In collaboration with Target and design firm Umbra, two Philadelphia University industrial design students and two recent alumni are having their products manufactured and sold as part of the mega-retailer’s back-to-school line.
Under the label Loft by Umbra, the items are now available online and on the shelves of Target’s almost 1,800 stores.
The PhilaU designers and their products are:
Nick Friez ’16: Bunky, a bedside stand to hold electronics and books (buy it here).
Sam Pawlak ’16: Cacti, a multi-surface desktop organizer (buy it here).
The student designers and PhilaU’s industrial design program will share royalties on sales of the items, which range in price from $7.99 to $19.99. The products by recent graduates Friez and Pawlak were first sold last summer and Target brought them back for the 2016 back-to-school line.
The designs were developed as part of a junior-class design studio in fall 2014 and 2015 co-taught by Lyn Godley, associate professor of industrial design, and Michael Leonard, David and Lillian Rea Chair and academic dean, School of Design and Engineering, Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.
“The opportunity to not only work with a sponsor, which we do often in the industrial design program at PhilaU, but to have the students’ designs produced in volume and marketed through a major retail chain is invaluable,” Godley said. “The students also participated in after-design decisions that manufacturing demands, such as packaging designs for shipping and store display and pricing considerations.”
The project, she said, also teaches students the importance of meeting market needs. “Many ideas in the classroom are good, but when they hit the market you realize if they are viable for a wide audience,” Godley said. “Students see how critical it is to understand that audience when it is linked to real-world sales and royalties based on those sales.”
For Target and Umbra, the PhilaU students bring not only top design skills to the table, but also first-hand knowledge of the challenges of living in dorm rooms and small spaces and the need for innovative solutions.
“When developing the idea for my product, I wanted to find a problem that applied to a wide range of college students,” said rising senior Brosius. “Sidekick takes into consideration that all students on campuses are required to carry a college ID and first-year students are usually required to live on campus. My design combines a way to store your ID, license and credit/debit card, as well as a pivoting slot to place your dorm key. It keeps all the college essentials together in one place.”
Brosius said he couldn’t have done the project without the guidance of Godley, Leonard and other industrial design faculty.
“They’re always pushing us to perform for the real world, and this was as real as it gets,” said Brosius, who is interning with noted PhilaU alumnus and benefactor Maurice Kanbar ’52, H’03, in San Francisco this summer. “It’s truly unreal to have a product out on the market, particular in Target—it’s a dream come true.”
Lee said the experience of creating Plika taught her what it means to be a working designer. Her idea initially grew out of a simple problem: items slipping between the bed and wall. Lee wanted to create an organizer that offered a solution, but could be used anyplace in the home.
“Throughout the project I kept thinking, ‘What did I need as a freshman? What would I benefit the most from?’” she said. “Starting college is very hectic and I was very unorganized. The wall shelf should act as a hub and an organizer, offering a place where all your most essential items live.”
This summer, Lee is interning with New York-based opera set designer Doug Fitch, and after graduation next May she would like to specialize in sustainable design or furniture design.
For recent graduate Friez, sharing the design process behind the Bunky was a focal point of his job interviews and he said the creation of his bedside storage space solution helped him land a job as associate product designer in Armstrong World Industries’ ceiling division.
“With this new position, I have so many opportunities to grow as a designer and learn new techniques from other designers and engineers,” said Friez, who interned for the retail design firm Fleetwood Fixtures last summer—another connection made because of his time at PhilaU.
Pawlak also now works as a designer at Armstrong World Industries and credits his PhilaU education, in particular the real-world industry experiences and networking opportunities facilitated by the industrial design department, with his job success.
“To have my product back on store shelves for a second year feels greatly rewarding and I’m forever thankful to my professors and Umbra for making this happen,” Pawlak said. “The exposure was a huge boost to my career.”
Click here to read about the PhilaU students who had their products sold as part of Target’s 2015 back-to-school line.