Above the Fold: Dewayne Dale, Industrial Designer
In Above the Fold, we spotlight individual members of Coroflot's vibrant creative community. The idea is to take you behind the scenes and inside the minds of talented Coroflot members who we think are doing exceptional work. Coroflot was created by designers, for designers, and Above the Fold is the place where we can talk to creatives about work that we not only love, but think you'll love too!
When we came across the work of Dewayne Dale on Coroflot we were immediately struck by his originality. The Portland-based Industrial Designer has only been in the game for a few years, but his work demonstrates some serious skills, especially when it comes to sketching. But what really stands out about Dewayne's work is the way he channels his Navajo culture into his product designs. Going by the name Indigenous Designer, Dewayne's work draws inspiration from Native American objects of the past that are clearly well-researched. What's cool about this is the way he applies modern design concepts and techniques to ideas that have been around for hundreds of years. There's no denying the unique nature of Dewayne's work, and for that reason we had to ask him some questions about his creative process, inspiration, and more!
Was there a specific moment in life where you realized you wanted to pursue a creative path?
Growing up, I always enjoyed drawing and making things. Skipping ahead to about 4 years ago, after I already pursued an education in Health Science and Athletic Training, I realized I wanted to reconnect with my creativity more. More specifically, in the spring of 2013, I was a government employee working for Indian Health Services and I was curious and Googled what kind of education was needed to design backpacks and footwear, just some products that interested me at the time. Behold, I learned about industrial design and realized this is also what I wanted to do.
Many of your designs are inspired by Native American traditions and culture. Can you talk about how you research projects and the idea of carrying tradition through industrial design?
I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation and was always impressed and inspired by the style of art and craftsmanship that the Navajo culture had to offer. I think it was inevitable that I would tap into this during my creative process as a growing industrial designer. When researching, I'm really searching for a story that I can tell and that helps me drive a design and I learn something new in the end. For my backpack designs, because I was doing research on Native American tribes, my research included libraries, books, scholarly journals, my relatives, and even going back home to visit. When I went back home visited our Navajo Nation museum and library, and I found information and artwork not accessible via internet. Native American culture was a big inspiration for my two backpack projects, because I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation and through some early research I started to see a historical story that I was learning more of and really wanted to tell. Finding a story for these backpack designs was important, because there are many backpack designs and I wanted the design to be a good reflection of the story and research.
As I started to learn more about industrial design I started to view my progress as "carrying tradition". This is the simple idea of learning from the past, taking what you learned, and applying it to help people in the future. I also viewed "carrying tradition" as a way to embrace my experiences and culture so that it would help me grow as an industrial designer. I think this is fitting for industrial designers, because we are constantly researching ways we can improve upon old designs or enhance peoples' lives from what we learn.
Walk us through some of your process for creating.
Once I get the project, I'm thinking of the problem to be solved and why. I'll do some quick sketches (usually of random things not always pertaining to the project) and allow myself to absorb the details of the project. At this time I really want to let the project bounce around in my head before trying to solve anything. Then I try to get out of my head and get involved in a small activity (i.e., more sketching of random things, visiting stores, driving, or playing with my kids) that is not really related to the project. I find that I need to get myself away a little, because the project is already in my head and I'm thinking about it always. By doing another activity it allows me to detach myself somewhat and I can approach the project from a different perspective. Then I'll continue with more sketches, research, renders, modeling, and so on trying to communicate the concept (not in that particular order for this last part).
Are there any projects (professional or personal) that you are especially proud of?
While I was in school at the Art Institute of Portland's Industrial Design program I became interested in the soft goods field and found myself exploring more ways to tell a story and have the end product reflect that. My senior thesis (KEYAH Cradle backpack) is a project that I'm proud of because even though it was my second backpack project, I felt I explored many areas, but still came back to what I felt was a good opportunity to tell and share a story from the past. There are thousands of designs and updates for backpacks and sometimes the story seems to be the same and the only difference is the type of backpack. I really wanted the story to play a big role, because then my backpack would be viewed from a different perspective and hopefully the design appreciated more. In addition, it was challenging and fulfilling to design an improved version of my first backpack, the "KEYAH". My end goal of this project was to design a dual purpose backpack that can be used to carry a baby and change into a regular day pack. Also, the design was pushed to use traditional and modern methods of carrying precious cargo.
What tools (physical or digital) do you find yourself using repeatedly?
Black Bic ballpoint pens (1.2 mm and 1.6 mm). I'll use these mostly when I'm starting quick sketches and then move into digital.
Less than a year ago I started to explore digital sketching and since then I found myself having more fun and expressing my ideas with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Included with this I guess I can say that my Wacom Intuos 4 has been my go to tool for digital sketching.
Quick side note about my Wacom tablet: I bought it back in 2011 when I wasn't anywhere close to a design school, but I thought that drawing on a computer was cool. The tablet is still going strong despite the miles I put on it. Good job Wacom.
Is there any work out there that you've come across recently that you've really loved?
I've always loved the backpack designs of Boreas Gear. I think the team does a great job at making complex, activity-specific backpacks simpler and more modern. I also love how they transition from a soft to hard material and their designs don't feel overwhelming.
Do you have a ritual for getting in design mode (music you listen to, certain exercise, food you eat) aka a productivity tip?
I like engaging in an activity that doesn't directly relate to a current project. Sometimes I'll go for a run, play basketball (shooting free throws helps me not to think too much), play video games, and sometimes a nap helps a lot (if there's time). R&B music is my go to for getting in my mode.
Outside of your professional life, do you have any other creative outlets or hobbies?
I enjoy the outdoors, especially hunting, and since I've lived in the Northwest for 3 years now I've taken the opportunity to immerse myself in the land, especially the coastal range. I also like hanging out with my family, playing basketball, and sketching has become a daily routine for me, even when I want to relax.
If you're stuck on a desert island and can only bring three (design) tools, what are they?
Hmm...tough question, but I'd have to say an Apple iPad Pro (assuming there will be sketching apps already installed), the Apple pencil, and a Goal Zero nomad 7 solar panel to charge up the device as I go. I figure I could sketch digitally, would help pass the time.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your Coroflot portfolio?
My initial approach is to start posting my work even though it might not be at its final stage. Get feedback on your project and there's no shame in going back in to rearrange or update a project. On the plus side, you could be getting professional feedback, and feedback is good if you're still in school working toward that final portfolio.