When David Ryd '17 decided to apply to design schools for college, he soon realized that he needed to assemble a portfolio in order to showcase his potential as a product designer. The best way to do that, he determined, was to undertake a design-and-build project and document every step of the process from concept to completion. During the winter and spring semesters, David spent many after-school hours in Blair's Park Street maker space working on his original concept for an oversized deck chair; as graduation approached, he happily deemed his prototype a success.
"Design schools want to see how you think and how you deal with problems that come up when you take an idea and try to actually build it," David said. His mom having recently started a furniture manufacturing business, he knew he'd focus his efforts on furniture, and he shared a few sketches of deck chairs with her. "She only liked one," David said with a grin, and that's the chair he chose to build.
David had invested time in online research before he began sketching, and the work of the late American woodworker, architect and furniture maker, George Nakashima, influenced his design. Mr. Nakashima is known as a father of the American craft movement in furniture, and David liked his use of natural woods and the way he connected joints—he kept these points in mind as the project progressed.
Making use of all the resources available to him in the maker space—including a 3D printer, power and hand tools, and the guidance of technology teacher Michael Garrant—David set to work on his chair prototype in January. He taught himself how to use Google SketchUp ("it took a long time!") and printed three prototypes of his chair on the 3D printer, refining his design with each iteration.
Then he and Mr. Garrant were off to the lumberyard in Blairstown. "Being able to see and touch the actual stock lumber gave David some insight as to the constraints he would have to deal with when selecting materials," Mr. Garrant said. When David realized that the store did not stock the oversized wood he needed to build an oversized chair, it was back to the drawing board to re-scale the chair to half-size. When the wood was finally in hand, it was time to machine the pieces and put them together.
As challenges cropped up, David developed workarounds and tried new approaches, including changing from a glue-and-nails joining process to using more aesthetically pleasing dowels, at Mr. Garrant's suggestion. He documented his work throughout the process, and as a finishing touch, he purchased another student's original artwork—a depiction of a snake—and with the help of photography teacher Tyson Trish, he learned how to use InPhoto to print photos on wood to decorate the chair.
Pleased with the outcome of his unique chair prototype, David counts his in-depth knowledge of 3D design programs as a key takeaway of his time spent in the maker space, confident that the future of design work will be in the 3D realm. "Experiencing the entire process was very important, too," he reflected. "It was similar to the progression that takes place in a real furniture business: You start with an idea, get the right materials, fix things when they go wrong, change your design if needed."
Mr. Garrant noted that throughout the winter and spring, David was focused to realize his vision for the project. "He encountered various obstacles and surprises that did not deter him—in the end, he was quite happy with the process and the results."
With an eye to his future in product design, David is planning to take courses in design and architecture next year to deepen his knowledge of the field in which he is keenly interested before heading to college in fall 2018. He is also looking forward to crafting a full-size version of the deck chair in his home workshop in Sweden.