By Karl DehnPresident & CEO, Battle Creek Unlimited
As a writer, I’ve been in this business long enough to know that my byline has not lured you, the reader, into this story. You’ve likely started reading this story for a range of reasons. Maybe the bold headline drew you in, or perhaps a piece of artwork enticed you to pause on this page.
The broad capabilities of West Michigan’s design community help bolster the region’s economic resilience and strengthen its manufacturing sector.
An independent graphic designer, Jason Six joined the ranks of Grand Rapids’ growing design community after a stint in the United States Air Force. He earned his graphic design degree from Grand Valley State University, but he got his experience in design at local firms Peopledesign and Highland Group, where he worked on campaigns for Guilford of Maine and izzy+.
Exposed to design at an early age, Joey Ruiter is an independent industrial designer whose clients include Nucraft Furniture Company and izzy+. Ruiter cut his teeth working on engines in his garage before attending Ferris State’s Kendall College of Art and Design, where he discovered industrial design and product development. Ruiter’s designs have won awards at trade shows such as NeoCon and have been featured in the New York Times.
When Mark Tanis founded Holland-based The Image Group in 1985, he intended it to be a sole-proprietorship, but as the years went by, the company expanded to serve large clients such as Western Michigan University and Metro Health. Now, The Image Group has more than 10 employees and has strong ties to Holland’s freelance talent pool.
A professor at Ferris State’s Kendall College of Art and Design, Dow specializes in teaching graphic design in advertising. During her tenure at KCAD, Dow helped develop the annual New York seminar for graphic design students as well as the college’s new digital media program.
Hernandez first stumbled across industrial design when a friend mentioned that he was looking into the industrial design program at Western Michigan University. Now, Hernandez runs Tiger Studio, a product design firm based in Holland.
GRAND RAPIDS — Businesses want people who can work across disciplines, and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University has a new program aimed at developing multi-talented designers to fit the bill.
Stephanie Elhart is director of communications at NewNorth Center for Design in Business, a nonprofit business and educational organization in Holland. The center offers classes of varying lengths. Twenty percent of participants are designers. The rest want to learn to think like designers to launch new companies or reinvigorate old ones. Elhart, who earned a degree in graphic design from the University of Michigan, worked in marketing, communication and business development services — including at Johnson Controls Inc. and fuel-D — before helping launch NewNorth in 2009. She sees this role as the synthesis of all her prior experiences.
Brad Davis is president of Industrial Woodworking Corporation in Zeeland, but he says he’s first and foremost a designer. He’s designed and redesigned a lot of office and residential furniture, but says these days he’s most excited about the furniture he’s designing under the Knú brand for hospitals. La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture purchased the Knu brand at NeoCon 2011, but it’s all still designed, developed and manufactured at IWC.
Industrial designer Tom Newhouse has been committed to environmentally sensitive design for 40 years — long before the word “sustainability” was coined. Committed to “walking the talk,” Newhouse designed and constructed his own passive solar, earth-sheltered home and studio on Grand Rapids’ west side when he was only 28. He’s been driving hybrids since they came on the market, but is more proud of the fact that his commute to the office is 13 stairs. Newhouse is a frontrunner in West Michigan’s green movement in the areas of office furniture, LED lighting, kitchen cabinetry and appliances.
Joseph Jeup is a craftsman-turned-designer of heirloom-quality modern residential furnishings. About 90 percent of Joseph Jeup Inc.’s made-to-order pieces are purchased for executive homes (think the wealthiest 1 percent). The rest are for lobbies and VIP suites at upscale hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. Many of Jeup’s past designs have been for private labels. This year, he’s expanding his own line as a way to stabilize workflow at his manufacturing facility near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.