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Luke Pfost
IDA 2022 Product Designer of the Year

 

View the Winning Entry by Luke Pfost

 

Tell us about your definition of design?

In my field there has been a long standing vagueness of what Industrial Design is. I recently read an article where Industrial Designer Hans R. said “Industrial Design is the interface between creating functional products and understanding human psychology” I think that perfectly summarizes it in a distinguished way. Both of these attributes are critical.

What do you see as the strengths of your IDA winning project ‘MC2’ and what does winning ‘IDA 2022 Product Designer of the Year’ mean to you personally?

MC2 represents a pairing of amazing technology with usability. This effort took a tremendous amount of teamwork in a short timeframe to develop a first-of-its-kind product. We have a company with people from varying backgrounds, fields of expertise, and capability, and what ties it together is the teamwork that enabled us to get the job done. For me this is one of the first products where I have significant ownership and have been able to pour my passion into. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of this project and to receive such high praise is a testament to this great company and all of the people who made it possible.

What are your guiding design principles?

Immersion, exploration, and ‘Aha! moments’. Each project you begin is like a new language and culture that you know little about. Understanding all stakeholder needs (Users, Regulatory, Engineers, Manufacturers, etc.) and validating your understanding of them through design concepts and prototypes is like practicing a new language. Once you have set that foundation you begin to see all of the opportunities and really beautiful, simple solutions that your subconscious has been piecing together creating the “Aha! moment’ which allows you to speak fluently with design.

Do you see design an expression of art?

I grew up taking art classes and training in many classical art mediums. At the same time I was designing products with little sketches and mockups. I distinguish these two from each other. I see art as an expression of emotion and ideas, whereas design is an intentional process of creating a solution or service for a problem. Many times design utilizes art to enhance a solution or service but the intent is what sets it apart.

Is design for you a creation of an individual or a group?

Design is and always has been a community activity for me. The best ideas are enhanced in collaboration with others. Everyone brings their own unique understanding of the world and their experiences that together unveil opportunities that no single mind can accomplish. In my own practice I try to foster this collaboration through inclusion in the design process – asking questions, listening and bouncing ideas off colleagues, rather than keeping development siloed.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you develop a passion for design?

I am passionately interested with the way things work coupled with a deep dissatisfaction with unpleasant experiences/environments. As a small child I took apart everything I got my hands on, from lawn mowers to computers. I always wanted to know what was beneath the surface that made products function. My favorite book, and one I recommend as a child’s introduction to design thinking, is “The Way Things Work” by David Macaulay and Neil Ardley. From there came drawing, lego and my father’s tool chest. The world is full of problems. I grew up around many problems and I was left in some ways to solve them for myself. Today I am still a problem solver and I believe good design can alleviate most of the world’s problems allowing people to live happier, more successful lives, in ways that people want to participate.

Is there a product that you wished you had designed?

I have an interest in 80s automotive design. Vehicles from that period had such flair and character with a wide spread of unique looks, yet primitive manufacturing methods in comparison with today’s capabilities. I own a vintage guards red Porsche 944 from the era, which has been a restoration project of mine. To be a part of the design team that developed that car would have been a dream. It combines looks, user experience, and engineering in a way that has a lot of soul.

What would be your dream design project?

I want to develop a product that empowers people and provides them with a tool that they can build a better life from. So many products take from a user, or feed on a person as if they are the product themselves. I want to do the opposite and make something that gives back for generations. I have a few products in the pipeline, some big and some small. The dream would be to get to the big ones because I think it could make the most impact.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? What piece of information is of utmost value?

Understanding the problem. So many products exist as bandaids to problems that exist upstream. The best solutions with the most powerful outcomes take deep understanding about why the problem is occurring and what opportunities there are to solve it. OXOS Medical was really founded on this mindset. The problem being that practitioners need to see anatomy. Reducing all of the third parties that have been in between the practitioner and radiographic diagnostics is really a success which empowers users, instills confidence in patients, expands capability, and reduces overheads for healthcare as a whole.

Tell us about a time when a client disliked your work?

I worked at a design firm in the early stages of my career and one of the biggest challenges was managing client expectations. I was designing a portable hand washing system and the product came together beautifully but we had delays on sourcing wipes that met the client’s needs. One day the client blew up in my face over their assumption that we had manufacturers from the start who could make custom hand wipes. (Something that I assume got lost in the sales discussions). After a solid lunch break at the driving range and a good IPA It forced me to start thinking far beyond the idea of design, and the assumption that users are the only stakeholders I needed to pay attention to. The early stages of a project where scopes are being defined are only as good as the understanding of what is feasible, and this is where I work to educate myself for both the client and the engineering teams’ benefit, leading to more successful projects with less friction.

What are you working on, what is in the pipeline for you?

OXOS is really pioneering an incredible lineup of products, services and accessories so I am excited to be a part of that and watch the company grow. Outside of that I have many personal projects that keep me busy. I am remodelling my first house on my own and doing a lot of interior designing, plumbing, electrical work, etc. I find learning and working in different fields is a great way to reinvigorate your mind while getting to practice design as a whole.

What do you see as the future of design?

I see space. It will come sooner than we think and the environment outside of earth will make up a much larger portion of the overall products being designed and developed. I always joke around with my friend and fellow designer Corey Vaughan who pointed this stark idea out to me. I hope I have the opportunity to work on products for that era but I might need to start now.