Ian Murchison: Rethinking the perception of products

In this interview, industrial designer Ian Murchison talks about how he explores materials to challenge perceptions about what products should look like.
Posted 16 Jun 14 By Design Indaba Duration: 00:04:13 Industrial DesignProduct Design Interviews / Video Interviews Comments

From the Series

For industrial designer Ian Murchison, working without a client's brief has given him the freedom to reimagine everyday products.

The Federal Inc., the Ottawa-based studio he co-founded, is split into two parts: one half operates as a traditional client consultancy while the other is an experimental space where they work on their own brand of products.

This allows them to explore different ideas, materials and forms free from a project brief or client demands.

One of their most exciting products, Maple Set, earned The Federal Inc. the title of ‘Best of the Best’ Red Dot Award: Design Concept in 2013.

"We tried to figure out what people thought about when they use their knives," he says. It turns out they think about the function. “So we distilled the function down to the small blade portion of the knife and paired it with a nice contrasting Maple hardwood. What the product does is really challenge people to rethink the way they perceive these kinds of product.”

Another of their projects evolved out of a material exploration. "We started out with the idea of wanting to use rubber," he says. "We didn’t know what kind of rubber or how we were going to use it. But we looked for industries and applications where the use of rubber didn’t exist and we tried to figure out why the rubber wasn’t used in those industries."

The result is a design for a bike rack. They found that not only could rubber do what current bike racks were doing, it was safer as it doesn’t scratch the bike and it's flexibility allowed for more customisation.

Murchison is interested in seeing how the duality of their business evolves over time and whether one side will become more dominant. For now he relishes the ability to have one foot in each camp.

His advice to other young designers?

Allow yourself to try anything. Try not to pigeonhole yourself into a certain type of product because your design capabilities can be spread out across so many products categories – just reach out and try new things.