Hi, I am Paul Roelen, currently studying Industrial Design at the TU/e, welcome to my portfolio.
I love to think about well thought ideas and products with a strong vision, that can ground every design choice.
I would like to see design as a means to simplify life. Not to solve large societal-problems, but rather to make one’s life just a little more comfortable. These small improvements can on its turn still add up to society after all. Whilst a product or system should provide an improvement of life, the design of it should provide the integration into a person’s life. Design can help to strengthen these improvements and give it extra value.
When I design a product, I aim for a clean, simple and smooth look. The product can be in the center, but it improves life without bothering a user and sometimes even without them being aware of it. The user has to be taken into account when designing, but appearance is just as important.
The look and feel of a product can influence your thoughts and feelings. It’s simple design with minimal visual noise that is extremely appealing and makes a person just naturally love your product and crave for it.
A product has a specific function or vision and every design choice must be grounded according to this, making the product impervious. Look, feel and function all have a grounded reason and contribute to the smoothness and integration of the product. A whole construction of thoughts underneath helps to make the product just look, feel and works the way one person wants from the outside.
An example of this is the Rietveld-Schröder house, which is entirely designed with the idea that the house is one with the environment around it, a wide-open grassland as far as the eye can reach. Everything is designed following that specific thought, to the last detail. Without being directly aware of it, these detailed design choices contribute a lot to the experience of the house, which immediately feels pleasant. For example, the window-frames are placed in such position that the contours of the frame go to infinity, just like the grass. This is even done from the point of view of the user, Mrs. Schröder.
When the landscape was interrupted by a later constructed highway, Rietveld wanted to demolish the building because its essence disappeared, diluting the vision of the house.
By studying at the TU/e, and working with the self-directed learning method, I have continuously been extending my knowledge and improving my skills. I discovered my interest in the thoughts behind designs. How does a designer looks at a certain design, what is the reasoning begin specific function and form choices and most importantly, the vision on the product, where does it stand for and what value does it deliver. All aspects of a design, big or small, can be explained by looking at the design with that specific vision.
Because of this way of working, I always want to think a lot about what I want to achieve with my product, and weigh out different ideas. When one idea looks extreme at first, I always try to relativize things, put them in various different perspectives and criticize them, to discover the disadvantages and imperfections and solve them.
I consider myself a team player and a quite assertive person. I value other people’s feedback, as it helps me to consider my own opinion. Is the design actually as strong as I expected, or should it be adjusted. As a result, this critique strengthens the product by eliminating weaknesses.
I try to constantly and critically reflect on my own work, relativize ideas, zoom out and put things in a different context, which brings out the best in each design and adds up to my vision of a carefully considered design. I never lose a product’s purpose or vision out of sight to be able to always ground every choice.
In the past three years, my knowledge about design (processes), my way of working as a designer with corresponding skills and my vision on design changed completely, making considerable progress towards a unique professional designer.
Starting at the faculty of Industrial Design, I had minimal knowledge about what a design process should like and how to get from that annoying problem to a solid and beautiful product. In the beginning of my learning process, I was mostly occupied with getting familiar with the design process.
The Creative Electronics and Creative Programming courses gave an insight in the realization part of the process and allowed me to take a perspective on how one can communicate a certain idea or product to one another. This phase within the design process has been one of the most interesting ones for me, ever since. The possibility to realize a certain product or solution from a thought is quite powerful.
I noticed that coming up with an idea is of course the most important part of the process, but without being able to communicate or transfer this idea, there will never be a solution or product. Explaining, clarifying and manifesting is extremely important within the process. I often experienced that other people, including friends, fellow students and even assessors or coaches did not completely understand my ideas or my way of thinking. Simply, because words could not give enough information to let them imagine the idea, let alone discussing or even agreeing on it.
