Talking with Michael Downes – Bumbleride Product Designer

May 2nd, 2014




Pop Sugar 11 new strollers to watch for this spring 2014 strollers

“Great design is at the core of everything we do at Bumbleride and working with creative people adds color and fun to our work. That would be an understatement for our high energy, creative Product Designer, Michael Downes. We work on a daily basis together and spend a lot of time talking about parents, how they use our products, product strategy and design.

I recently sat down with Michael to talk about “The Bumbleride Promise” and “Responsible Design” and gain a little background on Michael with his South London accent.”

Matthew Reichardt
Co-Founder/CEO

Matt:
You grew up in England riding bicycles and working as a bike mechanic. How did you end up in California as a product designer?

Michael:
A combination of luck and love. I met a woman and we fell in love. She was from California but had been living in London for over ten years. When she got accepted to the Art Center College of Design In Pasadena, California to study photography, we got married and moved to the States. Art Center College of design also happens to be one of the top five schools in the world for product design. When I saw the student work in the gallery at ACCD I knew then and there I wanted to be a product designer and Art Center was where I was going to study. We initially planned to stay three or four years and return to England. That was seventeen years ago.

Matt:
We know you love design and bicycles but how did you transition in to designing baby strollers?

Michael:
After I graduated I went to work for Giant Bicycles Inc, which was a fantastic first gig out of school, and I learned a lot. In the intervening years I have worked for Raleigh America, Diamondback, Ibis, TI Cycles of India and many more so I suppose I got bicycle design out of my system. I am still passionate about bicycles but I have come to the understanding that the bicycle is an incredibly mature product so radical innovation does not happen very often. Incremental change is the norm and much of that evolution is happening in the technology of components which is typically an engineer’s domain and not something a product designer is involved in. What appealed to me with strollers was the challenge of overcoming the constraints inherent in the product. It has to be comfortable and safe for the child, big enough to carry all the gear needed for parenthood, easy to push and maneuver but still fold compactly, quickly and intuitively. That is a pretty long list of basic functional requirements and many of them are in contradiction with each other. This presents a delicious challenge to product designers, something we can really get out teeth into.

Matt:
What’s the idea behind “The Bumbleride Promise” and “Responsible Design”?

Michael:
The Bumbleride Promise encapsulates our philosophy, ethics and values and this in turn feeds into Responsible Design. Parenthood is one of the most aspirational things we do. As parents we have the opportunity to nurture and guide the next generation and make a positive impact on the future. At Bumbleride we see ourselves as partners in this project, helping our customers by providing well designed tools. But it goes deeper than that. Creating great products counts for nothing if it ends up in a landfill. How can we design the product holistically, not only with a view to its function and purpose but to the entirety of the product cycle? Where are the materials sourced? Who builds our product and what kind of quality of life do those workers have? How can we make our product easy to service to extend its life? And when it really has come to the end of its life, how can we make it easier to recycle? Is there a way to pack the product in a smaller box and save space (and energy costs) in transportation? Can we make our packaging re-useable? Can we design a single part that has multiple applications?

Matt:
What informs your design and Bumbleride design?

Michael:
I was greatly influenced by Dieter Rams, chief designer at Braun in the 70′s and 80′s, and his Ten Principles of Design. Good design, according to Rams, is simple, uncluttered and intuitive. In his words: ‘Just enough design’. I think this resonates with Bumbleride’s design philosophy and for many people living as we do in an increasingly hectic and complex world. The ideal product is the one we never have to think about because it does what it was designed to do, every time, without drama. As we say in the Bumbleride Promise: ‘we give you everything you need and nothing you don’t’.

Matt:
With so many options in Little Italy where’s your favorite place to get a bite to eat and a beer?

Michael:
We are spoiled for choice but for my money Underbelly (ramen noodles & craft beer) is pretty awesome as is Mexican Fiesta, a true “hole in the wall” and the best place to get a carne asada burrito. Also impressive is the food at Ballast Point Brewery on India Street. I recommend the Cuban sandwich with a Longfin Lager.

Pop Sugar 11 new strollers to watch for this spring 2014 strollers

Pop Sugar 11 new strollers to watch for this spring 2014 strollers





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