About Zach Raven

Zach Raven is an Industrial Designer with more than 12 years of experience, living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Winner of multiple awards, including numerous Best of Neocon awards, A' Design Award, Good Design and Red Dot awards, he is the Owner/CCO of RVNDSGN, a multi-disciplinary design firm focusing on wearable design.

Interview with Zach Raven

Zach Raven ("ZR") interviewed on Monday, 10 September.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

ZR : I received my BFA in Industrial Design in 2007 from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids MI, USA. I've worked for the past 12 years for numerous companies including Steelcase, Honda, Harley Davidson, HNI Furniture and others including many conceptual designs.

How did you become a designer?

ZR : I started my college career in graphic design, I've always had a penchant for art and that seemed like a logical move. After a couple years in school my father took me to a design and engineering firm to talk to me about what they did and I knew that was for me. Kendall College was right up the street, so I applied and started the next fall. I credit my parents for encouraging my artistic endeavors, and my father for teaching me to work with my hands.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

ZR : Every project starts the same way; I review the brief and just start brainstorming which includes sketching and CAD modeling. I like to utilize new technology a lot in designs and jump to CAD quickly. For me, aesthetics, solving the problem and manufacturability are the most important aspects of any design.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

ZR : For me, the best part of a new design is early in the process when the blue sky, sometimes crazy ideas are free flowing. While I always work within the brief, the constraints seem further away in the early weeks of a new project. Sometimes the crazy idea can be molded into something feasible or it might spark a completely new idea. That is exciting.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

ZR : While I was always drawing while growing up, I didn't take a lot of art classes until college. However, in high school and college I worked for my father at his millwork company. Working with my hands with different machinery, tools, and materials really taught me a lot about model making and an appreciation of how things go together.

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

ZR : Right now I am focused on my day job, launching the watch brand, and supporting my wife in her MFA pursuits. I don't know if i really have a 5 year plan or anything, I'd like to focus on the brand I'm trying to build and I'd love to collaborate with my wife on another project. We designed our home together and worked well together.

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

ZR : Design is a "thinking career". It doesn't matter much if someone can sketch better than you, or has been rendering skills. Those can be practiced and perfected (and SHOULD be!). The most important thing is how you think, how you approach a problem and solve it. The sketching and rendering etc, is what will get you in the door, so they are definitely important, but those are tools to explain your thought process and communicate your ideas to get your idea sold.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

ZR : Never be satisfied. A design can always be improved, the key is knowing when the appropriate amount of time has been spent. Don't waste extra time on a poor idea.

What is your day to day look like?

ZR : I start everyday scrolling through a custom RSS feed I have that is mainly design focused, you never know where inspiration will come from. After that each day is different. I could be sitting in meetings all day or behind a computer. Depending on the project, I could be researching as well.

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

ZR : I think keeping up on the trends is very important, and I use a custom RSS feed to read from many different design sites. However interpreting the trends into your own voice and designing something timeless is much better than something trendy.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

ZR : Sometimes you can just feel that something is right. I've worked on a couple recent projects that from initial concept to final product, didn't change much at all. To me that shows the thought was on target and we had the resources (engineering, manufacturing, marketing) we needed to realize the product. Everything lined up. It's cliche, but I really like Dieter Rams 10 Principles. A beautiful product that solves a problem or is new or useful in some way is a good design in my eyes.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

ZR : Usually the timeline the product is on is what defines when the design is done. If its a specular or open ended product sometimes its nice to let it sit for a while so I can work on something else and come back later. Sometimes a little time away can help work through an issue, or improve a design.

What is your biggest design work?

ZR : I've worked on many multi-year projects, but I think the largest project I've worked on was my personal home. My wife and I designed our home together over many years. We started with tons of inspirational images and research, sketched and modeled a number of ideas, and when we were ready, we hired a builder and bounced some of our ideas off him. It was a process of honing down and refining, and in the end, we couldn't be happier.

Who is your favourite designer?

ZR : Some of my favorite designers would be Patricia Urquiola, Marc Newson, Yves Behar, Konstantin Grcic. Johny Ive is probably the most influential in the past 20 years, especially to students.

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

ZR : I love our home town of Grand Rapids Michigan. It's the second largest city in Michigan, but it isn't large like Chicago for example. It has everything we could want and its very accessible and progressive. It's also home to ArtPrize, which is the worlds largest art competition I believe.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

ZR : Working alone can be lonely. I always like the collaborative process. Good ideas can come from anywhere so having others around is very beneficial. Culture is also super important. Having the right people makes all the difference.

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

ZR : I've done lots of small design projects for individuals or small companies. Most recently I helped develop a website for a nonprofit.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

ZR : The recognition from winning a competition is always nice. In today's world seemingly run by social media, breaking into that scene and getting your name out there could be very helpful for a new brand. Being selected as Designer of the Day would magnify that potential.

Zach Raven Profile

Model 1 Timepiece

Model 1 Timepiece design by Zach Raven


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