24/7 Design with Colin Francis

Design passion is when design is both your day job and your after hours hobby.

By day, Colin is a Product Designer.  Outside of work his occupation is never far away, but in a very dissimilar way to the mass production clockwork.  When it comes to making stuff, his creative background isn’t exactly glue and popsicle sticks.  Working for a large kitchen gadget manufacturer that creates mass-consumer products, Colin gets a serious daily dose of 3D printing and dealing with factories for mass manufacturing.  In his spare time, his design persona is entirely different.  Getting to design his OWN products, means the focus shifts to small scale, on demand fabrication, variety of [non-plastic] materials, and often, quite involved artisan finishing.

Colin’s designs have a strong overall graphic element and feature a clear emphasis on form using two-dimensional laser cut shapes.  The laser cut products range from the Cuffmodern leather jewelry to homeware, such as clocks and vases made from bamboo. When it comes to his own designs, Colin prefers materials that age well: leather, brass, bamboo and wood.  Time permitting, CNC routing is the next fabbing process to experiment with in the near future.

The slot-together homeware products are designed to require minimal finishing.  The dyeing of the leather jewelry is more intensive in that regard, and Colin considers this part to be a soothing, hands on past time of tactile engagement, contrasted with the daily grind of eye watering digital work.  The therapy of using hands on something other than the keyboard is something many makers can relate to.

More from Colin after the jump:

Where are you based? I am based in Beacon, NY, which is a vibrant little Hudson Valley town about 60 miles north of New York City.  It is home to the DIA Contemporary Art Museum, which is one of the largest of it’s kind in the country.  My wife and I just moved up here about a year ago from Brooklyn, NY.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy a circa-1900 Victorian House for the price of a 1-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

How would you describe your creative process? I typically start with a pencil and sketchbook – just to rough out an initial concept.  It may be a few days or a few months before I revisit that concept.  So getting ideas down on paper, even in a rough form, is critical.I am most comfortable with SolidWorks 3D CAD software, so that is typically the next step.  Having worked with this software for 15 years, this is a natural extension of my creative and problem-solving process.  At some point, I then get to refining the data in Adobe Illustrator, to get ready to ship off to Ponoko.

Have you been surprised by anything in the PF process? I have been surprised by the speed, consistency, and reasonable pricing of the Ponoko Process.  I just can’t get predictable and cost-effective results from local Lasercutting shops I have tried.

Do you have any tips for other makers? Prototype and automate as best you can.  If possible, develop your prototypes with alternate fitment options in one build.  Document your process – record your findings in a clear, concise, and consistent manner.  When you revisit that project in a few months time, it will be that much easier to get back on track.

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