job that included “drawing stuff from the future”, as my 14 year old self called it. Now my whole goal is to try to inspire other punk kids to see that same inspiration....

page last updated; 2014-06-15
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