Physical making is gaining a foothold at more and more companies around the world, despite design work becoming increasingly digital and screen based. The Facebook Analog Research Lab, Nike Blue Ribbon Studio, and IBM Make Lab are just a few of many spaces exploring what it means to make at work, from letterpress to woodworking, soldering to screen printing, and more. But are these spaces a distraction from building better digital products, or can they help us exercise our creative muscles and ultimately lead to product innovation?
In a panel discussion, Patrick Chew, Alexandra Williams, Ryan Noon, and Tim Belonax share some best practices learned while building and using these spaces, including how and where to start, how to justify and prove value, and how to build a sustainable practice of making no matter the size of your company. Along the way, they highlight the differences in their respective spaces, budgets, and capabilities and explore some of their notable successes and failures.
Patrick Chew, better known as PChew, is a software product designer at IBM in Austin, Texas. By day, he works on designing software products for the rapidly changing cybersecurity industry. By night, he runs his passion project: the IBM Make Lab, an internal maker space on IBM’s Austin campus open for any IBMer to use. As one of the first 100 designers hired by IBM, Patrick has been actively involved in shaping the culture of its very young design practice by helping to mentor and educate new designers. Patrick has designed for companies both big and small, from verynice, a tiny social good design firm in LA, to Nike. He was a SXSW interactive mentor in 2016. Patrick holds an award from HOW design magazine, a patent, and a mean table tennis forehand.
Alexandra Jane Williams is a bookbinder, artist, and producer based in San Francisco. She currently works in the Art department on Airbnb’s Superbrand Marketing team and also cofounded and runs the Common Studio, an internal makerspace dedicated to getting people away from their computers and cultivating creative experimentation and wellness. Alexandra also maintains an art/bookbinding practice and is the founder of Triangle House. Most recently, she’s turned part of her personal studio space, located in the Bayview district of San Francisco, into a multi-use gallery and workshop space. In collaboration with long-time friend Ava Sayaka Rosen, Alexandra has founded Open Windows, which seeks to empower underrepresented voices by providing a flexible space for them to learn letterpress/bookbinding and show their work in the gallery. She is a lover of music, books, and outdoor space and cannot live without frequent immersion in the Pacific Ocean.
A designer and multimedia artist based in Portland, Oregon, Ryan Noon is the director for Blue Ribbon Studio and the BRS Academy, Nike Design’s concept makerspace for all things experimentation, learning, craft, and connection. Ryan was born in New England between mountains, the ocean, and big cities. Previously, Ryan spent 10 years in Europe, studying at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design before working at Alexander McQueen, Henrik Vibskov, and Nike—where he developed and started the Nike Tight of the Moment program, designed graphics for tennis players, and ran the Nike trend research council—and running his own label, Ryan Noon, as part of London Fashion Week. Ryan has been a visiting lecturer at Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion and is currently a senior lecturer at Cavendish College. He is also a practicing artist making wearable objects and curating community experiences. Ryan serves on the executive board of directors for Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA).
Tim Belonax works on the Brand Design team at Pinterest in San Francisco. Previously, Tim worked on Airbnb’s Superbrand team and Facebook’s Communication Design and Analog Lab teams, where he helped establish maker spaces in both companies, and he was the principal designer at Facebook’s Analog Research Lab, a printshop inside Facebook HQ. Tim teaches graphic design at California College of the Arts, is a board member for the San Francisco Center for the Book, and was previously the social impact cochair for AIGA San Francisco. He holds awards from the Type Director’s Club, Art Director’s Club, AIGA, Print Magazine, Graphis, and more. Tim has spoken for AIGA Alaska, DSVC, AIGA Austin, AIGASF Portfolio Day, HOW Chicago 2015, Uconn Convocation 2015, and HOW Design Live 2016. He holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. His bookshelves are organized by color.
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