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Sunday, 29 March 2015 22:00

Q&A: Tucker Viemeister, founder, Viemeister Industries

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Tucker Viemeister, Viemeister Industries Tucker Viemeister, Viemeister Industries COURTESY PHOTO

Tucker Viemeister was born of industrial design. His father, industrial designer Read Viemeister, named his son after the vehicle he was designing, the 1948 Tucker Sedan. Since growing up in the industry, Viemeister went on to found national design firms including Smart Design, frogdesign NY and others. He was also responsible for designing the OXO Good Grips line of kitchenware. Viemeister will be speaking on April 7 during West Michigan Design Week. Prior to the talk, Viemeister spoke with MiBiz about the future of the industrial design field and his career.

Throughout your career, what is one of your best takeaways from the design field?

I think design is the most important thing there is to humans. It’s hard to think of what the best takeaway from that is. I think design is the constellation of things that make humans different than other animals. Planning, thinking, making — all of those things are what makes us different.

What are your thoughts on a push to recognize design as a more integral step in the manufacturing process?

First of all, it doesn’t cost anyone anything to have good design. But having bad design costs them a lot. It’s such a high reward for an investment. Designers make things that are more appealing to people, more efficient to make and work better. Where’s the question in that?

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. just created the Michigan Design Council to highlight the state’s industrial design capabilities. What do you think the state’s role should be in promoting design?

Basically, design and government are similar things. We’re both trying to make the world better by thinking ahead. They had this program in England where they gave grants to companies that went straight to designers (to develop products). They got a week of design for free. That has a lot of benefits and introduces a lot of companies to design. In general, it raised the level of design in England.

Does design have to be solely business-oriented? Your work seems to have an altruistic component to it.

People have been promoting (that) design is good for business. I think it’s the other way around. Business is the motor for society. It’s not driving us where we want to go. It’s up to someone else to drive. Because it’s about thinking ahead and planning, I think design has a wider view.

What’s an example of that in your work?

(With) Good Grips, basically we tried to design a potato peeler that was good for the elderly or people with arthritis, and we realized that we were basically making something that was better for everyone. The only way to make it economically feasible to the people with arthritis was to sell them to everyone.

Your dad named you after the car he designed, the Tucker 48. How did your childhood shape your career?

Since my dad was an industrial designer, I thought it seemed like an obvious occupation because he was having such a great time, doing great things and making the world better. I never thought about what career path I should take. It was just there. I had realized at some point it would be a good idea to study industrial design … instead of assuming I knew how to do it.

How did you find success in your later career?

Careers have a lot to do with luck and how good you use those opportunities. You get a job someplace and either you can make it great or not. I was lucky because a lot of the jobs were great opportunities. I just happened to meet Davin Stowell at a party and we hit it off and started working together. That partnership grew into Smart Design, one of the biggest design companies in the U.S. now.

What do you plan to talk about at West Michigan Design Week?

I’m interested in how the design process and progressive education pedagogy are similar. I hate the fact that designers think they’re doing something brand new or that educators are complaining because their process can be applied to other things. I think it’s interesting that both of these things are very similar and that designers can learn a lot through project-based learning — and that educators can use a little more design in their work to do better, too.

Interview conducted and condensed by John Wiegand. 

Read 1671 times Last modified on Monday, 30 March 2015 15:47

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