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Nicholas Baker’s approach to the product design process

Nicholas Baker gives us a peek into his approach and product design philosophy, through the development of his recently released Pixel Light.

Nicholas Baker’s approach to the product design process
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I always look forward to speaking with designers from the community. As a designer myself there isn’t anything more inspiring than getting a glimpse into another creative’s process. Founding and working at Gravity Sketch has given me the opportunity to meet and speak with fantastic designers from across the globe, learning about their background and journey to becoming a professional creative, as well as their approach to the product design process and discipline.

Nicholas Baker headshot
Nicholas Baker, Designer, Nicholas Baker Studio

I met Nicholas Baker, a designer based in New York, a few years ago and had a great big smile on my face as I was checking out his instagram page. Back then he was one of the only industrial designers using Gravity Sketch (we mainly had vehicle designers using the tool). What was so great was his playful approach to design and the way he made things fun and functional, but the most impressive part was how well he documented his process. He started making some great process videos of how he used Gravity Sketch in real time. You can read an earlier interview with him here.

I recently caught up with Nicholas to hear how his studio is going and check out some of his more recent work. We touched a little on his journey, which involved taking the leap of faith and moving to New York to set up his own design studio. It’s fantastic to hear about the success he is now having. In the video below Nicholas talks through his background a little more.

One of the things that strikes me about Nicholas’s approach to design is that he uses a mixture of tools and techniques as part of his product design process, and will naturally use whatever is best for each job. The idea itself is central to the whole process, and the tools are simply there to help him express his ideas creativity in the most effective way possible.

I’m excited to see how Nicholas uses Gravity Sketch to explore concepts freely and quickly; the tool seems to keep out of the way which was our main focus when initially developing Gravity Sketch. He typically uses it early in his design process to rapidly explore loads of ideas and iterate on these ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. Through this, he builds confidence in the design direction and is able to explore a full range of creative options for a given product, before moving on to the next stage of the development process.

“For me one of the biggest wins is just time saved. To be able to quickly iterate, copy over concepts, tweak it, change it, adjust it, just keep going… …at a certain point you’ve probably explored the best concepts, so being able to just iterate a hundred concepts makes you way more confident you’ve explored every iteration possible, and using Gravity Sketch it’s just way faster to do that than pen and paper”

Nicholas also uses the tool to review his designs with clients and collaborators, allowing them to immersively experience the design at scale exactly how he intends it to look and feel.

Pixel Light

Nicholas talked through his design process for the Pixel Light, his recent lighting project in collaboration with Gantri, a company based in California that is a digital manufacturer for designer lighting.

Final version of the Pixel Light by Nicholas Baker, shown in the dark on a side table
Pixel Light, designed by Nicholas Baker

Nicholas worked with Gantri using a range of digital design tools (including Gravity Sketch) to develop the Pixel Light. However, I was struck by how he combined digital and physical tools to refine his design as the concept progressed. He combined initial concepts created in Gravity Sketch and rendered in KeyShot with a wide range of physical prototypes. These ranged from cardboard mockups to 3D printed prototypes produced by Gantri. Nicholas combined all these techniques to continually refine the design, demonstrating a nonlinear but rather iterative process.

“I had one of these 3D printed models in my room, and having it in context I realised I didn’t really like the cone shape, so I went back to explore some different shapes. There is a lot of value in letting a concept just distil, and when you can let a concept just sit there for a while you can think about it in your subconscious mind”

By combining his approach to digital and physical design with Gantri’s technologies, they were able to get from concept to production smoothly, despite being based on opposite sides of the USA.

“The biggest benefit [of combining digital design and digital manufacturing] is time. Without the limitations of the injection moulding processes, going from concept to production has never been easier. Digital manufacturing allows us to move really fast.”

To see more of Nicholas’s work, you can visit his website and follow him on instagram @nickpbaker.

You can read more about the Pixel Light project here, and buy it here. More pictures showing the process and final product are below.

To see more inspirational work created in Gravity Sketch by the design community, follow us on instagram @gravitysketch.

Pixel Light product design process images
Product design concept exploration in Gravity Sketch
Concept exploration in Gravity Sketch
Product design renders of initial concepts - created in Gravity Sketch and rendered in KeyShot
KeyShot renders of concepts created in Gravity Sketch
KeyShot renders of forms explored in Gravity Sketch during product design process
KeyShot renders of iterations explored in Gravity Sketch
Front panel shape exploration in Gravity Sketch
Front panel shape exploration in Gravity Sketch
Light body shape modification in Gravity Sketch
Light body shape modification in Gravity Sketch
Cardboard mockup of light body shape
Cardboard mock-up of light body shape
Pixel Light front panel design iterations
Front panel design iterations
Exploration of light patterns - front view
Exploration of light patterns - front view
Exploration of light patterns - rear view
Exploration of light patterns - rear view
3D printed prototype of the Pixel Light
3D printed prototype of the Pixel Light
Pixel Light final product on a side table
Pixel Light - final product
Pixel Light final product showing removable panel at the rear
Pixel Light - final product showing removable panel at the rear
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