Portfolio, Kendall college of art and design winter issue
On the cover, Kendall Alumnus Joey Ruiter (industrial design ’10) illustrates “innovation” for the covr of this issue. Though an industrail design graduate, Joey has earned international recongnition for his innovatinve and thought-provoking work across multiple industries. Read more about Joey on page 13, and visit his website at jruiter.com
FROM THE GARAGE TO KENDALL TO, WELL…THE GARAGE by Patrick Duncan
You’re just as likely to find Joey Ruiter re-imagining a birdhouse as a boat, a workspace or a warehouse. The 2000 Industrial Design graduate – and 2010 Kendall Alumni Recent Graduate Achievement Award winner, and illustrator of the cover of this issue of Portfolio – is a major influence in the global design community, with a career that spans disciplines, media and industries. We tossed him a few questions about what makes him tick.
How do you define what you do?
I don’t. My degree from Kendall is in Industrial Design, but I do my best to avoid all labels. I’m just an artist, trying to make an impact in whatever floats my boat at any given time. And sometimes, that’s an actual boat.
When did you first develop an interest in machines and/or art?
Growing up, I was always changing, altering, re-doing, toys, bikes, things around me. I don’t have a matchbox car that isn’t repainted or changed somehow. (before I had a drivers license,…) When I was 14, I was buying and restoring Porsche’s. I wasn’t modifying it or improving it in any way, but my curiosity for all things mechanical, especially vehicles, provided a great foundation of knowledge.
It sounds like your family was a big influence on you.
Absolutely. I have two older brothers, an older sister, a gear head dad, and my mom was a teacher. We all are highly creative, confident, self-motivated individuals. I suppose we all influenced each other, and it’s interesting that we all have different jobs today. Engineer, nurse, sales, bio-chemist, etc. I have been lucky to be surrounded by a long list of great people throughout my life.
Why are so many of your projects related to vehicles?
I love to work in transportation because it’s so personal to people. It makes a connection through redefining something they thought they knew everything about.
Do you look for people to have a certain reaction to the objects you design?
It is important to me that people find a relationship with the objects that I create, inspiring new stories, memories and interactions with each other.
Talk about your experience at Kendall and how that shaped you.
During a break from Muskegon Community College, I went to a senior show at Kendall that involved a scooter and other industrial design projects, and I was hooked. Coming from public schools, I had been exposed to a traditional education, and chasing grades just didn’t appeal to me. I was learning physics, math, geometry, science and art by working in the garage, I just didn’t know it. [Thanks to instructors like Tom Edwards, Karl Mead, Alan Rheault, Bill Heighstler, and David Greenwood] this was the first time that grades weren’t the ultimate goal in school—it was all about creating something unique. Even failures were successes, because you learned something from it. And exploring classes outside my major was very positive. I learned it was fine to experiment even further without fear of failure.
How important is it to be willing to accept failure as part of the process?
I see the role of the designer as being to lead people to what’s next… to push, to imagine, to create something great. Ultimately, you can’t achieve that kind of breakthrough without a failure or two along the way.
So, what are you currently working on?
I’m applying everything i know to stripping a car down to its basic function: a mode of transportation. What we think we want is very different from what we need or have. This will have a “green” element to it, but not in the typical way. Al the parts are locally sourced or reclaimed, with collaboration from a lot of creative people right here in West Michigan. I won’t share many details yet, but it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it’s my favorite thing so far. Althougth to be fair, every new thing I work on is my favorite.
Never one to sacrifice fun for function, you’ll continue to find Joey exploring and experimenting, pushing himself as hard as he pushes the notions of what a designer represents to the world. Watch the future unfold at jruiter.com.- Read Less
art & design
TRENDS / PEOPLE / INNOVATION / PLACES
Designer Joey Ruiter has channeled his hobby of breaking things down and his penchant for breaking rules into a carrer.
Pushing the limits
by Alexandra Fluegel / Photography by Johnny Quirin
“YOU DON’T BREAK RULES if they don’t exist,” is a motto Joey Ruiter lives by.
The industrial designer has built his success upon re-imagining concepts and objects in new ways. As founder and principle of JRUITER + STUDIO, he thrives on stripping things down, ingonring the accepted norm and starting over again.
Ruiter has worked as an independent designer for the past seven years, providing everything from concepts to prototyping an manufacturing. His projects range from office design to an interesting take on bicycles that has earned him national recognition.
One of the first things Ruiter stripped was a riding lawnmower when he was 14. “I fixed it up according to what I thought it should do,” he said.
This meant making the machine faster and giving it new wheels and a fresh paint job.
Then Ruiter thought he should ride it to school. A sign promptly went up in the school parking lot informing students of teh accepted means of transportation – and souped -up riding lawnmowers did not make the list.
Where some may have viewed the incident as boyhood exuberance gone awry, Ruiter saw it as a good thing.
“When you get a sign or a rule put up after you do something, you know you’ve done something right,” he said.
Ruiter continued taking things apart and putting them back together. As a student at Kendall College of Art and Design, he realized that pairing his hobby with his penchant for breaking rules could be channeled into a career.
Two years before graduating, Ruiter sold his first office chair to furniture giant Steelcase, which became his first post-graduation employers. While with the company, he was involved in research, concepts and product launch, and continued to cultivate the streamlined, simplified approach to the type of design for which he is now known.
