Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interview with Andrew Peerless

Just a couple days after the election celebrations in Chicago, I went downtown to meet with Andrew Peerless. Andrew greeted me on the 12th floor of a high rise near Grant Park, housing the School of the Art Institute’s Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects. A former student of architecture at the University of Michigan and public relations professional of six years, he is currently a Masters candidate in Designed Objects and designer of the Herd table featured at the Deceptive Design exhibit.

After touring the school’s wood shop which housed a CNC router, laser cutter and fabber among other equipment, we sat down and discussed design - from process to paradigm.

IC: What was the most difficult obstacle in coming from your background in architecture and PR to coming for a degree in product design?

AP: Obviously there’s a relationship between architecture and product design, but I’m seeing a perhaps closer relationship between marketing and product design. In marketing you’re figuring out what people want to hear and how to get it to them which is not that different from giving people the products they want, products that are solutions to their problems.

IC: Is there a unifying theme in your work?

AP: I didn’t set out with a theme in mind, but I’ve noticed that a lot of what I’ve done has picked up elements of things generally considered mundane and tried to elevate them.

With my table for the Deceptive Design show- a cow is, at best, sort of a kitschy motif. You know, cookie jars and cows holding signs that say ‘home sweet home’. And to me it was really interesting to try to elevate that motif to something serious. People enjoy that piece because it’s something familiar, but the finish I think is what makes it a serious piece of furniture.

(The cow legs on Andrew’s table are actually sanded and lacquered wood; I thought they were ceramic!)
IC: How do you work through process; do you sketch, go to the computer or like to get to work with materials?
AP: My process has evolved. I started out sketching, but once I learned how to use 3D modeling programs I started jumping into that. Now, I’ve started to move into sketch modeling: taking analog materials to get massing right, proportional relationships, etc.

(above: production images of Contour Box)

IC: If money and materials were no issue, is there a dream project you would like to do?

AP: You know, not at this time. For me, there’s no ‘been there done that’. I believe anything can be elevated by design, so I would appreciate the challenge of any project that came along. There’s still a lot I would like to learn.

IC: What are some of the highlights of what you’re learning here at SAIC?
AP: I’m in a class now that teaches that just because you’re born into a system, doesn’t mean you have to follow that system. We talked about planned obsolescence today. It was a concept introduced to the consumer system post World War II, and it set the tone for everything that’s followed. It’s what we were born into and what we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow. That paradigm has to shift, and it’s the designer’s role to do it.

(above: Drill Lamp)

IC: Speaking of the designer’s role, what are your plans after graduation?

AP: Well, I believe if you want to go out and change the world you should have a good basis first, so I would like to work for a product design consultancy and see where I can go from there.

For any companies looking for a talented designer with a diverse professional background, Andrew will be graduating in May. Visit his website or contact him at misterajp[at]gmail[dot]com.

Many thanks to Andrew for talking with me and showing me around the studio.

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