A first-of-its-kind state event, DesignWisconsin, recently highlighted the impact of industrial design and featured about a dozen leading Wisconsin companies.
Created by University of Wisconsin-Stout, DesignWisconsin was held over two days at the offices of DELVE, a product innovation firm, in Madison.
Nearly 250 people heard keynote speeches, saw displays of some of the latest and most innovative Wisconsin-made products and discussed design.
“It’s an event to showcase the impact of industrial design and industrial designers on Wisconsin’s culture, commerce, community and brand — past, present and future,” said David Richter-O’Connell, UW-Stout assistant professor in the School of Art and Design.
Richter-O’Connell, a former designer for Kohler Co., began planning the event pre-COVID. He was excited to see it finally come together, with the support of DELVE, UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank, who spoke at the event, Stout University Foundation and the Milwaukee chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America.
UW-Stout faculty and staff providing support for the event, held May 20-21, included Maria Alm, Dave Beck, Julie Peterson and Bob Zeidel.
“We had a fantastic turnout and displays,” Richter-O’Connell said. “It's really about creating a space and time for people to get together and re-establish ourselves as a community of makers in Wisconsin.”
David Kohler, CEO of Kohler Co., presented on the importance of product and industrial design. Kohler sells plumbing and bath fixtures, power systems, and it operates resort and golf facilities in the U.S. and internationally.
Michael Hopkins, president of Brooks Stevens Inc. in Milwaukee, also presented on design. He displayed a full-scale, operational 3D-printed motorcycle developed for Harley-Davidson. The company’s historic designs include the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide motorcycle and Lawn Boy mowers.
Including UW-Stout’s industrial design program, an expo with state companies’ displays of their latest products featured:
- American Skillet: skillets of all 50 states and waffle irons
- Ashley Furniture: case goods and chairs
- Brooks Stevens Inc.: 3D-printed motorcycle and smaller scale projects
- Colony Brands: products from mail order and online shopping portals
- DELVE: health care and diagnostic-related products
- Fiskars: cutting tools for homeowners and professional landscapers
- Kohler: sink, faucets, tiles and kitchen and bath accessories
- Mercury Marine: prototype electric outboard motor and drive systems
- Milwaukee Tool: power tool products
- Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design: kiosk with student projects
- National Presto: new cookware and a fire extinguisher concept
- Oshkosh Corp.: scale models of vehicles from commercial and military divisions, as well as a virtual reality experience of a new commercial truck cab
- Saris: large bike carrier designed for heavy e-bikes
- Trek: bikes, including electric, and the B Cycle civic bike rental division, with charging stations.
Five UW-Stout industrial design students were event ambassadors, and students also displayed their portfolios.
The IDSA presented Student Merit awards to Riley Crotteau, of UW-Stout, and Josh Horth, of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. The schools have the only industrial design programs in Wisconsin.
Crotteau, of Rice Lake, a senior, graduated May 7.
Richter-O’Connell, also the host and emcee of DesignWisconsin, already is planning next year’s event and hopes it can become an annual tradition. “We have the blueprint established for a new kind of design experience in Wisconsin,” he said.