This issue is really important to me, especially since I love to discuss the themes I am working on. Therefore, I focused a lot on improving it throughout my first year at Industrial Design. I acquired knowledge about, and developed skills concerning the Adobe programs mostly by making posters and videos; prototyping, making working systems and communicating their experience of interaction; audio-visual equipment, making photos of products and scenarios and video; 3D CAD modelling, making models in Solid Works; 3D printing, realizing and iterating ideas and sketching, to rapidly exploring thoughts.
During my second year, my attitude towards my way of working changed. The appearance and experience of a product and its interaction became more important to me. The focus of developing myself started to shift from understanding and getting familiar with the design process to asking myself what I really want to design for. I entered a new stage of personalization and I searched for a way to express my view on design and think about what I want to create or achieve with my designs, which included altering my vision as well.
I started to realize that design is not only a process or tool to use to just create a solution to a problem, but the way this solution is shaped and integrated in a user’s life can influence perception, interaction and experience. Aesthetics, can manipulate feelings or attitudes and can blend a product in one’s life. A product should improve life without bothering the user, or even without them being aware of it.
Up to that point, I did not have a real chance to apply this in practice, as in the research project (Project 3), aesthetics, form and feel were subordinate to the research in the project. Nonetheless, I got familiar with a new way of obtaining knowledge and validating choices: literary research. Gradually, I obtained more tools to get to this perfectly considered and seamlessly integrated product.
During my internship, I got a lot of new insights in materialization and production, especially for large batches of the same industrial product. I learned about different kinds of plastics, their application and basic plastic production methods. I discovered new, considerably influential, factors to deal with during a project. The foremost ones: money and stakeholders. They can determine a lot of design choices for you.
The art is to find a balance between what is desired and what is possible. Even though money can restrict or influence, it should not be all-decisive in the design process. A healthy balance can still provide a wonderful solution.
I think it is extremely interesting to consider the practical application of a design. To make an aesthetically beautiful, solid grounded product and still be able to seamlessly integrate it in a specific context setting specific restrictions. With that vision, I started my Final Bachelor Project.
During my final bachelor project, I tried to implement everything I learned in my three years of Industrial Design. Firstly, by choosing the Seamless Interaction Design for Professionals squad, I was able to completely work according to my vision on design. I subsequently chose a problem that occurs in people’s daily lives and appears to be of minimal effect, but which is unconsciously actually quite influential. As described before, during my internship, I experienced that I love to work on rather practical themes, for the reason that design choices can and have to be verified with the problem and corresponding context. Moreover, I approached the problem from a psychological point of view, an area I am particularly interested in.
To get started, I tried to gather as much information as possible about the current context. The solution to the problem should be perfectly adapted to the user, as only then it can be integrated seamlessly. Exploring interviews with users within the context and target group brought values, restrictions and opportunities. Throughout the project I validated choices multiple times through user tests and interviews. Though it helped a lot to have prior knowledge and experience about the context myself as well.
Moreover, I determined stakeholders, searched for opportunities and restrictions within the current context and defined the client, creating a broad and clear vision on the context.
After, I started my literary research, creating a foundation, among others to determine design choices.
During the ideation phase, I noticed that the lack of possibilities to brainstorm was quite challenging. I care about discussing ideas with other people and debating specific concepts, as they definitely improve significantly. Often you miss out on things or just do not consider everything. In that case, other people can give valuable comments.
When defining an elaborated design, I tried to determine and substantiate every loose end of the design, creating a fully defined and grounded design which can be seamlessly integrated in the current user’s context. To be able to communicate this design on its turn, I created a fully working prototype. I discovered new uncertainties and ambiguities during this process, that could be defined and it had the intrinsic value that one could really interact with the product and feel and experience it. Unequivocally explaining the product and its purpose.
After testing, I made a future vision on the product. Something that is really important in my opinion. In most of the cases, a product is just not ready for manufacturing. Without a vision on how to accomplish that, the iteration is not finished. There is always a next step in the process. Whether it is about testing, manufacturing, distributing or innovating, it is important to keep next goals in mind to determine the road towards it.
