Ian Murchison on wooden knives and bendy bicycle racks

This Canadian industrial designer talks about finding the freedom to develop products that question everyday perceptions.

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“There is a huge focus on technology and electronics in America. I want to explore something different instead,” says Ian Murchison. After graduating from Carleton University in 2010, Murchison worked as an industrial designer at Blackberry before starting up his own design studio in Ottawa, Canada.

At Blackberry, Murchison designed accessories, developed over 50 products and worked on over 250 patented designs. He left to set up his studio, The Federal Inc, in his hometown, Ottawa. “Rather than moving to a different position at Blackberry, I thought it was time to start something on my own,” he explains.

Through The Federal Inc, Murchison, explores a wide range of ventures in design, development, manufacturing and marketing. Working out of HUB Ottawa, a global network of co-working spaces, the studio concentrates on challenging people to rethink the way they look at everyday products. 

“At Federal Inc we have the traditional client and consultancy side of things but we make sure that we maintain a creative stream for our employees to experiment and try new things without a project brief,” says Murchison.

Murchison takes an experimental approach in his work, preferring to test new and totally different product forms and try out various materials.

A lot of what we do, while we may be playing with materials and infusing them into different product categories, is asking people to rethink the way they perceive products, says Murchison.

A good example is his Maple Set of knives, which won the Red Dot Best of the Best Award in 2013. Rather than using the conventionally large blade of most kitchen knives, Murchison distilled its function down to a thin metal blade; most of the object is made up of a maple wood frame.

The recent design of a quirky bicycle rack came about when Murchison wanted to experiment with rubber. The final product is a flexible, non-scratch bicycle rack that adds an element of fun to city streets.

For the future, Murchison says he is looking forward to how his company will develop over time, experimenting with materials and developing new product categories.