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Interview with Erik Christopher DeMelo

Home > Designer Interviews > Erik Christopher DeMelo

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Erik Christopher DeMelo (ECD) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Erik Christopher DeMelo by clicking here.

Interview with Erik Christopher DeMelo at Monday 24th of April 2017

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
ECD: I began my study of fine art in La Guardia high school in New York City at the age of 16. At that time I also had a love for building and engineering. Industrial design seemed to be a natural choice for me, combining both design and engineering disciplines. I applied and got accepted into Rhode Island School of Design in Rhode Island, USA. Once I began my courses in industrial design department, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
ECD: Ivan Leathercraft Co., LTD was founded in 1980, the company has been serving the needs of leather crafters around the globe for 37 years providing a wide range of products, fresh designs, innovative tools and machinery. Ivan Leathercraft Co., Ltd. is the brainchild of a leathercraft initiative led by Mrs. Szu-Ti Feng, the creative director and Mr. Hsiu-Keen Chen, the president of the firm. Thanks to Mrs. Feng’s long-standing craftsmanship know-how and Mr. Chen’s exceptional experience in the product development field and his business acumen, together they managed to bring to life a successful enterprise that has turned the Taiwan-based company into an industry leading and globally recognized leathercraft brand and manufacturer. The company specializes in product innovation of hand tools, buckles, conchos and other accessories to be mainly used in the small leather goods and Do-It-Yourself leathercraft sectors. Carrying over 100,000 items and exporting to more than 80 countries worldwide, Ivan Leathercraft is one of the world’s largest leathercraft suppliers. Since 2010, the company has also entered into the retail market in Taiwan that has grown steadily over the years, with 3 stores in Taiwan island-wide and 1 store in Hong Kong. Ivan Leathercraft is committed to the sustainability of our environment by ever improving the use of materials and our manufacturing processes. Since 2011, we began the process of switching our buckle and concho production to use lead-free materials, and for new items that require plating, we only use environmentally responsible plating processes.

FS: What is "design" for you?
ECD: Design is the combination of form and function which is harmoniously fused into an object.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
ECD: Tools happen to be my favorite thing to work on.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
ECD: This is an difficult question to answer in part because I don't have any one thing in particular in mind.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
ECD: The first product I designed was a blood glucose monitor while I was interning at AgaMatrix, a Boston company that specializes in innovative solutions in diabetes care.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
ECD: I enjoy working with steel but I also have extensive experience in other materials such as wood and plastics.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
ECD: Usually in the morning.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
ECD: Concept and engineering phases.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
ECD: It depends. Especially when deadlines are tight you can have intense feelings of anxiety and stress to get the outcome you envision. The opposite is true when you have a strong concept, a well planned execution strategy and time on your side. At times like this, it is a pleasant and enjoyable state of affairs.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
ECD: Happiness and satisfaction.

FS: What makes a design successful?
ECD: Designs that are successful to me are those that meet the needs of users, as well as brings them delight.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
ECD: There are a lot of designs that look amazing but it does not necessarily make them good designs. How it works and the user interface are vital aspects to consider. Good designs happen when all parts and experiences deliver.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
ECD: Stewardship and preservation are really the responsibilities of all of us. It's tricky though as the world testifies against mans pursuits in both the societal and environmental realm though not totally. My approach is to make great products that have timelessness and durability at their core.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
ECD: The design field is so broad now and has so many facets it's mind boggling. Compound that with constant changes in technology, tools and capabilities it can truly overwhelm someone. I believe designers will need to have a pretty broad spectrum and a systematic mentality when they are faced with problems or challenges. That has always been the case, but technology is blurring the lines between what once was impossible to now which it's not only possible its probable.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
ECD: My last exhibition took place at the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, USA in 2005.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
ECD: I use digital content all the time from design blogs, Pinterest etc... I like building and fixing things so a lot of inspiration comes from how others solve people's problems in our built environment.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
ECD: Simple, honest and timeless are words I would use to describe my approach. I can't say I adhere to a certain design style. Though I do love and have a deep appreciation for certain ones.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
ECD: I currently live in Taiwan with my wife and daughter. I am a native New Yorker and have very much an american approach to my designs. That means they need to be beneficial at the right price for the intended audience.

