As Hand-Eye Supply Curiosity Club quickly approaches, we thought we'd give you a little insight in to our speaker, Chris Hoffman, and his RYNO: an innovative self-balancing, one wheel, electric scooter. Chris will be speaking next Tuesday, May 31st at the Hand-Eye Supply store in Portland at 6PM.
Curiosity Club: As designer and engineer you specialize in two fields that can at times be at odds in the product development process. Do you have advice for designers and engineers on how to communicate ideas, inspiration and practicality?
Chris Hoffman: Not sure what "fields" means in this context but if you're talking about design attributes that are at odds they might be:
a) Simplicity as opposed to useless complexity
b) Usefulness as to cost of manufacturing that feature
c) Visible quality as to real longevity
Regardless, before you start any design project you have to start with refining why you're designing the product. How does it align with projecting the culture of the brand and how will the product compete in the market based on what features. This all has to be identified before you start the design. Otherwise there is no way to know how to tell the story. Remember, everything we buy has to entertain us, connect us to a peer group, display our position in that group and make us feel like we made the right purchase choice long before we look at the real features of the product.
Are there any specific tools that you consistently use in your work? Are there any rare, unique or otherwise specialized tools that you find indispensable?
Tools come and go, evolve, change and have to be discarded sometimes to make room for new tools. All I have is an old HP 11C calculator that I can't think without and an expensive Mitutoyo 6 digital caliper I trust.
Can you speak about the evolution of your processes as an engineer and designer mentioning specific milestones (past and forthcoming)?
a) Spent 15 years in the auto industry as a machine designer and component part designer learned a lot about designing for manufacturability.
b) Spent 5 years designing consumer products listened to sales guys tell me what products should look like.
c) Spent 3 years in a skunkworks-like R&D lab learning how to think differently about design.
d) Discovered I had it all wrong and started on a path to get out of my head in into my body. Ditched my ego and started really listening.
e) Got really good at being honest with myself and the people around me, developed a style of looking how to kill an idea as soon as possible, learned to see risk of failure before it killed me. I put up my own road blocks and then challenged myself to figure out how to get around them. If I could get around them I would keep going. I rarely hit a challenge I didn't see coming.
f) Prototype often and as fast as possible
What's the one thing you never leave home without, and why?
My cell phone because I have access to a lot of people.
Are there any resources or links you'd like to share?