“I try to reset things, give them a black slate,” he said.
When approaching a concept or problem, Ruiter said he asks himself: “If you only had what you have now, what would you do to move forward?”
The answers result in his signature designs, which he describes as “meeting everyday needs in surprising ways, pushing the limits of manufacturing and confronting established expectations.”
Ruiter’s Inner City Bike is a visually striking yet functionally basic two-wheeler suited for short trips in urban environments.
“It’s not a better bike,” Ruiter pointed our. “Just an interesting take on design.”
Interesting indeed – the bike doesn’t have a chain.
Instead, it operates on a free-wheeling, unicycle-insprired hub that relies on fewer movable parts, makeing the bike cheaper and elimination the need for that often seen pant-let roll-up. The degn lauded Ruiter prase from Popular Science, The New York Times, and Men’s Journal, which dubbed it on of its “59 greatest things.”
Another of Ruiter’s designs earned gold at this year’s NeoCon for him and collaborator Chuck Saylor, founder of izzy+, a Spring Lake-based furniture company. the Nemo Bar and Trellis is a space concept suited for environments from offices to airports, employing elements that encourage sharing and communication.
Ruiter said the team “created the spaces as straightforward and simple as possible” using feedback reeived in previous NeoCon shows when the idea was presented as a concept product.
The human-centric design is representative of RUiter’s people-oriented aesthetic.
“It’s important to me that people find a relationship with the objects I create. Inspiring creates new stories, memories and interactions with each other. Ultimately, that’s really what it’s all about.” GR- Read Less
Sunday, 28 October 2012
Design Matters Q&A: Joey Ruiter, Owner, JRuiter + Studio
Written by Carl Dunker
Design Matters Q&A: Joey Ruiter, Owner, JRuiter + Studio PHOTO: Katy Batdorff
Exposed to design at an early age, Joey Ruiter is an independent industrial designer whose clients include Nucraft Furniture Company and izzy+. Ruiter cut his teeth working on engines in his garage before attending Ferris State’s Kendall College of Art and Design, where he discovered industrial design and product development. Ruiter’s designs have won awards at trade shows such as NeoCon and have been featured in the New York Times.
How do you see design as being different from art?
They are identically the same, and if they disagree with that, it’s just semantics.
What constraints do you have as an industrial designer as opposed to other designers?
The products I generally do are used by humans, and usually are scaled to that size. They need to hold up things. They need to work and sell. They need to ship. They need to be built. There’s just a lot of variables involved. For a graphic design or a web page, for example, it’s a lot more straightforward as far as what it can physically do or not. Nobody’s going to be sitting on a website, or you don’t ship it across the U.S. in a trailer and hope it doesn’t get damaged. They both have huge constraints, it’s just with product design and industrial design, they all just collide at once. There’s graphic design on the products. There’s mechanical design in the products, and architectural design in the piece as well.
What should the next generation of designers be thinking about?
It’s going to be more of a lifestyle that you have, and you get compensated for it, hopefully. Do what you want to do and not what you think others want you to do. Have high ambitions and high goals.
How does education play into that?
Education is the only time you’re going to freely express your product design or art truly, and I think students lose sight of that and start listening to their teachers. I don’t know if you could ever fail at an art school, but I think people think you can — that’s the odd part. If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing the envelope – you’re not trying. If you’re failing because you didn’t do enough, that’s one thing, but if you think you might fail because you tried something too weird or too far out there, that’s good.
Should designers bring that fearlessness to the job as well?
I’ve made a pretty nice studio out of failing pretty hard, and it works well. When you fail a lot, and it’s an open failure, clients respect that, and you sort of share in what happened. Then you know what doesn’t work, and you know what really can work. I don’t really do anything mediocre. It’s either really awesome or really terrible. It’s like Evil Knievel: He either makes it or he doesn’t. You can’t skip over the tops of the buses.
Going forward, how do you see the future of industrial design?
There’s just so much that we’ve got access to. You put something online and it goes viral immediately. Privacy is pretty much gone; it’s an open-source environment, so the speed of things is going really fast. I think things are culturally changing really quickly, and I don’t think designers have their eyes opened yet.- Read Less
Publication Date: September 12, 2012
A collection of the best and most popular bikes to be found anywhere right now, this book gives the overview of what is out there for every kind of cyclist. Whether you are a BMXtreme or mountain bike enthusiast, a keen tourer or racer, a city commuter or courier, or simply fascinated with the constantly advancing mechanics and engineering of folding and other innovative bike designs, this book has something for you. 100 Best Bikes is the essential resource for anyone wanting to know what is the best they can find now in design and engineering for every kind of bike.
check out http://www.innercitybikes.com for information and availability- Read Less
“No Object Is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection”
On View at Cranbrook Art Museum through March 25, 2012
For more information, visit http://www.cranbrook.edu.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum.
Photography: James Haefner for The SmithGroup, Detroit.
