Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Trevor D. Hirschi ("TDH") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.
TDH : I grew up interested in engineering and making things, and in high school explored arts, automotive, and mechanical based classes that brought me to enjoy mechanics, mechanical engineering, and design. I eventually completed training in machining technology where I found a great love for creating things. This opened the door to my design experience where I was introduced to the CAD/CAM software used in industry to build the world around us. I worked in a machine shop during my education, but I was always needing to create my own ideas, not just the parts I was paid to make. I studied finished studying the arts in college before I decided I wouldn’t pursue engineering because I was already engineering my own projects and didn’t need the schooling to accomplish what I was already doing without it.
TDH : I just have a sense of need to create things that aren’t there yet. When I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed designing things more than any other hobby I’ve pursued in the past, I knew it was what I needed to devote my attention to.
TDH : I don’t think anyone is forced into design, but I definitely placed myself in it because I saw how much I enjoyed it and how much it consumed me. I guess in a way you could say I forced myself into design.
TDH : I tend to stay within an industrial design style of jewelry for men and other accessories that work well with use in daily life. Being that I’ve focused so much in this category, I’d enjoy branching out to other areas with the same style, maybe to furniture, appliance, instrument, and art/sculpture design.
TDH : Whatever you want to achieve in life seems to be what you devote the most of your time to, and this is no different in design. If you want to design, get into design, and when it gets hard, stay with design. And give it your best and your all. I have a favorite old quote, thought to have come from Shakespeare that says, “Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.” This is what it takes. If you want to be a designer, be a designer, and be a good one.
TDH : I think this comes from my previous statement, that what you devote your time to, you become good at, and those that aren’t just good designers, but great designers, invest great amounts of time to their practice. Creativity increases, experience comes and knowledge grows.
TDH : I would tend to follow the grading scale of most design competitions. How well does the design function? Is it interesting? How well does it improve one’s life or benefit society? Where and how does it innovate and bring increased value to the table? These are the sort of things that bring out good design. The aesthetics are also always a big catch for me, if a design doesn’t look good or creative, I usually pass it up.
TDH : Its value is priceless in how it provides contrast and variety to our world. Without good design, things tend to pale towards being the exact same, and that is boring. Enough said!
TDH : I lived in the Bay Area of California for a time and always being among the great tech influence in the area. I’ve since pictured what it would be like to design products for Apple. Their innovation is unparalleled and to be around that environment would be a great opportunity to help create the products that have shaped the last few decades of our lives in this timeframe.
TDH : I don’t know about a dream project, but I do have a project that I’ve been thinking of and working at for a long time. It’s a belt buckle that I mostly want for myself, but could also be something that others see as creative and interesting in design and functionality.
TDH : For me, the recipe has been practice and application of the things I learn from others. I learn a lot from following design blogs and websites that inspire me. Applying those principles and sort of taking the best I see from a lot of different perspectives has lead me to where I am today.
TDH : I have long been a fan of Apple’s products and as such, I’ve always been inspired by Jonny Ive, Apple’s Senior Design Officer. Another favorite designer is Matt Tremblay of RED Digital Cinema and RogueDZN. His work was really the spark that pushed me forward to design. Phil Saunders has to be another favorite that I only recently discovered, but have unknowingly have admired for years.
TDH : From Matt Tremblay, my favorite designs have to be the Revolver ring and the Breacher bracelet. The way the Revolver ring is made is something I can truly appreciate, because as a beginning machinist, I had Matt’s permission to attempt to make a copy for myself as a learning opportunity. I get what it takes to make that thing. The Breacher is such work of free-forming wearable sculpture and at the same time it looks like it should be a rough and rigid nuisance to actually wear. From Phil Saunders, the design of the Iron Man suits is truly remarkable. From an old comic book character, he created something that just screams advanced technology and ingenious engineering, both things that I love.
TDH : I’m a relatively young designer, at least in how long I’ve been focusing and devoting my time to design. With that, I don’t have a lot to pick from, so I’d say my favorite and greatest design would be the TC Nexus. Just from a standpoint of what it brings to the table, it works a lot differently than any other product in its class, and is manufactured differently from the norm as well.
TDH : I simply practice design, a lot. I also follow various sources of inspiration and look for ways to improve my designs as well as try to apply new things I learn from others in my thinking, planning, and execution of new designs. There’s no one right way to become better, but, like they say, practice makes perfect.
TDH : Technically, I am not a full time designer, so I do have other things to rely on, but I can say that designing and creating things is a passion of mine, and I definitely try to be constantly improving upon it. I work full time as a teacher of machining technology at a local college, and while it isn’t designing, I do look for opportunities to be creative and design things to help attract others to the field. For me, machining and design have gone hand in hand, and so they feed each other well.