FS: How do you work with companies?
ECD: Carefully and set realistic expectations and deliverables.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
ECD: Companies should know that designers are really a very technical and skilled advocate for the end users and ultimately want to give the users the best experience possible. That is great but realize that this is a very tricky balancing act which I am sure Steve Jobs could tell you has incredible rewards or failures all baked in. Ultimately you need to make sure the designer understands the big picture. Sometimes the big picture is not to make the best product, rather the needs to fill a certain void. When selecting a designer it's important to get one with the most appropriate personality and skill set that can thrive in you company environment.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
ECD: My design process is most likely similar to all other designers because quite frankly it works. Research, concept development, evaluation that inevitably goes back and forth a number of times. Also a good idea is talking with factories early on. Chances are if you think something might be hard to make or expensive then it probably is and need to know fast so you don't waste time. Also some makers can give you good ideas if you have a good relationship with them.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
ECD: I love my bike, Sonos, iPad Pro, DWR cross extension table, Eames lounge chair.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
ECD: Hectic. I am responsible for all internally designed products, engineering and have to see it through production. I also travel a lot and have to manage what customer wants and their expectations. Everybody wanted everything yesterday mentality is what I get a lot of. I am totally convinced most people think things just fall out of the sky and exist.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
ECD: Well first and for most I am a Christian and completely know that we are created for a purpose and have infinite value in God sight. So much so that God gave us his son not to condemn us but to save us. If you don't think that is important than you have no idea how difficult the life of an artist or designer can be. It is natural for us to equate our worth through our work. But what if you find yourself rejected or contanstly getting laid off? Beside if you derive your worth based on your constant performance you will be miserable. When you should be having fun. After all design really is a great field. If I could give some advice, it would be simply "find out what your strengths are and pitch that to your future employers". You don't have to be prefect because no one is, just do a few thing well and know what they are. Over time your confidence and skill set will grow.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
ECD: We all want to make something that has value, and being a designer certainly lends you that opportunity. Like most things in life the road in the design field is loaded with frustration, set backs and sometimes the massive disappointments. But if you stay the course and you enjoy it, there are great rewards like seeing or hearing people take great delight in using something you've made. Those moments are nice. It's the end users that determine the value of your product, not you.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
ECD: Do not forget the people you are designing for! If they can't use it , can't afford it, or do not want it than it's a failure.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
ECD: Problem solving is important. Knowing how to work through issues and technical set backs can make all the difference. Your tools and how you use those tools are important and are vital assets to get to the end goals. Tools can be learned and everyone will have different mastery of them. What I found harder to learn is critical thinking and having an organized process.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
ECD: Solidworks, Solidworks Composer, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Keyshot, Outlook, Preform and Simply 3D.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
ECD: Yes it absolutely can be. You really need to determine how important something is and how much time and resources it will need to get the task done. I personally like to get rid of the low hang fruit first that can yield results fast. And keep large on going projects simmering and give them focused blocks of time when things free up a bit. It works well but you have to be organized and very strategic.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
ECD: Seriously! It really depends. If you want me to design a tool rack or a piece of machinery you are going to get two very different answers. Also it depends on how big your team is and who is in it. For some thing simple I can design it in a week or two with technical drawings and have a 3D sample in hand. Unfortunately, not everything designers work on has the luxury of time in your favor. In general, better results are begotten the more time you spend on them and having a clear direction and parameters help speed things up. It's also important to know when and what projects need time to work through and those that do not.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
ECD: The main question that inadvertently comes up everytime I am asked about my profession is what products do you design?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
ECD: I have had the opportunity to have many great job experiences. In both design and non design related fields. All the experiences have helped me get to where I am today.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
ECD: Tandy Leather is one of the important customers we support.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
ECD: Personally I love the challenge and the trouble shooting it takes to make great products. I am a systems kinda of guy, so a variety of large and smaller projects mixed in is fun. My favorite part is the concept development and engineering parts, and the back and forth it usually takes to get the project to the next level. I spend a great deal of time working in 3D environments and running round to factories all over Asia.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
ECD: I work as the director of product design for Ivan leathercraft which is our family business. There are so many projects and things that require my attention that I will be in this for the foreseeable future.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
ECD: While I enjoy team projects, lately I have been running a lot of solo projects that needed my attention in the office.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
ECD: Not at this time.

FS: How can people contact you?
ECD: Email is the best way to reach me.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
ECD: No


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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