Volume 20, Number 8
The Style and Design Issue
59 Perfect Things
The current fixed-gear bike trend has spawned a mass of less-is-more models, but Inner City Bikes’ 36er is the most strikingly minimalist we’ve seen. “Our goal was to hit the reset button on bike design,” says designer Joey Ruiter. The end product is a sci-fi cycle with the essentials only: an aluminum frame, freewheel rear hub, 36-inch tires, disc breaks, custom fit cranks, and a seat. Not even a chain or drive train. “It’s a city cruiser” says Ruiter. “More fashion than function.”- Read Less
Le Plus Simple Appareil
Un cadre, une delle, un guidon, un frein (à disques) sur la roue arrière: voici le prototype de vélo du futur, l’Inner City Bike. “Nous avons réfléchi à la façon de simplifier le concept de bicyclette au maximum et une idée s’est imposée d’elle-même: supprimer la chaîne”, explique Joey Ruiter, designer américain basé dans le Michigan. Le pédalier, soudé directement au moyeu de la roue arrière, offre une variante bienvenue à la tendance des fixies, ces vélos à pignon fixe que l’on a vu fleurir ces dernières années. Pour faciliter le démarrage, le ratio de pédalage est de 1:1 car “nous avons voulu proposer une bécane qui soit davantage liée au style qu‘à la performance pure, raconte Ruiter. Je ne pense pas que l’on puisse parcourir des kilomètres avec ce vélo, mais nous l’avons conçu comme l’objet idéal du jeune urbain qui déambule en ville.” – Jean-Vincent Russo- Read Less
Please visit Vandalorum in Sweden April through August- Prototype #6 of the inner city bike 36er is on display.
Vandalorum is a new art & design Center in the south of Sweden due to be opened to the public in April next year.
Buildings are designed by Italian architects Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
The opening exhibition will be with BICYCLES (Cyklar!)
The Light Fantastic Design, Travel
For his Inner City bicycle, Joey Ruiter of JRuiter + Studio brought the bike back to basics. First, he unchained it. The bike, specifically tailored for short-distance trips on city streets, operates with a free-wheeling, unicycle-inspired hub that relies on fewer movable parts (which also makes it cheaper).
By JORDAN HRUSKA
November 12, 2010, 9:23 am
Can A Mere Product Design Win a $250,000 Art Prize?
Why shouldn’t great designs rank with great art? Designers are testing the waters.
Industrial designer Joey Ruiter is trying to blur — no, obliterate — the line separating art and design. “I don’t think there’s too much difference,” says the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based designer on why he entered one of the world’s most lucrative open art competitions, Art Prize, with a sleek, minimalist city bike.
Wayne Adams, a longtime friend of Ruiter’s and a Brooklyn-based painter, disagrees. “It’s not design prize, it’s Art Prize,” he says. Adams has also entered Art Prize with an oil painting that looks like a real-life photograph of bunched up aluminum foil, and he doesn’t think designed objects should be considered art and entered into an art competition along with traditional art mediums.
Their debate will be put to the test next month in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the second year of Art Prize, an open art competition with a $449,000 kitty, including a jaw-dropping $250,000 top prize. Last year about 1,200 artists from around the world showed a signature piece of sculpture, performance, or painting. Art Prize drew 200,000 visitors to the city in its inaugural run last year, doubling as both art event and economic stimulant. The winner of the top prize is determined by popular vote, via text or online voting, a la American Idol. This year, organizers made a conscious effort to encourage more designers to enter — a move that is sure to not only complicate the ongoing debate over what constitutes as ‘good’ art, but art itself.
Adams concedes it’s not a simple argument—and that not all designed objects hit the mark. “If someone brings in their old 10-speed, it’s harder to make the argument and design equals art,” he says. But does it? The 10-speed bike has arguably transformed more lives than any piece of art.
Even Ruiter isn’t sure a street bike can win Art Prize, if last year’s winner gleans any clues about.
But Ruiter, who has done work for Herman Miller and izzyplus, sees himself as an artist, regularly exploring his own creative limits. His bike was a design exercise in stripping away the parts of a convention bike: Think of it as a unicycle with a front wheel, no chain, and a single front disc brake. “There’s no grease, no moving parts, we’ve really deconstructed something that was already something simple,” Ruiter says. But it’s impractical for other than as a well-dressed spin down the block: “It might not even be functional at all and that’s hard to swallow for a lot of designers,” says Ruiter.
Which raises a question: Should Ruiter’s entry be judged as a piece of design—and thus on how well it functions? Design usually only becomes great when it serves its purpose well—But does being an entrant in an art contest change that criteria?
And does that mean souped-up washing machines or electric cars could win the next Art Prize? It’s totally possible, says Bill Holsinger-Robinson, the executive director of Art Prize. He and other organizers realized at the end of last year’s event they needed to reach out to more designers — from fashion to graphic-design — to really widen the contest’s reach and impact.
“To a large extent we see ourselves as social designers,” Holsinger-Robinson says, who along with most, if not all, of the Art Prize team also work for Spout, an online networking site for movie fans started by an Amway heir, whose family also underwrote last year’s startup costs. “Some audiences won’t view design as art. But for the broader group, I don’t think they will have issues with trying to make those lines of distinction.”
South Korea-based artist Chulyeon Park explores duality and bipolarity in this bench called “Schizophrenic’s Debris.” It’s made of MDF, laser cut and coated with graphite, then finished with lacquer. [As we were going to press, Park decided to withdraw from the competition, citing shipping costs.—Ed.]