TDH : To me, design is an expression of art, creativity, and innovation for any class of product or service. It is what provides variety and uniqueness to the world around us and without it, life is quite dull and boring.
TDH : I think my wife and family have been sources of great encouragement to me, and that has helped me to push myself forward and do more and always try harder. Another great help was my friend and previous employer, Jeff McWhinney, who helped me to see different ways of making the products I had designed, as well as taught me a few things about improving design and thinking differently.
TDH : I feel that there is some sense of “you’re just born with it” to design and being creative, but in a large sense, you can get better at things with practice. I have devoted a lot of time to learning about engineering and design over the last decade, and I feel that that in turn, has led me to be where I am today.
TDH : I felt like I was severely limited in my capacity to design and create before I had my own machine shop and 3D printer. I know that those things have helped me, but I was designing before had them, and was able to make things in a 3D digital world that were still impressive works. I just didn’t know a design was good until I could have it in my hands.
TDH : I think that sharing your work in the most professional and highest quality manner possible is super important because it shows that you care about your work and are devoted to doing what it takes to make the best of what you’ve done. For example, I have long been a hobbyist photographer, but when it came to photographing my work, I did a lot of research to find the best way to shoot my products and make them look the best I could with the equipment and funds available to me at the time. I’ve since improved my techniques some, and look to do even better in the future. But for those that do not invest in the quality of the appearance of their work, show that they haven’t done all their homework.
TDH : I never have enough time to do all the things I want in the day, and so I find that it takes a long time to accomplish all the designs I have in the pipeline, but I do have a new titanium ring and a titanium belt buckle that I want to see made in the future. I’ve been in the prototyping stages with them both and I am quite excited for them.
TDH : Honestly, I just need a release for the ideas I have, and putting them to paper and seeing them in 3D space is part of accomplishing that. I guess the main goal is to create things that I see fit for existence and when that coincides with selling what I come up with, that is the end result that pushes me to continue this journey. If I don’t have someone with whom to share what I come up with, I probably wouldn’t pursue the hobby.
TDH : From those that have seen, experienced, or purchased my works, they expect an extremely high level of detail and quality over speed and quantity. Those are aspects I pursue and take pride in, so naturally others come to expect it from me.
TDH : I believe that the terms “the cherry on the top,” or “the icing on the cake,” take a part in what I feel design does for our society. To see a product that is well known and understood in any given culture or area of the world — to see that product improved and changed to provide someone else’s interpretation with innovation and creativity — is something that refines our lives.
TDH : Actually, I’ve designed a packaging solution for the TC Nexus that should be sure to catch the customer’s eye when they open a box from FedEx after placing an order. I used to be really anxious when it came to product packaging, but I think it is an area of design that often gets a bad reputation for being an almost worthless endeavor, but in reality, the packaging is a first impression that says a lot about a company.
TDH : I would say that my ring designs are probably my most satisfying projects. To see them realized and on my finger is a greatly satisfying feeling because of all the time and effort it takes to engineer all of the components and machine them, assemble them, and then see the final product be what I envisioned from the beginning. Another aspect that is satisfying comes from the fact that I always have a ring on, and when someone asks me what I do, I have a piece of my portfolio on my hand to show off and people can appreciate it immediately.
TDH : I don’t think there is anything that I would say I desire to see changed in the future of design. Change will come on its own and I will be glad to see whatever comes with it.
TDH : Towards bigger and better things. There isn’t really anything I can foresee for a new direction that the design field will take. Whatever will happen, will happen.
TDH : It varies so much that it’s hard to throw out a number that covers everything. I have some projects that were wrapped up in a matter of weeks, and others that take several months. This all depends on how I feel about the design at each stage.
TDH : I try to get the best interpretation possible of the idea on paper, before I spend hours and hours with it in CAD software. I find a lot of additional ideas come as I’m sketching, so spending the time on it there is very helpful in processing and thinking about the desired result or goal for the project. If I don’t spend enough time on preliminary sketches, the idea usually has to sit for a while before I come back to it and play with it more.
TDH : Be creative no matter the cost. When I started out designing, I was often deterred from making my projects come to life with low funds as a young college student. But after saving and setting aside some money for various projects, I found that they began and flowed more smoothly, so from that point forward, I found that I would do whatever it took to get the project moving.
TDH : Design sets the trends for sure. Design is the creative spark that, once lit, spreads through others and catches the interest needed by the masses to become a trend.
TDH : I use computers a lot. All of my design software is a critical component of how I design anything. I’m not an amazing sketch artist, so the preliminary sketches I do are to simply solidify what is running through my head when it comes to a new design idea, but it isn’t until I hit the CAD programs that I actually see the exact product or processes needed to achieve the product I want. The machine I use is also completely computer driven. Without technology I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.
