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06.09.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Charlie Gallmeyer.

President Derek Aten called the meeting to order and Anne Armstrong Cusack introduced guests and visiting Rotarians.  President Derek announced that the club elected Paul Farr and Lesa Hardiman as new board members.

Hugh Brenneman presented Boyden-Shearer scholarships to Annelise Droste from City High and Andrew Voigt from West Catholic.  In the process, Hugh managed to make a comparison between grade inflation and extra virgin olive oil, and to get the club singing choruses of “Big Joel, Big Tom.”  Space precludes any attempt at explanation.

Today’s speaker was Ken Krayer, Executive Director of Design West Michigan.  The agency has the goal of being an on-going catalyst for the region’s design network.  Ken noted that commercial design is one of the Right Place’s five pillars of economic development.  Given that Ken’s group has 1200 members, it’s not difficult to see why this is so.

One of the major strengths of the local design scene is its diversity.  Unlike most of the rest of Michigan, we don’t notice the feast and famine cycles of the auto industry so much.

There are several major players that employ large design staffs in West Michigan, including Wolverine World Wide, Herman Miller, Stryker, Whirlpool, Newell Rubbermaid, and Steelcase.

Typically, these companies used to hire outsiders who lived in cities like L.A., Atlanta or New York to do their design work.  Gradually over the years they saw the need to bring the design function into the manufacturing environment, to facilitate better communication and understanding.  One benefit of this practice was illustrated by the Steelcase “Think Chair”, which is made from many fewer parts than comparable chairs made by other companies.  This helps reduce costs without compromising product quality.

There are also dozens of smaller firms that are now actively doing product design in the area.  Some examples include Landscape Forms, the Conduit Studio, Universal Mind and Studio Z.

President Derek closed the meeting by presenting Ken with a certificate noting that a clean water filter will be installed in a home in Nicaragua in appreciation of his time with us today.



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