Progressive AE, an architectural and engineering firm in Grand Rapids, entered with “Rabbit Hole,” an interactive installation based on the theme of discovery and curiosity. The visitor will find clear tubes hanging like chimes that emit a kaleidoscope of effect on color, the walls are designed to manipulate sound, texture and balance for the overall experience.
“There will be a variety of texture and sounds. It’s something that’s asking to be touched,” says Brian Koehn, one of the project’s collaborators.
Last year, they entered d.ploi, a mobile, modular structure of wood and steel that could work as your own mini-room inside a room or outside.
Go to Art Prize and see (and judge) for yourselves, September 22 to October 10.
Kaomi Goetz is a writer for Co Design. She also uses audio to tell stories about technology and social and economic trends for National Public Radio and others.- Read Less
Joey Ruiter has designs on downtown Grand Rapids
Matt Vande Bunte Thursday, June 03, 2010
Design an award-winning office chair: Check. Design an aquatic pod-racer: Check. Design a bicycle for urban commuters: Check.
Now, Joey Ruiter has designs on a new Grand Rapids workshop. Check this out: The 33-year-old industrial designer has bought a tiny parcel west of Founders Brewing Co. and plans to construct “a little office-garage” estimated to cost $180,000 to support his work.
“The office today for me is barely a setting. It’s a state of mind,” says Ruiter, looking over design concepts for the studio he envisions on Bartlett Street SW. “Every week I do something different, so it’s gotta be able to change and shift and move.
“This is really a shell to accommodate a lot of different things. This is an experiment in how to work in the future.”
Ruiter does a lot of forward thinking. The Grand Haven native sold an office chair design to Steelcase while still in school at Kendall College of Art & Design, which honored him last month with a distinguished alumni award. He also has earned honors at NeoCon, the National Exposition of Contract Furnishings that will soon be taking place in Chicago. And a “totally experimental” boat he designed was featured in Popular Science magazine.
On his own After working for Steelcase’s Turnstone division after school, Ruiter five years ago opened his own studio. In addition to furniture companies including Herman Miller, Nucraft and izzy, Ruiter’s clientele crosses industries ranging from dental tools to hot tubs. He spends about half of his time developing new stuff, or creating new designs of existing products.
One of his latest creations, the Inner City Bike, seeks to engage a growing cadre of urban commuters by putting some new tread on the traditional bicycle. It sports a pair of 36-inch wheels with a seat atop the one in the rear. There is no chain.
“I basically took away everything that you didn’t absolutely need,” Ruiter says. “You don’t wear one of those cone (racing) helmets on this. It’s probably a reverse in evolution.”
Then again, less can be more in terms of design to Ruiter. His current workspace at 3 Oakes St. SW is smallish, adorned by a Herman Miller marshmallow sofa and a conference table that doubles as his desk. There’s a photo of the Inner City Bike on the wall and a few of his designs on the floor, including an OFS-brand Swank lounge chair made to use a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood so there’s no scrap.
“The key to my business is low overhead,” he says. “I own a computer. I own a printer. I own a couple tools. And that’s my business assets.
“I’m not really building a business to sell. The sale is me doing the work.”
Ruiter moved his assets six months ago to Oakes, the most recent of several workspaces that together have been phases of an ongoing experiment. He previously worked at his Grand Rapids home, a task complicated by the presence of two children age two and younger. There also was a rented space that needed a bigger elevator to fit materials. There was an owned building with a ceiling too low. Ruiter even squatted for awhile in vacant buildings on Ionia Avenue SW.
Hey, he likes the downtown bustle.
“I feel like I’m part of a bigger world,” he says, looking out on Oakes. “I feel like I have co-workers walking by.”
Altogether now People will be the focus of his design for the new workshop, Ruiter says. He’s striving to make it “like the second home I can work at.” For entertaining clients, there’ll be a kitchen in the back of a second floor that has an outdoor deck on the roof. A third-floor loft would be for storage, with a ground-floor showroom housing a model shop.
The design combines elements from previous workspaces into a single, new building on a 2,000-square-foot lot.
“I’ve moved probably five times in the last six years, and I just haven’t been able to find the right space. It has been a learning process,” Ruiter says. “This building is really the consolidation of a lot of those components at a manageable scale.
“I want the people to stand out rather than the architecture. Products should be in the background to support interaction.“
Grand Rapids city planning officials have embraced Ruiter’s concept for the workshop. “It is always exciting for us to meet with individuals who wish to build up the urban core and be living pioneers in nearly unchartered territories, like on his site,” said Suzanne Schulz, planning director. “The little postage-stamp size of a lot that he wishes to build on captures the imagination about what could be there. “To have an individual like Joey want to invest in the city and choose that spot speaks to the enthusiasm that exists about downtown and the confidence people have in the city’s future.“ Ruiter concedes he might never build his workshop, and whether or not he does may not matter. It’s the process of designing that inspires him. It’s another experiment to check off the list, another form given a fresh take.
“I’ve been doing this for years. This is, like, number 30,” he says, looking over the latest workshop design. “It’s a change disorder, an experiment disorder. Maybe there’s an acronym for it.
