How new technologies are shaping design
A brief conversation with Evan Clabots, Chief Design Officer at OTHR.
Bend Design is proud to bring together visionary leaders who are applying their cultural fluency, technological savvy and creative excellence to shape a better future. In our esteemed mix of design doers is Evan Clabots, Chief Design Officer at OTHR.
Launched in 2016, with founder Joe Doucet and Dean Di Simone, OTHR pairs top designers with 3-D printing technology to disrupt supply chain constraints delivering new possibilities in design. Their emphasis on useful, aesthetic, and unique products has an added benefit of manufacturing only what is needed.
Evan Clabots’ multi-faceted career began even prior to his graduation from RISD in 2004, when he licensed a school project for manufacturing. Since, Evan has held a variety of roles in the industry, and launched his own studio, Nonlinear, in 2010; specializing in product design, art direction and interior design, The studio also produced its own line of products that have retailed in the MoMA store and around the world. Evan has done work for clients including All-Clad, Target and Tumi. In addition to his role as Chief Design Officer at OTHR, Evan is also an adjunct professor at Pratt Institute.
Bend Design Co-Producer and Programming Director, Cassondra Schindler recently connected with Evan to learn more about his work with OTHR, ask about his dream projects, curiosities and mentors. Here is what he had to share with us.
CS: What do you find most compelling about facets of the work that you are doing at OTHR?
Evan Clabots: I think the most compelling part of our work at OTHR is where the technology meets the creative process. We manufacture our products on-demand, exclusively via 3-D printing. Most designers have been familiar with 3-D printing for quite a while, but until now, it’s mostly been used for prototyping or exploring new ideas. Now the technology has evolved to a place where we can produce durable, affordable, real products. It’s very exciting to work with a roster of the best designers from around the world and explore new production techniques together. Each designer has challenged the materials and processes in their own way. OTHR is, in a way, acting as a hub for experimentation and exploration of techniques. Every time we learn something new from a project, we are able to pass that information on to other designers so they can push the technique even further. I think this model of communal exploration is helping us to make quicker discoveries and push the technology forward faster.
CS: How have you been surprised by the realm of 3-D Printing?
Evan Clabots: At its core, 3-D Printing is simply another manufacturing technique, and it comes with its own pros and cons. The technology allows us to do things that would not be possible with other forms of manufacturing with regards to material thickness and geometry normally restricted by molding limitations. However, as you move from printing simple plastics into printing materials like steel and porcelain, the manufacturing process becomes more complex. It begins to involve secondary processes, such as firing and glazing, so you now have to take into account things like warping and shrinkage. This makes 3-D printing less direct and one-to-one as we may think.
CS: How do you see the future of on-demand production evolving?
Evan Clabots: We really feel that on-demand production is the wave of the future. The old production chain model has so many disadvantages – having to produce thousands of products remotely, ship them across the world, and warehouse your inventory. This process can stifle creativity and is very detrimental to the environment. As on-demand production techniques become faster, we will have the ability to produce locally, with little impact on the environment. It also will allow designers to push boundaries further, since they won’t need to worry about whether an object has enough mass-market appeal to sell through their entire inventory.
CS: What’s next for OTHR?
Evan Clabots: We are launching new products every two weeks, constantly collaborating with new designers, and experimenting with new manufacturing techniques. We are also branching out beyond working exclusively with product designers; soon we will be launching products designed by architects, graphic designers and fashion designers, among others.
CS: Do you have any dream projects or dream collaborators that you’d be willing to share?
Evan Clabots: We are actually working on quite a few dream projects as we speak. People are really gravitating toward what we are doing. We find everyone is interested in exploring and pushing boundaries. I have gotten to work with a designers that I have admired for years like Claesson Kiovisto Rune and Sebastian Bergne, and there will be some great collaborations launching throughout the remainder of the year!
CS: Who are your mentors?
Evan Clabots: I wouldn’t say I have any one particular mentor, since I really value collaboration. I think discussion and debate bring out new ideas and perspectives. You don’t have to be older or more experienced in order to challenge people to see things in new ways. Through collaboration, I believe we all can mentor each other, or even use those interactions to mentor ourselves.
CS: What are your favorite questions to ask others?
Evan Clabots: I love to ask the question, “Why?” As a Studio Professor at Pratt University, I make it the central theme of my studio – “Why does this product deserve to exist?” I believe the “why” will lead to the “what?” and then the “how.” I also think that in a fast-paced world that is inundated with media and consumerism, it is really important to ask ourselves why we are doing what we do, who benefits, and what are the long term impacts.
CS: What do you look forward to at Bend Design?
Evan Clabots: I think I am most looking forward to the more interactive aspects of the conference. I love sharing my experience but feel like dialogue is the best way to do this. I love a good discussion.
Thanks Evan, we’re looking forward to sharing more at our 2016 conference, October 20 + 21st in Bend, Oregon.