Industrial Design at Dow Corning

(Via Plastics News and Core 77)

In the next installment of Plastics News’ By Design series, Robert Grace looks at how design-thinking can transform a company that is known for its technical and scientific prowess, but which was essentially clueless when it came to industrial design. Four years ago, Chip Reeves became Dow Corning’s director of design and discovery. Reeves is not a designer, but has immersed himself in that world since his employer recognized it had a problem making its materials accessible to those who might use them.

To “internalize design,” the firm hired its first industrial designer, ex-Head of Design at Rubbermaid Kevin Shinn, who then found himself the sole designer in a culture of engineers and chemists in white lab coats. But what he saw was a fantastic opportunity. The company also began promoting its Discovery Kits:

It’s a physical kit that contains a number of different kinds of items to explore and learn about various materials. The purpose is to tell stories.

The kit is still in the development stage, but Kevin is looking for your input. The aim is to inform and to stimulate dialogue with designers. The text in the information cards refers only to generic material types, such as “silicone-modified thermoplastic.” There is no mention of brand names–a refreshing change for the heavily-branded samples we’re used to.

There’s several articles worth a read here that touch on Chip’s and Kevin’s thoughts about the role of design at Dow Corning. According to Reeves, they’ve found it is extremely rewarding when someone suddenly “gets it,” thereby opening the door a whole new world of product and market possibilities.

[Core77 article]

[Plastics News article including a video from IDSA’s international conference in Miami this past summer]

[Interview of Chip Reeves by Chris Lefteri of Ingredients]

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