In Studio

Mechanical engineer to master of design

After a five years of working as an engineer, Anson Wong decided he could have more tangible influence on the making of good quality things if he were working as a designer rather than as a project engineer. Boldly, he quit his well-paying engineering position to go back to school to complete his Master’s degree in Design at the University of Alberta.

During his first year of graduate design studies he was inspired to create the CUBOS, a hardwood shape sorting toy, for his twin nieces. He wanted to give them something that would intrinsically show his love for them through careful construction, quality and timelessness. The first few iterations of the CUBOS were met with such positive responses that he decided to look deeper into why that was, zeroing in on the CUBOS as his thesis project.

Through writing and reflecting on the CUBOS design and construction process, Anson gained a deeper understanding of the role designers play in driving innovation, and creating safe and quality products.

CUBOSchild600w

Can you tell me how you ended up designing a children’s toy?

The idea of CUBOS came in a flash after the brief was given, but after an extensive period of contemplation and reflection, I realize it was my life experience that gave birth to the concept of it. How I was raised in a big community and having a lot of friends who are older and married and having babies, and me having to find a representable gift. And how I worked in the industrial environment and the realization of how safety standards are not a true representation of health and well-being. The idea of CUBOS became fully realized after I enrolled into industrial design and incorporated my machine design approach as an engineer with wood working.

Can you give us a brief overview of the Kickstarter campaign and how it is going?

The Kickstarter campaign has been running for more than two weeks. I have five days left, I have raised more than $7000 while my goal was $20,000. It was showcased as a “staff pick” by Kickstarter, which really speaks for the quality of the product and the campaign.

CUBOSKickstarter project image Staff Pick600w

One of the benefits of crowdfunding like Kickstarter is the networks and connections you can build. For an example, the CUBOS Kickstarter campaign recently received a sponsorship of custom design handwoven bags from West of 4th Weaving, an Alberta-based handwoven product company.

They contacted me because of Kickstarter, and I didn’t have to sell or pitch my idea, because the work was already done and presented. Kickstarter connected me with people with similar ideology and interests and our two companies were an instant match.

The CUBOS design focuses a lot on the natural materials and construction. Do you think designers have a responsibility to be designing safe and long lasting materials?

My definition of design is “a process to maintain goodness,” and the preamble of that is the belief that this world was inherently good to begin with. All we designers and all the people who live on this earth have an obligation to maintain this goodness. We all strive to improve our own living conditions, but in doing so we must be mindful of keeping the world in good condition for many generations to come.

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What is your hope for where you’ll go, career-wise, after the CUBOS Kickstarter campaign?

I hope the Kickstarter campaign will be a success, so that the resources, complementary assets and recognition that it brings can help me establish a design practice which focuses on driving innovation while helping others to innovate as well.

To find out more about the CUBOS and Anson’s Kickstarter campaign, go to www.cubos.ca

You can go directly to the Kickstarter campaign here.

Event title: Five Graduate Designers 2005. Make Good: Design for a Better Now
Exhibition dates:  Until September 19, 2015
Closing Reception: Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building, University of Alberta)
FAB Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday: 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Monday and Canada Day
Admission: Free.

For more information see the UAlberta show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/five-graduate-designers-2015

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