Inside ROBRADY: An Interview With Matthew Vergin
Why did you choose industrial design?
I chose to go into industrial design a few years before I entered high school. Growing up around Detroit (and with a father working for an automotive supplier) I was constantly exposed to automotive news, whether it was spy shots of soon to be released models or perfect studio photos of a next generation concept car. Naturally, I was always drawing cars myself (my mother was a self-taught artist) and found out around sixth grade that car companies are actually willing to pay some lucky people to draw cars all day, every day. That ultimately led me to downtown Detroit to attend what is objectively the pinnacle of car-design colleges: College for Creative Studies. Ironically, after years of build-up, it didn’t take me more than a semester to realize that, while I loved to draw cars, I wasn’t ready to get married to it. It turns out I loved the variety and problem-solving of product design even more. In that field I found that I could be designing everything from medical devices to toys to furniture before even needing to sharpen my pencil. I also learned and really appreciated the creative process that can bring such a variety of objects to life. So after four years of sleepless nights and enough giant bowls of mac and cheese to feed a small country, I graduated with a bachelor degree in industrial design. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and to this day I’m still enjoying using the skills I learned to help the team at ROBRADY create killer products!
What was / is the most interesting or challenging product you have worked on and why?
The most interesting/challenging product I’ve ever worked on was actually my senior thesis at CCS. For this project I worked with a buddy of mine, Ryan Callahan, to design a mass transit system for the city of Detroit. Living in downtown Detroit gave us a perfect opportunity to perform some contextual research and get an up-close and personal experience with its current transit system. Also, I was able to spend a lot of time in Chicago the summer beforehand and took note of the things that they did well, and not so well. All of this was used to design what ultimately became a multi-level mag-lev train. Ryan and I worked on every part of the transit experience, from how the tickets would be bought and processed, all the way to how bikes would be stored and traffic into and out of the cars could be best managed. It was fascinating touching so many types of design all within one project (transportation, experience, architecture, interface, furniture, etc.) and we ended up with a very cohesive solution that uses a system of icons and colors to guide users through the system. That’s not to say it all went entirely smooth. There were conflicts that rose up from time to time and I ended up in the emergency room at one point after a messy conflict between my foot and an X-acto® knife. But in the end we were able to create an exciting solution to a very big problem!
Please share a fun fact with us – favorite band, favorite designer and why, funny college story, etc.
I used to make a ton of movies when I was growing up, both by myself and with my buddies. I started out making stop motion animations with my Jurassic Park action figures when I was 10 or 11 and then graduated to LEGO. I’d just click the video camera on and off once very quickly to make a “frame”. Not perfect, but it did the trick! They are hilarious to go back and watch because I’d do all the music just by humming a song in the background as the camera was running. Awesome at the time, embarrassing now. Eventually I progressed a bit in skill and began making live action movies with my friends throughout high school and college. It got pretty technical with us setting up lights and filters, creating storyboards and adding fairly complicated computer effects. We actually created a couple that I’m still proud of 10 years later! All this to say, if product design hadn’t worked out for me I’d definitely have given film a shot!