Up until now, completing my Final Bachelor Project, I have developed myself within the areas of expertise, which concern the different domains within Industrial Design. In the sections underneath, I describe how I have developed myself within these areas, including what knowledge I obtained; how I applied them during the Bachelor and how they fit me as a designer.
The area of creativity and aesthetics fits me the best of all the different expertise areas. It is the most applicable to my way of working, but it is also in line with my vision on design. Starting at Industrial Design, I had the most experience in this area of expertise. During Onderzoeken & Ontwerpen (Research & Design) at my secondary school, we were taught parts of the design process, including doing prior research about the topic, generating ideas and making simple and static models. This enthusiasm increased at Industrial Design over the years. Courses as From Idea to Design taught me about the basic principles of the design process.
After, I started to build upon this knowledge and throughout the study I developed myself towards a unique designer with a strong vision on design and its use. I got extremely interested in the thoughts behind a product. For example, how a designer looks at a certain design, the reasoning behind specific function and form choices and most importantly, the vision on the product, what it stands for and what value it delivers. Project 1 and Project 2 allowed me to develop my skills in ideating and problem solving.
I learned how to explore different designs and how to communicate them to others, which is one of the most important things I have learned over the past three years. One might have a great concept, but if you cannot unambiguously and unequivocally explain or transfer these thoughts, ideas or concepts, these initial principles can also not be spread, discussed or improved.
I obtained knowledge and skills about different methods and techniques. This started with improving my abilities to make posters in Adobe Illustrator. After a few projects, these improved in fonts, images and message from the Creative Electronics poster to the Hapto midterm one. I learned to work with the photo studio and corresponding audio-visual equipment, especially in the Engineering Design and Basic Formgiving Skills courses. I realized documenting is a significant key activity in the design process.
After that, I decided it was useful to also be able to explain non-physical ideas, consisting of thoughts. The course Creative Mechanical Engineering brought me knowledge and basic skills about Solid Works, that I have been improving up until now. To be able to realize these thoughts and ideas as well as to iterate design choices or functions, I bought a 3D printer. In the Cylex project, I did 4 iterations on the concept, improving it every time. To rapidly show and iterate on thoughts and ideas, I followed Exploratory Sketching, since not everything can be put into Solid Works easily, even if it is necessary.
From that point, my scope slightly shifted from the creativity to the aesthetics part of the area. I started to realize that form, materialization and function are extremely important within a design. The look and feel of a product can manipulate feelings or attitude and can blend a product in one’s life. However, it does not only influence one’s perception, it can affect perception, interaction and experience as well.
Developing this way of designing was kick-started mostly due to the Aesthetics of Interaction and Basic Formgiving Skills course, where basic principles of design (interaction) are dealt with. From there I have been improving these formgiving skills and critique these values within my designs. I explored different materials to work with during Basic Formgiving Skills, Cylex, my Final Bachelor Project: FairQ and my internship and during the latter I also obtained knowledge about production methods and their advantages and disadvantages.
Even though I had the most experience with this area of expertise at the start of the study, I have definitely made the most progress as well, considering that there is still a lot to learn. Gradually I have grown from a simple problem-solver, to a unique designer, giving interaction, form and feeling to solving designs through various exploring and communicating techniques and perspectives in my own unique way, whilst constantly and critically reflecting on my own work.
At the beginning of the study, I had never made any kind of electronic prototype before. I used basic knowledge about switches and resistors to make predetermined circuits using defined toolkits. I never thought that I would be able to make working products. However, the courses Creative Electronics and Creative Programming introduced me to the enlightening world of the Arduino and Teensy micro-controllers and made me creative and curious about the endless possibilities to construct working mechanisms. I remained interested in the area and tried to improve it, mostly by doing. I started with very simplistic circuits, as the Creative programming, Creative electronics and Hapto ones, and kept on improving myself. I did this, by investigating different data sheets and electronic components on the internet, exploring how I could apply them within my projects. It got a boost during the multi-disciplinary project Engineering Design. During the project I collaborated with team members from the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering disciplines. Due to the other members, I got familiar with different controllers, including the Wi-Fi-based Wemos board. I learned a lot from their ways of using electronics and since then I started exploring even further and the number of possibilities increased. As shown in my Final Bachelor Project, I am now able to make fully working scale prototypes that make use of algorithms, appropriate sensors and compact circuits.