“I’m really in no hurry, but it’s kind of fun having the aspirations.”
For a designer, it’s an aspiration afforded by Grand Rapids. Shoot, he paid cash for the property. Plus, the business community is rich in world-class manufacturing and the geography suits Ruiter’s penchant for outdoor action like fishing, boating and snowboarding.
Not to mention that Grand Rapids fits his design philosophy.
“We design our own lives to make it easier all the time,” Ruiter says. “It’s simple and easy to live here. I couldn’t even think of doing this in New York.”
Matt Vande Bunte writes about business, government, religion and other things. His work has appeared in newspapers including The Grand Rapids Press and Chicago Tribune and in assorted sectors of cyberspace.
Newly purchased parcel of land
Future building design -Rendering Courtesy of Joey Ruiter
Joey Ruiter in his current studio (2)
One of Joey Ruiter boat designs -Photo Courtesy of Joey Ruiter
Photographs by Brian Kelly -All Rights Reserved
New concepts by Joey Ruiter at izzy+ invite people to explore social dynamics, energy of third space
Why the kitchen island is such a draw, and how posture changes interaction
NeoCon World’s Trade Fair 2010: The Merchandise Mart, Spaces 1150, 11-100
CHICAGO – June 2010 – How do you structure the unstructured space? Good question. That’s why the izzy+ team asked designer Joey Ruiter to conceptualize how people connect at anchor destinations within a lobby, commons or student union.
Two unusual concept pieces during NeoCon at the 11th floor showrooms for izzy+ explore the answers, inviting Chicago visitors to test and provide feedback on third space.
The first concept draws you into a small alcove composed of a table, seating and an arbor-like ceiling resembling woven branches, where you might spend an hour, thinking or talking privately to others, recharging your energy in reflective solitude.
But when you have 15 minutes to check the scores, recharge your phone or debrief after class, head to the second concept piece. You can’t miss this 24 foot bar-like structure, capped off with a semi-enclosed seating area. The entire product creates three distinct collaboration zones: extrovert, social and private.
“We’re designing to support a culture of relevance,” says Ruiter of JRuiter Studio. “People need something to gather around, to share ideas and confidences, or to be alone while they’re standing next to someone else. These two concept pieces show how informal space builds community, where information is shared quickly. And it’s where real work and real learning take place now.”
izzy+ Founder and CEO Chuck Saylor is excited about the “concept car” conversation. “This is experimentation 101. It’s another stage of our research on how people act and use space for collaboration and personal reflection, and how we can best support them,” he says. “Why do you naturally rally around a bar, or kitchen island? In the five stages of posture, from sleeping to standing, the stand-up aspect is so intriguing. The body is completely engaged. Your inhibition is low and your energy level is high. In contrast, in the arbor setting, there’s an element of mystery and intrigue. Who’s in there? Who are they with and what are they saying?”
Mixing open and intimate spaces helps explore threshold barriers, says Ruiter. “How do you decrease these barriers? That’s the idea of a bar-height lounge,” he says. “When you sit in a restaurant booth up on risers, it’s more comfortable when people walk by. You have a visual connection to others but you’re not in their space. Can you mix complete privacy with complete openness? We do it all the time today, in the subway, in a stairwell, sending emails from the cafeteria. Converting that idea into physical products is a new idea.”
The employees of izzy+ (http://www.izzyplus.com) design, manufacture and market office furniture and seating that solve real problems for real people. The focus is to provide designers with the tools to create inspiring work spaces for forward-thinking customers in home offices and small businesses, in executive offices and board rooms, in hospitals and classrooms. Its award-winning products are marketed under the brand names izzy, HÅG, Harter, Fixtures Furniture, Zoom Seating and ABCO Office Furniture. Based in Spring Lake, Mich., U.S., izzy+ is a business of JSJ Corporation of Grand Haven, Michigan.
Design, Products April 19, 2010
Seven Questions for Joey Ruiter, Industrial Designer
By Kate Convissor
Industrial designer Joey Ruiter
Joey Ruiter is having way too much fun for a grownup. From his boyhood penchant for dismantling things, Ruiter has continued to finesse the art of stripping design to its essentials. And he brings this aesthetic of the unfussy to his work as well as to his play. So, Herman Miller’s new Intent line of furniture, designed by Ruiter, is meant to look as cool in private offices as it does in open plan and to offer affordable mix-and-match choices.
At play, Ruiter has stripped the bicycle to bare-nakedness, and the Inner City Bike, “a café racer with the performance of a beach cruiser,” is the result. He also tinkers with boat design. “Why are boats so complicated? A boat just needs something to make it float and something to make it go. Maybe something to sit on, too.” Ruiter’s boats are minimalist and easy to maintain; they have the lean, hungry look of a shark. He even manages to make a pontoon boat look like furniture rather than a barge.
A native son of utilitarian West Michigan with a studio in Grand Rapids, Ruiter has managed to marry his engineering bent to an artist’s eye. So we get fun bikes and boats, and some nice furniture, too.
Here are 7 questions for Joey Ruiter:
1. What are you working on right now?
My current list of work is awesomely random. A bicycle, a boat, a bathroom sink, some soft lounge pieces, and outdoor furniture, to name a few.
