College for Creative Studies: Product Design


Christopher Hill

Pres./Designer/Applications Engr.

Just in the past few years, innovative devices such as Palm, BlackBerry, Smartphone and Pocket PC have altered the way users think about communication and managing information. Consumers voraciously read industry magazines, visit product Web sites and watch channels like G4 to keep up with the changes in technological trends. But programmers and product designers of these gadgets must do even more than stay on the edge of this dynamic market. They must lead it. And Christopher Hill welcomes the opportunity.

"Designing programs for new technology has been both challenging and rewarding," said Hill, founder of software applications company, gaming site and educational software company "I've had to do a lot of problem solving - from learning how to do the programming to translating the applications into foreign languages to designing the artwork (icons, graphics, logos) to marketing the final products."

After graduating from CCS' industrial design program, Hill worked as a marine designer for Sea Ray boats and as an automotive designer at General Motors. In 2001, Hill, who has a background in programming, observed the need for software applications that worked on personal digital assistants (PDAs). He started by designing software for the Palm and eventually expanded into Pocket PC, Smartphone and Windows Desktop applications. Since then, his site ( has grown to include over 100 products in categories representing productivity, business, finance, education, fitness, entertainment, and scientific visualization among others.

"Getting exposure initially was difficult but worth the effort, especially since I know I'm creating products that people use and enjoy," said Hill. "Productivity software has been my biggest seller; after all, that's why people buy PDAs! But as Trajectory Labs grew, I realized I needed to branch off and form two more companies - one that focused on gaming and another that highlighted interactive educational content."

Although Hill designed other games (Scramble, Schizoid!) for smaller devices through Trajectory Labs, it was the success of his network first-person shooter desktop game, Exterminator Arena, that prompted him to launch, a site targeted at the gaming community. In addition to free downloads of his games (Exterminator Arena, Exterminator, Lazarus the Game, The Science Lab), the site includes a forum, inside information about game development, and "how to" tutorials.

With an interest in science and technology, Hill looked for opportunities to get involved with the new Detroit Science Center. He was asked to create a 3D animated, interactive X3D content for the museum's Lumenarium exhibit. The spinning image is displayed on two five-foot by five-foot, two-sided projection screens above the display. He also worked on an interactive joystick-driven airfoil computational fluid dynamics (CFD) animation for the Power of Air exhibit.

"My dad was a physicist and my mom was an artist, so I've always been surrounded by science and art," explained Hill. "Currently, I'm working on a Mars Rover project for the Center that allows users to drive around inside a crater on the red planet. Specifically, I've been working on generating a continuous landscape and expect to be done in 2008."

As most business owners would attest, problem solving and motivation have been critical to the expansion and success of Hill's endeavors. The rigorous curriculum the designer faced as a student taught him important lessons about hard work and perseverance.

"Only one in four students made it through the industrial design program," said Hill. "Fortunately, I benefited from instructors like Bill House, Keith Vreeland, Clyde Foles, John Steiner, and Tom Molineaux who taught me how to think and apply myself. And after countless all-nighters and the mentorship of instructors who all had industry experience, I have something to show for it."