During the Engineering Design project I also started to use my 3D printer. I learned how it can be used to create custom parts and how to use it as an iterative tool, rapidly trying different options.
In the Basic Formgiving Skills course and during my internship I learned how to create solid non-electronical prototypes, using different materials with different compositions and form transitions to give values, qualities and characteristics to a model. Which on their turn support the experience of, and the idea behind it.
All these different skills and knowledge helped me to be able to communicate and explore thoughts, concepts and designs in an unambiguous evident way, which is extremely important in the design process.
In the first one-and-a-half years, I did not really care about business and entrepreneurial influences in design. I thought that someone else, in a multi-disciplinary team, would do it for me. I rather worked on solving the problem and creating a solution, rather than thinking about selling it, seeing the two things as distinct ones. However, they are actually quite interwoven. This is something I discovered during my internship.
I developed skills to work with stakeholders, discussing with them, but also trying to obtain requirements and compromise on design choices. My internship coach taught me that a stakeholder should definitely be used in the design process, but you remain the designer, so the stakeholder should not design for you. Moreover, I got an insight in the professional way of working in the company and their organizational processes.
The business and entrepreneurship area is certainly not limited to stakeholders. I learned how to deal with financial restrictions during my internship. Money should be taken into account in every step of the design process. It can restrict and influence everything, but should not be all-decisive. Finding a balance was something I struggled a lot with during my internship.
During the Design Innovation Methods course I obtained more knowledge about strategies to turn a product into a business, because not every good product is determined to have a profitable foundation. I learned about marketing strategies, but also about giving value to the user. Something that is in line with my vision and way of working. A product needs to be adapted to a practical context, giving actual value to the user instead of, or next to, designing just because (I think) it is fun. I tried to implement this in my Final Bachelor Project in the form of a roadmap, describing future goals and possibilities to turn the product into a business. Throughout the project I tried to take the client into account, as well as the festivals, who probably want the product to be affordable. I even applied the strategies (mainly the cross-sell and inform strategies) to my own small scale business in Vinyl records, which resulted in more returning customers.
My overall attitude towards business and entrepreneurship has changed radically. It changed from a certain lack of interest, to curiosity, especially about how the business aspect can influence a design. I learned a lot about involving stakeholders and obtaining information and requirements from them; creating value in products, making the users really want to utilize it and learning how to turn a product into a profitable company.
Before I started studying at the faculty of Industrial Design, I had no single idea about making models or processing data. Normal distribution, P-value qualitative and quantitative data were totally unknown and unclear conceptions for me. This changed when I followed the course Data Analytics for Engineers. I became familiar with types of data and basic statistical techniques to analyze and process this data. Cleaning, choosing and visualizing data is important in investigating a certain unknown, often chaotic or unclear, situation.
It was not up until year two that I got to apply the acquired knowledge into practice. For the Design Research course, I applied statistical analysis in order to validate a concept. Again, this is something that I think is very important, as validating every design choice eliminates a questionable design, which on its turn solidifies the foundation.
I learned how to deal with real data and how to prevent an inconvenient output. Planning on what to investigate beforehand is extremely important to carefully gather the desired results.
However, the application of true statistical analysis in my bachelor is scarce, mostly due to the fact that I did not have access to a well-composed large sample of users. Often, a maximum of 30 participants generated user test results, something that does not require statistical analysis. Nonetheless, I also learned different ways of investigating and how to gather the data, for example the kind of questions and preventing biases (which was also taught during my Psychology & Technology USE courses) and also how to visualize data. Which on their turn all improved these amateurish user tests, containing questions as: ‘Do you like the product?’, to more detailed and specified questions as: ‘Would you think the product is going to work in practice and why?’. Making them more useful and reliable.