TDH : I use the CAD softwares SolidWorks and Fusion 360. I have a Prusa I3 MK2S 3D printer for prototyping, a Haas OfficeMill CNC mill for production of final products, a Levin Instrument Maker’s Lathe for extremely small precision parts, and an Avalon Systems parts tumbler for the occasional use of finishing of some (not all) of my parts.
TDH : In my machining work, I like to use different tool-paths and finishes for contrast in lighting and materials between parts or different surfaces. It doesn’t always provide the same contrast of colors between something drastic like copper and aluminum or brass and stainless steel, but the colors come from the way the light is reflecting on those different surfaces when I change the direction of various tool-paths. Materials play a large part in design as different materials provide much different results in appearance, performance, strength, color, quality, etc., etc.
TDH : I always like when people ask about the design process as well as the manufacturing procedure, and because I have more manufacturing experience than anything else, I get more involved in that aspect of the creation of the final product.
TDH : I am always curious to know where the designer came up with the idea. What was their inspiration? Where did the idea come from? How did they get to the final product? How was it made? I’m very interested in knowing all the details of how something so spectacular came to be.
TDH : I would love to work with the Apple product design team. I have seen the benefits of co-design and how it provides multiple sides of perspective that I don’t have on my own. This is the reason there are many, many engineers involved in the most important product plannings.
TDH : I had a lot of interaction and conversations with a favorite designer, Matt Tremblay, when I unknowingly wanted to start this journey years ago. He was helpful in some ways, but would never give me all the answers, which I am grateful for today. I recognized his work as a great source of inspiration to me, and I would say that I share a lot of his same philosophies on design, though I have some differences in opinion on some things.
TDH : I actually don’t read a lot lately and can’t think of any books from the past that influenced how I thought of design.
TDH : I’ve said this over and over again, so I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with here, but practice, practice, practice. Without practice and devotion, no one gets anywhere in any field, be it design, music, engineering, teaching, playing sports, or whatever. Where we focus our attention and time, we tend to excel.
TDH : Without a doubt, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci. The man was incredibly creative, observant, and talented in inventing things, aside from his artistic abilities. It would be a profoundly uplifting experience to talk to him about where he started.
TDH : I stumbled upon the A’ Design Award and Competition as a fluke one night early this year, and was just finishing the design I entered and won with, the TC Nexus. I saw that I only had 3 days to submit my design if I wanted a chance in the competition, so I rushed to accomplish everything I needed to do to enter and nominate my design. I had a good feeling about it and felt it would be beneficial to me somehow, so I hurried and got it all wrapped up before the deadline. When I found out I had won, I was very excited. I come from a small town, and to me, this is something that isn’t won by people from small towns. This is a competition that is participated in by only the biggest and best contributors from large cities and places around the world. I was quite stunned that I had been successful in my almost last-minute attempt to participate in something so grand that I obviously would be wasting my time, effort, and money on.
TDH : Bright crimson red, Sausalito, California, all fruits, springtime, machining, and Tesla.
TDH : I taught myself how to use the CAD software SolidWorks after becoming a machinist that was well versed in MasterCam, and to me, the two softwares were totally different in functionality. It was like learning to speak Russian when I had just mastered Japanese. I would find a way to create features in SolidWorks in such a way that I now know to be very inefficient and impractical. I began working for a friend who I consider to be a SolidWorks professional and he would see the work I did in my design tree and look completely baffled and what I had done and why I had done it that way. I’ve since improved substantially, but it is always fun to look back and laugh at myself and see how far I’ve come.
TDH : I don’t get to design every day, so the great days come as I get to work for many hours on a design in one day. It allows me to get up to speed and maintain the pace as I work and brainstorm how to proceed. I very seldom have need to motivate myself, maybe because I don’t design full-time, but probably more because I enjoy it so much that I find myself thinking about it more than most other things when I’m trying to solve a problem or figure out how a design will become a product.
TDH : My parents always told me I would be a good engineer, and while I never completed the degree to say I am, I get to design things and engineer them to be better on my own whenever I want. But because of the way I was as a young boy, I think that it was apparent that I would become some sort of creator, in one form or another.
TDH : It will be very interesting to see what the future of design brings us. We won’t be around in a thousand years to see what comes then, but I think it will only get better and better. I used to think new ideas were rare, but there is no shortage of newness around us as people continue to invent and create. It would be an amazing time to see, for sure!
TDH : I’m just like anyone else, with strengths and weaknesses, goals and hobbies, frustrations and successes, and all those things that are common to the human experience. I’ve seen others that have let their fame and skill in design lead them to be quite arrogant and full of themselves, but I refuse to let my success overcome me. I’m always very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from the people that have helped me and encouraged me. I enjoy design and can attest to the fact that we all start somewhere and anyone can do it if they put their mind to it.
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