Above the Fold: Jose Figueroa, 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!
Dallas-based Industrial Designer Jose Figueroa has been designing a variety of different products for over a decade now. These include everything from softgoods and fitness products as a freelancer to watches for Fossil Group, where he currently works as a Creative Director. If there are any distinguishable traits shared in all of Jose's work it's an eye for detail and a constant pursuit of perfection, from the contours and colors of his sketches to his flawless digital rendering. Recently we chatted with Jose about getting into design, creative process and his versatile talent.
Was there a specific moment in life where you realized you wanted to pursue a creative path?
I remember being around 10 or 11 years old when I would peer through the windows inside new car models and look at the interiors. I would notice the details of the ones I liked, and what I would change about the ones I didn't. At that time my family was house hunting and I would get really excited to drive around neighborhoods and look at modern architecture, the distribution of space and light in the homes we visited. I was designing in my mind without knowing it, and this critical observation and appreciation of objects around me continued until I was introduced to Industrial Design as a profession in middle school. I took a Design and Technology course when I was 14 and decided to pursue design as a profession soon after.
Who are your design heroes?
Everything I appreciated growing up had an impact on my taste and design aspirations. From the optical illusion paintings of Victor Vasarely and the modernists of the Bauhaus school, to the design of the mini stereo system I got in high school and the sports cars of the 60s and 70s. I gravitated towards the original, the considered, the deliberate, so I've always had great admiration for Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck, Bang & Olufsen, Dieter Rams, Verner Panton, The Eames and so many more.
Can you share some details about your most recent project?
The most recent project I've worked on was announced at CES in January. I'm part of the team that designed the Vapor smartwatch for Misfit. The design won several awards at the show.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Yes! But unfortunately I can't talk about them. Top secret!
Walk us through some of your process for creating.
First and foremost comes the problem and user context. What are trying to solve? How does it affect the user? What is the desired outcome from the user standpoint? Only after understanding the problem can you start to ideate. You do not want to start designing a product without fully understanding the outcome you want because you may end up with a product looking for a problem to solve. Multiple iterations of concepts, details and ideas help you think outside the box, to see the problem differently, and being attached at the hip with engineers and developers defines constraints and features. After exploring deep and wide comes a refinement stage, the elimination of details or ideas that do not complement or improve the main direction. I find 3D printing to be a very fast and effective tool for evaluating concepts. In one of my recent projects we printed up to 30 ideas to really grasp the design language and details. Designing for manufacturing is where the design begins to take the form of an actual product, with real tolerances and material considerations. But design doesn't end there: even after the consumer purchases your product, attention should be paid to their reactions, how they use it, and any insights that could improve their experience.
Are there any projects (professional or personal) that you are especially proud of?
I was part of the team that designed the first commercially available Bluetooth smartwatch, released before the first iPhone came out over 10 years ago. The product was ahead of its time, but it puts a smile on my face to see how some of those same features are still being adapted today.
What tools (physical or digital) do you find yourself using repeatedly?
I used to use Sketchbook pro quite heavily. It's a great tool for quick visualization and blue-sky ideation. I currently dive into 3D much quicker with Solidworks and Keyshot, even at early concept stages. The tools I choose depend on how defined the constraints are.
Do you have a ritual for getting in work mode (music you listen to, certain exercise, food you eat) aka a productivity tip?
I enjoy my "headphone time", where I listen to Spotify while sketching or 3D modeling without outside distractions. It helps me get in a groove and I think wearing headphones stops people from interrupting unless there is a pressing issue.
Outside of your professional life, do you have any other creative outlets or hobbies?
I still create art for myself (not as often as I'd like), so I created an annual art exhibit for my company where creatives showcase their arts and crafts, and everything is auctioned off for charity. It gets my coworkers motivated and excited to see everyone else's talents, and it pushes me to create more art!
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your Coroflot portfolio?
I would say curate your portfolio to demonstrate what you're proud of, and what you think would get you noticed. Throwing everything in a portfolio makes people sift through tons of stuff, while a nicely selected set of images is much more impactful.