Furthermore, I have never been an extreme technical designer, but I have been trying to practice with processing variables in a more complex way, because they become more compact this way and provide more possibilities. An example from my Final Bachelor Project is the data processing from bio-metrical data into an object and subsequently into three simple parameters: an x-coordinate, a y-coordinate and the expired time of this object. These parameters are used in other algorithms to create the representative dots. Even though my knowledge in this area is limited and expanding relatively slow, I think it is certainly useful to decrease the complexity of prototypes, being able to quickly iterate and again, communicate a certain working mechanism.
I became aware of the importance of the user and its corresponding context quite early in my development, in the User Centered Design course. Without knowledge about the user, one would design a product that will never be used. This seems logical, but it was not up until project 1: Hapto that I actually encountered the effects of not carefully investigating a user and its context. We designed a designated handheld product that could find other people with about the same music taste with the help of a compass. It was an interesting and highly educational project, though with hindsight I would say that no one would ever want to use this. It does not completely solve a problem and it also does not really pass for an interesting interaction, it is rather awkward. The reason for this is that it does not fulfill the needs of the customer or adds up to their experience. This was caused by the absence of knowledge about the user and its context. I recognized the self-justifying process, mentioning that they ‘would probably going to use it as it is fun’.
To prevent designing a product that is not going to be used, I did a lot more preliminary research in the second project: Cylex, including literary research, but especially user research. Constantly asking the user, throughout the project, how they would operate with the system and what kind of functions they would love to see, helped to indicate needs and design a product that really fulfilled these.
During my Psychology and Technology USE courses I learned about psychological and sociological processes, which I extended to my Final Bachelor Project and which allowed me to not only identify problems and values but also predict user’s behavior within context.
Moreover, during the Design Research course I have obtained the knowledge to analyze quantitative data from larger groups of users. In project 3: Interactive Playground (the research project) I have learned to use it to create my own research, to examine and validate a design and to ground design choices. Something that is in line with my vision as I think it is extremely important to design a product that does not evoke questions that cannot be answered. Research is a powerful tool to validate these assumptions, choices and concepts.
From designing a product that the user does not even need, I am in my Final Bachelor Project able to create a seamlessly integrated solution, adjusted to different users in context, investigated from different perspectives. The user is consulted throughout the process as a stakeholder, providing information that I, as designer, can process into a concept.
With my Final Bachelor Project, I have brought three highly educational and interesting years to an end, time to start looking at the future.
The upcoming six months, I am planning to work on some unrealized goals, outside the academic environment. My internship company, Balini, offered me to finish a project I had been working on during the first semester of my third year. On the one hand, I would like to acquire some experience, working on subtle and humble consumer-products. Which is something I really enjoyed working on and I want to discover if it might be something I would like to work on in the future as well. Moreover, one of my internship goals was to go through multiple design cycles. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to do this yet, as the time it takes to get to this second cycle, whether it is at the TU/e or at Balini, simply takes more than half a year, which is the available time for the projects I worked on in the past. Now that I have the chance to keep working on the project, I might be able to get more insights in the further development and even production of the product, which seems extremely informative to me. Moreover, implementing a product in real life, testing it and adjusting it, is something that I still want to experience.
Furthermore, I want to follow a woodworking course of a few weeks, to enhance my skills in both hand tools and non-computer controlled machinery and expand my knowledge of several kinds of wood and joints. All this, according to my vision, to improve my formgiving skills.
Afterwards, I want to continue learning in an academic way at the TU in Delft, starting my master there. The reason for this is to experience a new perspective on design. Something that I think is important and what I have tried to do already, by expanding my exploration techniques. Moreover, at the TU/e, I feel that formgiving is relatively inferior to other aspects of design, as conceptualization and feasibility of technology. Less attention is given to this during classes and in my opinion it is slightly under-represented in the rubrics of the projects as well, mostly in the first projects.
Discussing this with peer students from the TU Eindhoven and TU Delft, I think Delft focuses slightly more on the actual making or production of products. Something that is also represented by the early-stage hands-on modelling.