2. Which of your projects are you most proud of?
The really complicated projects that end up with a simple solution. Like it was there all along.
3. What inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration?
I am inspired by all sorts of people, objects, and funny things that I surround myself with. Inspiration for me is about finding the obscure, hidden, underground, collections and groups. There are so many creative and talented people from all walks of life all doing wonderful things. You need to get off the path a bit to meet them because they’re not in any fancy magazines or blogs.
4. What work do you most admire by another designer or artist?
Pioneer Raymond Loewy for creating new adjectives, thoughts, and inspiring generations; designer Marc Newson for implementing space travel; and artist Wayne Adams for thinking differently.
5. What would be your dream project?
Unlimited resources to implement creative diplomacy in our world.
6. What place in the world would you most like to visit?
After a little time in Holland, Michigan, of course, I would love to take a ride in the Dakar Rally through Chile and Argentina.
7. What one thing do you want to accomplish before you die?
I want to create a new word for an object or thought that I came up with. Words like computer, bicycle, automobile, and even panel system, were new at some point.- Read Less
Bicycle Culture and Design
Editors: R. Klanten, S. Ehmann
Release: April 2010
Price: € 35,00 / $ 50,00 / £ 32,50
Format: 21 × 26 cm
Features: 240 pages, full color, softcover
Velo introduces a wild bunch of passionate cyclists – frame builders, urban planners, artists, photographers, and those who ride professionally – who are making an impact. They are not only shaping styles, but promoting cycling as a primary form of transport. The book also explores the aesthetic of today’s cycling culture and presents custom-made frames and art bikes as well as a selection of contemporary illustration and design influenced by the cycling movement. Geared toward anyone who has a personal or professional interest in cycling, Velo is the fast lane into a current topic that is both entertaining and socially relevant.- Read Less
dec 09 – jan 10
Easy Rider. A Michigan-based design firm, JRUITER + studio has just designed Inner City Bike to simplify people’s inner-city personal transportation needs. As the trarget group lives and works in the city environment with minimal space, bicycling at this level might be more about fashion and culture than speed and performance. The design team simplifies a typical bicycle structure and inner city bike is the result. The bicycle includes planetary gear, free-wheeling hub, and is on the slow side – quirk, but fatiguing over longer distances. The positives are easy quick turns, and huge power to the rear wheel to go over curbs and other cityscape structures.- Read Less
Jan. 15th, “The hottest health trends for 2010”
The inner city bike was shown on the Doctors TV show.
Pushing design limits in search of the next big idea-
As a child growing up in Grand Haven, Michigan,Joey Ruiter spent a lot of time playing on the beach and in the water. When he wasn’t physically active, he recalls, he was drawing. Either way, Ruiter was busy doing what kids do when they play: finding boundaries and experimenting with how much freedom he could wield within them. This expression of freedom within form is still a big part of who Ruiter is today, as a young, successful industrial designer working from his own studio in Grand Rapids. It’s at the heart of why he ended up in industrial design, which falls somewhere between two other careers he explored: engineering—which is all about parameters and exactness—and fine art—which is often seen as an exercise
“Industrial design has boundaries that I’m able to understand and accept, and then work within,” Ruiter says. “That appeals to my creative side, plus I was able to see career possibilities.”
After discovering industrial design and getting a degree at Kendall College of Art and Design, career possibilities quickly became realities for Ruiter, right in West Michigan. He is in high demand as a designer for many of the region’s contract furniture companies.
“I guess I’m known for having futuristic concepts—the next big idea,” Ruiter says. “People who approach me to work on a design for them usually don’t know exactly what they want. They’ve reached a place where they need some problem-solving and direction for certain issues within the industry.”
As if the pressure of coming up with “the next big idea” isn’t exciting enough, Ruiter keeps himself hopping by setting near-impossible goals and imposing crazy deadlines.
“I’m kind of a mad scientist of design, the way I push myself,” he says. “I’ll call someone up and say ‘I have a great idea I want to present in a month.’ They say ‘Great,’ we set up a meeting, and then the pressure is on to pull off a prototype within the time frame. It keeps
Inspiration: found everywhere in everything.
For these great ideas, Ruiter is inspired “by everything,” but particularly by the gear and trends surrounding activities he loves, like biking and boating. The design issues he examines and pushes range from form and function to the use of unexpected materials and new manufacturing processes.
“For me, doing something new is about simplifying things in a way that makes them smarter and better,” he says. “Sometimes when you do something new and smart it throws everything else around it into question. That can be scary for a lot of people, but it’s definitely exciting. My goal is to push those limits, but also to promote change in a way people can accept.”
Ruiter is as mentally inspired as he is visually. He loves trend forecasting, following current events, and observing people—how they interact, how they work, and how they play.
“I look for all kinds of social and economic triggers, and I’m a news junkie with lots of opinions,” he says. “I also think I have a lot of empathy. I understand how different situations make people feel, which really comes into play in my designs.”
In addition to being human-focused and forward-looking, Ruiter’s designs are known for their cleverness. It’s not a loud, goofy cleverness, though. It’s more subtle, like a touch of humor that takes people by surprise but then quickly makes all the sense in
Some of that cleverness is imbedded in the object’s function, but other Ruiter designs incorporate jokes that are at once visual and conceptual. Ruiter’s bird feeder, for instance, has a cutout of a bird on it.
