GlassLab and RIT: Activating the Archive

This spring, the Museum partnered with design students from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on projects exploring the use of glass as a material. Josh Owen, Professor and Chair of RIT’s Industrial Design Program explains the program:

“The Activating the Archive course is a Graduate level Industrial Design course which gives students the opportunity to learn from the Vignelli design process. In the last year, I have added in an industry partnership and design competition component to the class to add real-world, client-based experiences to help prepare students for their careers beyond academia.”

RIT students at The Studio

RIT students at The Studio

This year’s course focused specifically on the drinking vessel. “Students are utilizing our original source materials in the Vignelli Archives Collections as teaching tools. We have many examples of different types of drinking vessels (designed by the Vignellis) and their developmental processes in the collections so I thought it would be interesting to use these artifacts of process to inspire students to look closely at related design problems.”

Students discuss their design with glassmaker Eric Meek.

Students discuss their design with GlassLab glassmaker Eric Meek.

And why have the students work with glass as the material? Owen explains, “Glass remains a completely relevant material in the pantheon of useful ways of giving form to products, despite more visible new technologies. I see the process of working in hot glass as a sort of artisanal ‘rapid prototyping’ offering the unique ability to allow a designer to make changes to the design while the material remains in a plastic state. This is a remarkable difference from other forms of rapid prototyping such as conventional forms of 3D printing.”

Guillermo Fok’s design is created in hot glass.

Selected student designs were created in hot glass.

Owen added, “Probably the greatest benefit of partnering with CMoG is that we share core values and our work together reflects this. Both institutions are interested in moving the global dialog forward by carefully considering history, theory and practice. Together we explore how these forces coalesce to push the state of the art forward.”

As part of the project, students proposed design prototypes, and a winner was selected to have their design made by our GlassLab team. Guillermo Fok’s project, Champagne Popsicle, was selected as the overall winner. I asked him a few questions about the experience.

How did you approach this design project?

“Immersing in the Vignelli philosophy for the design process was a major influence. Understanding the value of simplicity and having a purpose was something that defined the direction of my project. I wanted to design a piece that had a timeless quality inspired by the history of the beverage, so before ideating forms I really wanted to understand the tradition and its relationship to glass.”

Have you worked with glass as a material before? What did you expect?

“This was my first time working with glass. I was curious to learn about the versatility of the material and really wanted to push the boundaries of what I thought could be done using the glass blowing technique. Knowing there was a chance for the GlassLab team to reproduce my design was a great incentive and I was certain that whatever the idea was, they would be able to replicate it.”

Guillermo and the GlassLab team

Guillermo and the GlassLab team.

Did your visit to the Museum affect that initial expectation?

“It definitely did. I was greatly inspired by the juxtaposition of the history of glass and its diverse current applications. I believe CMoG is doing an outstanding job showcasing the properties of glass and challenging people’s perception about it.”

What is the most significant thing that you learned working with glass for this project?

“Now I look at glass as a material with infinite potential. As designers it is always fascinating to learn the qualities of materials and understand their versatility. Watching the GlassLab team work on my design made me realize how methodical glass blowing can be when it comes to constructing a piece. It’s not only an art, it’s a science.”

Thanks to Josh, Guillermo and RIT and congratulations to all the students on their designs!

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2 comments » Write a comment

  1. corningmuseum Just started glass blowing and doing glass art it’s so amazing!! My life is gonna change in a major way now that I got glass

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