Artist and Maker Spotlights Creative Things

Metaproject Gives RIT Students a Taste of Real-World Designing

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I grew up in a suburb of Rochester, NY, and didn’t really appreciate it, as I was a completely self-absorbed teenager. It was only in my 20’s, when I would go back to visit my parents that I began to realize what a beautiful area it is, with some pretty great museums and colleges.

RIT is one of those schools (Rochester Institute of Technology), and I never thought much about it when I was in the area. Years later, when I worked at a photo studio, I heard from many of the photographers what a great photo department it had. Cool.

Recently, I read an article about 22 Industrial Design seniors at RIT who were tasked with designing and photographing a wooden toy to fit in with the style of the Areaware brand.

areaware wooden toys

pictured above: Llama Animal Box by Karl Zahn, and Cubebot Micro by David Weeks for Areaware

This was year 3 of the project, dubbed Metaproject and developed by associate professor Josh Owen, with this goal in mind:

Students will design and produce a high-quality, finished and functional prototype from actual materials using available on and off-campus resources. They will be expected to carefully archive the process and document the final product with design-control drawings suitable for manufacturer review, graphically compelling use-scenarios and the written word to convey their overall concept. Students will be given the opportunity to art-direct the final documentation of the product using a professional product photographer to deliver press-quality communication materials. These prototypes will then be judged for commercialization.

The finished designs were on view at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, and 3 were chosen for production. I suppose you’d like to see some of them?

Metaproject Designs


clockwise from l to r: Ashley Valenti’s Cog Car, 1st place winner: Blockitecture, by James M. Paulius, Jay Liu’s Shapuzi stamps won 2nd place, Lumbersaurs by David Buchanan

The fall 2011 project was a collaboration between glass and Industrial Design students, as they explored design concepts using glass as the primary material. They partnered with the Corning Museum of Glass for this project. This Float Fan is by Tom Zogas, one of the 2 winners.

Tom Zogas - Float Fan - from Metaproject 2011 at RIT

For the first Metaproject, the students used Wilsonart laminates to create seating.


I absolutely love seeing this process where students begin to learn about the ups and downs of real-world designing. These kids are taking their first steps away from creating things only to be viewed by their peers and teachers, and getting a taste for what creating products that can potentially be used by real live people, out in the world is like.

You can find Metaproject on their Facebook page or at their website.

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