Chaz Inouye ('17 Product Design) Inouye was one of six finalists in the first-ever Under Armor Design Future Show. Only selected students from various design schools were invited to participate in this unique competition. The students were selected for their design and creative capabilities and received mentoring from Under Armor designers and presented their final concepts at the Under Armor world headquarters in Baltimore.
Three finalists were chosen for each category. Chance Manzler of the University of Cincinnati, DAAP, Corynn McAtee of the Parsons School of Design, and Hannah Marcinek of the University of Cincinnati for apparel and Chaz Inouye of the Otis College of Art & Design, David Chung of the ArtCenter College of Design, and Kurtis Hoffman of the College for Creative Studies for footwear. While Inouye did not "win" the competition, it was an experience he'll never forget. We caught up with the recent graduate as he talked to us about the Under Armor experience, how he approaches design, and the power of asking "why?"
Did you always want to be an artist or designer?
Not at first, growing up, I always knew I had a knack for finding creative solutions but was not introduced to design until I had to choose between an artistic or technical career. When researching colleges and majors, product design felt like the perfect combination of the two that would allow me to continue to help others.
How did you hear about the Under Armor Design Future Show and what prompted you to enter?
I met an alum, Jodie Todd, through an Under Armour college visit at Otis. She encouraged me to enter because she saw that I enjoy peering into the future and designing products that enhance human performance. Even though the deadline was in a week, I always like a challenge and an excuse to learn something new…so I thought, “why not!”
What was your approach to the Under Armour design challenge, did you draw on any previous footwear experience?
The Future Show challenge prompted the contestants to imagine the year 2020 when emerging technologies would become more feasible. My approach to design is to pinpoint a problem within the specific user’s lifestyle and introduce an idea that inspires confidence in their actions. The focus I chose specifically dealt with runners and safety concerns when running in the dark. I imagined a shoe that would provide undeniable visibility, increasing safety for the runner. This, in turn, would increase their confidence while running at night. The previous experience I have designing footwear for companies such as Skechers and Barbour at Northstar Sourcing Group gave me the ability to push the boundaries of conventional footwear design.
The challenge allowed you to meet and compete against design students from other colleges and be mentored by a select designer from Under Armor, what did you learn from this experience?
Through this competition I was able to see drastically different designs adjacent to each other, addressing different markets and users. I learned that everyone has a different position on design, and there is no rubric for determining which design is better than the other. To communicate a new idea successfully, the design pitch requires clear, concise delivery and powerful aesthetics without seeming too unconventional.
If you could boil down your Otis College experience into one word, what would it be?
“Why?” Everything I learned, everything I felt, and everything I experienced, was because I did not stop asking why. It is the one word that drives purposeful design and separates the “what can be” from “what should be.”
Which of your projects are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of my standing wheelchair project, Boost. It focuses on the social imbalance that wheelchair users may face when interacting with able-bodied people. By bringing the user to an upright position, Boost promotes equality between those who are able-bodied and those with disabilities. Starting from an idea, developing this project pushed the limits of my knowledge and skill sets to create a full-scale proof-of-concept model.
Now that you've graduated, where would you like your career to take you?
I believe like any tool, products are an extension of our unique lifestyles that give us the ability to do more than just the naked body could. I hope to continue to help others by creating products or experiences that inspire positive action and mental confidence at a company with similar beliefs. I have been interning at the DJO Global consumer division that provides multiple product brands which focus on enhancing human performance and comfort.
See more of Inouye's work at www.designoia.com.