Bruce M. Tharp


Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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  • "Cristina, Thanks for your note! Your question is indeed one that is common to this four-field approach, and of design education as well. We will first address the environmental question, then economical. Yes, design is importantly becoming more aware of its impact on the planet. We see environmental responsibility as something that crosses all of the fields, however. We do not see it as a distinct agenda, but something that is (or should be) part of the design process itself. We understand it to be at a level similar to, say, beauty, user-friendliness, or usability—it is more of *common* attribute to (good) designing than something that is separate or *distinct*. This question of "where to put environmental sustainability" is also something that design schools have traditionally struggled with a bit. If you create a specific course on environmental responsibility, does this mean or signal that in other courses it is not of concern? Many programs try to infuse environmental responsibility across the courses, with perhaps some that try to emphasize it more. So our Responsible category indeed focuses on the issue of social responsibility and serving the underserved—something that we think that is more distinctive than universal when considering the other fields. It is generally a focus on a specific type of audience, one that by definition is not a universal audience, but one neglected by mainstream approaches to a large extent. Unlike environmental responsibility which we feel is more universal, social responsibility is more distinct. Now regarding economical concerns, it is part of both social and environmental responsibility. It may not be a concern of discursive design and experimental design, though it could. It is however the key motivator with commercial design—the profit motive. Depending on how you understand economical, it could be more universal like the environment, and indeed it often is. In many ways most of humanity's daily, pragmatic decisions are governed by economical concerns—what we do, what we eat, how we dress, etc. Because of this we don't think it is especially distinctive. This four-field approach was a way to help designers think about the main drivers to their work. There are easily dozens of important ones, but we feel these four are particularly representative and important and distinct. As we emphasize, these are ways to begin conversations and improve conversations more so than a way to limit them. We should be speaking about environmental responsibility explicitly (and economics are often at least implicit) and our approach should not prevent them from being part of consideration, discussion, and evaluation. Thanks again for your question, and concern for other important aspects of the complex activity of shaping our world(s). Bruce"
    on: The 4 Fields of Industrial Design: (No, not furniture, trans, consumer electronics, & toys), by Bruce M. Tharp and Stephanie M. Tharp
  • "Ximena,Congrats on your deal. The issue of indemnity is very important. This is protection if something goes wrong.It is not uncommon for a licensee to try and put the liability for a  problem onto the designer, but it is not fair in general in my opinion. It is understandable that they would try, but I have never singed a contract with this. In my experience once I raised my concerns the company changed the contract in every case, because they realize that it is unfair.If they are actually manufacturing the product, why would you be responsible if it fails? Likely they will be doing the engineering and fabrication, which you have no control over.  I suggest that you express your concerns--remember everything is negotiable. Also remember that they are making the lion's share of the profit.The only liability that I have taken on is over the originality of the idea, to the extent that I know. It makes sense that they have no idea if you actually stole your idea from someone and would be concerned about that. While I accept liability if it turns out that I knowingly and willingly violated someone else's intellectual property, I do not accept liability for the overall originality of the idea. Independent designers are generally not in a position to enter into intellectual property litigation--this could be a frivolous claim or a legitimate one or an international one. They should be willing to take that risk on, just as they do with their own products.My sense is that they will understand your concerns--make them known respectfully in the spirit of negotiation. But in the end you should not take on liability for anything that is out of your control because litigation can be a bankrupt-er (which is why they want to try to and get you to take it on rather than themselves if you let them)."
    on: Product Licensing 101: So Let's Talk Money
  • "While seemingly less shifty, when I was working for a large contract furniture company we used to put a 100-lb slab of steel (maybe it was cast iron) in the bottom of our file cabinets. This was a big point of differentiation over the competition because the weighted bottom obviously makes it more stable when the drawers were opened all the way."
    on: Teardown Reveals Beats Headphones Contain Metal Weights to Give Impression of Quality
  • "anas s, yes, we would agree that most designers probably have all four intentions with their design work, at least at times. rather than a designer simultaneously having all four, it is important to understand that we are focusing on the primary intention. often there is at least a secondary motivation. but, as we mentioned the commercial-discursive combination is a little more difficult, and likely has to be quite deliberate. your comment about commercial suggests that a designer has to be concerned with "selling". with a great deal of the discursive work being done now, it is not sold and exists as an independent project. this certainly does not preclude having other design work, or a design job, that "pays the rent". a main point we are making is that discursive work can exist outside of the marketplace, as a small or quasi- or para-commercial project, or perhaps a limited run commercial project, or even what is indeed a commercial project. and another point about discursive...you referred to it as "your own statement as a designer." we are hoping that designers differentiate between having a voice or making a statement and the quality or content of that statement. it is nearly unavoidable for a designer not to express themselves with a design--they are making thousands of design decisions. it is far more difficult to craft a discursive message as an abstraction within a design-- saying something that is of psychological, sociological, or idealogical importance and capable of sustaining a complexity of competing perspectives and values. so we are speaking about a special "statement" that can be considered a contribution to some discourse. ultimately these categories are meant to help the designer self-reflect and focus on what they really are intending to do with their work. it is meant to help designers understand that their motivation or primary motivations do not have to be so homogenous and tied so tightly to 20th century notions of industrial design and styling for the mass marketplace."