“The bird watching the other birds eat while people watch the whole thing is funny to me,” Ruiter says.
When several people asked if his bird feeder was squirrel proof, his response was classic Ruiter: designing a squirrel feeder. “Squirrels have to eat, too,” he says.
“I look for all kinds of social and economic triggers, and I’m a news junkie with lots of opinions,” he says.
Back to boat basics.
While Ruiter is known for his furniture designs, his other big love is designing boats. He is starting a boat company called just that: A Boat Company—mostly because he loves boats and worries that the boating industry is “backwards,” and needs a new approach.
“The materials used to make boats are very dangerous and are killing the people working in the factories,” Ruiter says. “And then a lot of people who own boats don’t use them because they require too much maintenance and work covering and uncovering them, storing them, getting them back out. I thought ‘Why are boats so complicated? A boat just needs something to make it float and something to make it go. Maybe something to sit on, too.’”
That’s how Ruiter’s Front Runner design and his new take on the classic pontoon were born. The boats are perfect representations of Ruiter’s philosophies about design, materials, manufacturing and fun, all rolled into one.
For US designer Joey Ruiter, the Front Runner is all about “going where other boats can’t and having a lot of fun getting there.” With two 215-horsepower engines it can also get you where you want to go pretty quickly. Able to operate in as little as 15 centimeters of water and run over debris such as rocks and logs, it features durability of a monster truck and the thrills of a sports car, spinning and sliding around corners in a blur. It’s not on the market yet, but be patient: there are product plans for spring 2009. The expected price is $55,000-$70,000. Ruiter is also working on a twin 400-horsepower prototype for military applications, scheduled for production in 2010.- Read Less
Making a splash
What’s good for the office is good for the dock at least when it comes to Grand Rapids-based industrial designer Joey Ruiter’s work, which looks very good in both places.
Ruiter studied fine art at Muskegon Community College before transferring to Kendall College of Art and Design where he discovered industrial design. Since graduation in 2000, he’s done product design for a number of West Michigan’s companies, must recently Steelcase subsidiary Turnstone.
With one foot still planted in the world of office furniture, he set up shop on his own as JRuiter Studio four years ago. “They get what’s going on,” Ruiter said of his office furniture clients, which these days include Haworth, Nucraft and izzydesign. “They’re sort of ahead of the ballgame, as far as pushing industries to move forward with the green processes and sustainable design. Great fashion, great products – they get it.”
Yet, like a human Slinky in a competitive game of Twister, Ruiter continues to stretch himself, bouncing between contract furniture work and other design challenges – primarily, he says, to keep himself entertained. “It’s hard to do boxes all day,” Ruiter deadpanned, referring to the foam core prototypes of modular office components that occupy vast chunks of his west side studio. never mind the fact that some of these “boxes” represent a quantum leap forward in the way executive office furniture suites function.
Practically everything Ruiter designs seems to advance an idea about improving the way that product’s end-user works, plays or lives. And no product illustrates that better than the watercraft Ruiter is designing for industry upstart A Boat Company. Last February at the Grand Rapids Boat Show at DeVos Place, the company debuted Ruiter’s Frontrunner – a dual engine watercraft reminiscent in concept to the pod racers from Episode I of the latest trilogy of the “Star Wars” films. The “wow” factor in a boat like the Frontrunner comes from its form, not the bells and whistles that tend to drive up the prices of conventional boats.
“Form and style and color – that’s all fashionable and free,” said Ruiter who grew up near the water in Grand Haven. “It’s the components that are expensive, so our goal is to break those down. … When you do that, you end up with a product that’s a lot simpler to make and is more likely sustainable.”
Other than the fact that they all float, Joey Ruiter-designed watercraft have little in common with conventional boat. In addition to the futuristic Frontrunner, which he classifies as a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object), he is working on a new class of slick runabouts powered by small airplane engines, and pontoon boats he calls platforms, which essencially are floating decks with customizable architecture and motors. Ruiter predicts that A Boat Company can make these basic platforms for a price that starts at $6,000 to $10,000. That would be a coup in an industry that has seen boat prices soar, driving would-be customers towards used boats.
“The public has caught on that most new boats are the same boats they were 15 years ago,” Ruiter said. “And they’re only $5,000 versus $70,000!”
Each class of boat he’s designed – UFOs, runabouts and platforms – attempts to be something special for the boaters.
“I guess I’m just interested in inspiring people around the products that I make,” Ruiter said. “People ask me what I do, and it’s sort of hard to answer that, because at the end of the day I make objects – but I feel I make experiences.”
Jruiter in the house
When he’s not meeting the high demands of the office furniture industry or shaking up the boating world, Joey Ruiter makes bird houses.
Even though his growing list of clients leaves him little time for spec work, Ruiter still manages to create whimsical objects d’art when ever he finds a moment.
He sometimes imposes arbitrary deadlines on himself for these creations. For Festival of the Arts last year, for example, he entered an ornate squirrel feeder in the Regional Arts Exhibition.
“ I need to leave room for myself to sort of create without any boundaries,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean sacrificing a commitment to sustainability. By sticking to 100 percent recyclable materials and simple manufacturing processes, Ruiter’s home and backyard accessories deliver style and conscience.
