Diversification in Design
Form3 Design transforms creative ideas into compelling products.1
Whether it is the latest sports equipment, Bluetooth padlock or optical body scanner, Form3 is willing to undertake any project and turn it into a viable product.
Founded in 1997 by partners Alex Feldman and Herb Bentz, this Vancouver-based industrial design firm has since expanded to include 12 employees, predominantly industrial designers but also mechanical and mechatronics engineers. As Feldman and Bentz explain, the company is growing at a comfortable pace, and they are integrating the talent they need to meet the company’s ever-increasing demands.
“Our focus has always been on improving our design capabilities,” says Feldman. “We integrated mechanical engineering as a means to better resolve the design work we were doing. We recognise the benefits that engineers bring to projects. We don’t have a division between the disciplines; it’s quite integrated.”
The team has always prided itself on taking on complex and varied projects, refusing to specialize in any one particular area.
“We welcome the excitement and challenges of different kinds of projects,” explains Feldman. “That variety is what has helped us come up with creative solutions. We can draw from experiences in one area and bring them to another. This is often novel and appropriate.”
At any given time, the Form3 team could be working on upwards of 10 unique projects. The company frequently has to address technical challenges within each project. With the opportunity to work on a small precision electronic product or a larger sports device, there are different kinds of efforts and considerations needed.
While the firm thrives on variety, Bentz says Form3 is also interested in increasing the quality of products as a way to make the economy more sustainable.
“At Form3, we are trying to focus on product quality to address durability, sustainability, and long-term desirability,” he says. “This also requires a shift from the short-term focus of user experience at point of sale to a more timeless aesthetic.”
The team has achieved repeated success by asking the right questions. Feldman explains that they try to go beyond just filling client requests and explore challenges that may not necessarily be considered by the client in order to make the best possible design decisions.
“We study the feasibility of all aspects of projects from the start,” says Feldman. “By asking the right questions and addressing the feasibility of a product concept early on, we’re able to resolve issues that might arise later on in the development stages. We do this because we want to make sure we can respond to the project time constraints in a way that yields the best results.”
Design and team oriented initiatives are augmented with an iterative process of prototyping and testing. This allows the team to meet technical challenges and constraints that emerge in product development while still honouring the client’s original design intent.
Bentz argues that although a project may not look all that different from its early concept, it develops and improves over time to go beyond the customer’s preliminary requirements.
“We run a very open office in one big space,” Feldman adds. “We now have standing desks and we encourage people to work together, share, talk, and find creative ways to solve problems.”
In any given day, the engineers and industrial designers at Form3 are putting together concept ideas, working together in strategy sessions or compiling research. At the moment, the company has a multi-person team putting together alpha units, where members of the team are required to constantly change hats in order to complete a series of components required for prototyping.
This allows the Form3 team to develop some highly sophisticated products. Bringing together a wide range of skills and perspectives enables a project to evolve in a way that it might not be able to otherwise.
The staff have many personal interests including cycling, weight lifting, skiing, yoga and motorcycling that provide a good counterpoint to work and valuable experience for the products they work on.
The company has helped developed some notable projects. In November 2016, Form3 was recognized with the BC Creative Achievement Award for their work with clients such as Sierra Wireless, Total North Communications, Vorum Research, Genuine Guide Gear (G3), Raceface and Knolly bikes.
The company’s work with G3 has spanned over the past four years and numerous products. Form3 was initially contacted to help the G3 engineering team with their ION alpine touring binding. The Form3 team worked closely with the G3 engineers to ensure that aesthetic directions efficiently dovetailed with the complexities of a performance driven mechanism littered with constraints.
Throughout the project, some significant mechanical changes were required as a result of G3’s testing of the mechanical prototypes. Form3 was able to respond to these changes while retaining the original design intent.
Since then, Form3 has worked on other G3 projects, including a ski touring pole, lightweight carbon touring skis, and most recently, G3’s line of skin products. The industrial design firm has become more involved with the ski gear company, providing mechanical design services in addition to industrial design.
“Our work with G3 has been very rewarding,” Feldman says. “The projects, ranging from skis, bindings, poles and climbing skins, cover a pretty broad spectrum of design activities: contributions involve product styling, mechanical design, graphic design, and name generation. G3, based in Vancouver, is a leader in their industry and produce exceptional products. They have their own mechanical engineers but often use our design abilities, because we work really well with them.”
“We’re seeing more of this kind of close relationship with our clients, and I think the future looks good,” says Feldman. “We’ll continue doing the best work we can.”