    on: The 4 Fields of Industrial Design: (No, not furniture, trans, consumer electronics, & toys), by Bruce M. Tharp and Stephanie M. Tharp
  • "Doug,Thanks for your comments. Below is some information regarding OXO's process. I am not sure if it is still up to date or not, as these things tend to change if they get swamped with submissions. Best of luck."Every inventor submission received by OXO undergoes an evaluation to determine if it will fit within our current breadth of product line. Feel free to submit your invention in any of the following formats: Hand drawings CD of images Photographs Video demonstrating product in use Prototype Please include a written description about your invention, and include any relevant legal information about the steps you may have already taken to patent your invention with the United States Patent Office or any foreign patent offices, as well as, information about who you may have already disclosed your idea to prior to our communication. Our evaluation process takes approximately one month to complete. At the end of this time, I will contact you with our response. Everything should be sent to my attention at: OXO Katherine Sall Legal Assistant 601 West 26th Street, Suite 1050 New York , NY 10001 Tel:212 242 3333 Fax:212 242 3336http://www.oxo.com Website: www.oxo.com Address: 601 West 26th Street, New York - NY Zip: 10001 Phone: (212) 242-3333 Types of Products Sold: Bakeware, Cookware, Organizers, Gardening, etc. Email Here to Submit: Inventions@oxo.com"
    on: Product Licensing 101: So Let's Talk Money
  • "Alberta, This is a tough one, at least your second question--what you should say. The first part is easy, you already know the companies so just call them and try and speak to someone on the phone. It may take a while to find the right person, but if they are game for this kind of thing, you will find them. It is certainly possible that they are not open to this as companies run a risk with 'open innovation.' But the problem you have is that there is no intellectual property to protect. Companies are loath to pay for something that cannot be protected. Your best bet is to try and have a conversation with them--ideally protected by an NDA, but that may be challenging--to see if they are game. If they are you would need to find a way to directly measure the financial impact of your idea. The least risk for them is a royalty for that market. In my opinion, this only has a small chance of working out for you, but is still worth pursuing because you have very little invested in it. You should always be thinking about return on investment, and if this were to hit, any money you would get from them would prove to be a high percentage. Without an NDA though they could very easily take your idea with no recourse. But, what have you got to lose if you do not try? What would you do with your idea anyway?  Good Luck."
    on: Product Licensing 101: So Let's Talk Money
  • "Rafael, Indeed same designers (Stephanie and Bruce M. Tharp of Materious)--we designed them as a set and Kikkerland has chosen to manufacture just the "Samurai" for now (www.kikkerlandshop.com). There is a bit of a debate over the name, as "Umbrellas for the Civil but Discontent Man" is commercially challenged (though conceptually cogent). Thanks for looking out for design (over imitation). Bruce"
    on: Milan Design Week 09 Preview: Materious for Tuttobene
  • "Anthony, Thanks. Yes there are many books now that cover different aspects of licensing. Most are geared toward the inventor community or the general public and they can be quite funny with chapters like, "Get Creative!" and "Coming up with Winning Ideas". But they are a good way to understand the big picture. And yes, they often have "gimmicky" titles as you mention. Books are a good start, but no match for just getting out there and giving it a go."
    on: Product Licensing in an Era of Open Innovation
  • "Ray, thanks, it is difficult to give a good representation of the financial upside because there is so much variability. Designers/inventors who do a lot of licensing have a pretty wide range--some products that may only generate $1k/year, some in the $5k/year range, and others that are a hit and generate $30-40k (if not $100k+). Often great products do not sell well for any number of reasons beyond the design (what we can control). It is interesting to look at Quirky.com and the sales numbers of their products, since they share them. It is a long road to just get to market on Quirky, but the big hurdle is marketplace acceptance, which can be disappointing as the numbers tell. DAN, congratulations! After you get that first one under your belt; it can be addictive. If you are game, I would love to talk about your licensing experience. You can email me through core77."
    on: Product Licensing 101: So Let's Talk Money
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