“For me, there’s really no purpose in the world for some of the things we surround ourselves with, so we shouldn’t wreck the world trying to make them,” Ruiter commented. “They’re just temporary fashion, but this is the type of stuff that big retailers will do whatever it takes to get out as cheaply as possible.” – Curt Wozniak
The Aquatic Pod-Racer
A passerby recently asked Joey Ruiter where he found his aluminum-encased Star Wars pod-racer look-alike. “It’s from the future,” Ruiter replied. Apparently convinced the woman nodded and walked away.
A lifelong boater, Ruiter believes that manufacturers focus too much on creature comforts, at the expense of the the driving experience and environmental concerns. So the Grand Rapids, Michigan, product designer decided to try to create a scaled-down recreational boat that would handle like a small twin-engine airplane and could maneuver into hard-to-reach places typical cruisers can’t go. He stripped down two jet skis, built a cockpit, and worked with a local dune buggy shop to construct the frame that holds his 18-foot-long prototype together. For the three main sections, he cut and formed shells from aluminum, instead of fiberglass.
With no external propeller, the boat can run in as little as five inches of water. It’s green too, since Ruiter used all recyclable materials. Now he’s building a retractable hydrofoil, which would crank the top speed from an estimated 45 mph to over 65. – Gregory Mone
The Aquatic Front Runner
When Joey Ruiter’s not working on furniture, designing art or turning Alfa Romeos, he;s thinking about how we travel on the ocean. “I grew up in a beach community in Michigan. I’ve done everything stupid there is to do on the water. I simply wanted to do more.” His Front Runner was the solution. “When we were thinking how to design a new type of boat, we approached it from the point of what do we want to do. Personally, I want to go fast, but have lots of control like an airplane. I want to be able to pack a bag and go on an adventure where I may hit stuff, rocks or logs, and not have to worry. We then figured out how to do all that.” the pod-racer design seems to fulfill his wildest desires. With 450 hp delivered from twin jet engines tethered to the body like horses to a chariot, the Runner can certainly haul. It has a complicated foot pedal steering system that allows for changes in pitch, bank, heading, and the flat bottomed hull and hydrofoil allow for close to zero drag as well as the ability to go over things a curved hull couldn’t. It’s what all suburbanite fathers have been waiting for, an SUV for the water. – Frank Hentic- Read Less
Nucraft Design, Strategy
Tapping deign talent both locally and nationally set Nucraft up for an exciting product launches at NeoCon 2007.
Based in Comstock Park, the company tapped Grand Rapids designer Joey Ruiter for a new occasional table, bench and console collectively called Moment.
The handsome, well-scaled pieces may expand into a larger line for Nucraft in the future.
For View, a new occasional table, Nucraft turned again to well known NewYork designer Mark Goetz, whose designs for Nucraft’s Shine table won a Silver Best on NeoCon Award in 2006. Nucraft president Bob Bockheim described View as “very contemporary, light in scale and right in line with the direction of the company.”
Nucraft also plans to launch strategic expansions of its Saber conference collection by West Michigan designer Mitch Baker, and its Aerial line of casegoods. Saber will take on a more environmentally friendly focus through increased recycled content and the possible addition of rapidly renewable or Forest Stewardship Council-certified woods as an option. Aerial will offer a customized solution in response to the specific office needs of the legal profession.
Rocking the Boat
The Front Runner is a bit of a vitamin-enriched soft drink: a healthier product for the market merely seeking gratification. “Boating is filled with hot-rodders and hillbillies who just want to go fast,” industrial designer Joey Ruiter says. “That’s who boat manufacturers are targeting. I’m saying that you can have the horsepower and the excitement, but you don’t have to be doing it the way you are today.”
That way involves copious amounts of fiberglass, which is manufactured with styrene, a toxin and potential carcinogen. “Making these boats is literally killing people,” Ruiter says. His aluminum hydrofoil concept reduces harmful emissions without sacrificing muscle: pulled by two independent four stroke engines, the Front Runner draws only a few inches of water, allowing it to go in shallow areas and clear normally crippling obstacles. Ruiter hopes this combination of performance and sustainability will be a wake-up call. “My clients in the contract-furniture industry are pushing me to do things environmentally,” he says. “I want to help another industry come out of the dark ages.” – Kristi Cameron
Up, Up and Away!
Joey Ruiter has his heads in the clouds, and that is exactly where we hope it stays.
The young design principal of Jruiter Studio recently unveiled his winning concept boat design during Michigan’s Grand Rapids Boat Show.
Dubbed the “Front Runner,” Ruiter’s forward-mounted jet-drive watercraft looks like it would be equally at home in the skies (perhaps with the likes of Batman or James Bond at the helm) as it would be on water.
More aircraft than boat, it has an airplane-like steering system that allows for changes in heading, pitch and bank. Rear hydrofoils lift the body of the Front Runner out of the water, making it possible to navigate extremely shallow waters that would normally be inaccessible.
Twin, supercharged 215hp motors provide the 11-foot-long boat with enough power to satisfy those with the need for speed. And just in case you still aren’t impressed, it’s also made of entirely recyclable materials.- Read Less