College for Creative Studies: Product Design
Innovative design demands creativity and skill. The ability to lead a team of innovative designers requires vision. In less than five years, Frank Gonzalez Jr. has worked his way from an entry-level designer up to a leadership position as design director at case manufacturer Forward Industries, Inc.
“Being rewarded with this promotion has meant a lot to my career,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and it feels good to be recognized. This position provides an opportunity for me to grow as well as use my knowledge to improve our products. Perhaps in the future I will relocate to one of our offices in Switzerland or Hong Kong.”
As a design director, Gonzalez leads a team of three designers through the process of conceptualizing carry case solutions for wide range of industries, which include products in the cellular, medical, and electronic field. Usually a sales agent meets with the client (or potential client) and brings back the product or specs on the item that needs a case. Gonzalez presents the research to his team (manufacturing methods, specifications) and provides direction on the best approach to begin designing.
“The process can be challenging especially when we are not given much information before we start designing,” Gonzalez explained. “But I love the versatility of working with clients representing so many different types of products. There’s a good industrial mix.”
While he worked his way up in the field, Gonzalez came across designers who graduated from other art colleges across the country. He noticed major differences.
“They didn’t appear as competent when dealing with other professionals,” he said. “Since most of my instructors were successful in their fields, I had the opportunity to develop this skill as a student.
“I also gained hands-on techniques. In addition to sketching out ideas and putting them on screen, I could physically build models of them. This has helped me understand products so much better. So many of today’s designers lack this ability.”
Gonzalez’s professional industrial design skills extend beyond his career at Forward. On a freelance basis, he has worked on many types of creative projects—from Web development to graphics to furniture design.
“I like to dabble in a little bit of everything,” laughed Gonzalez. “Furniture design is particularly fun for me. I have a family lineage of carpenters. My grandfather taught me the techniques while my father showed me the technical aspects. This has led to some pretty exciting projects. While I was working at a graphic design firm in South Beach, we were asked to revamp a mojito bar for Bacardi. Since I was the only one in our firm with industrial design skills, I was given the project. It was quite an experience!"
"I believe that my continued success in this field is being able to continually evolve and refine the essential design principles I learned at CCS.”