"Product design with a focus on participation and play" is how Detroit-based TAIT Design Co. describes their unique approach to modern, small-run manufacturing. With careful attention to detail, material and function, TAIT takes a graphic approach to form with everything they produce. A former ad agency creative with a background in graphic design, founder Matt Tait turned what began as a side project into a full-time obsession to create “beautiful, simple, and clever” products - a feat easier said than done but one he thoroughly excels at with his considered and expertly crafted creations.
A first for our Schoolhouse Art Studio collection of original works from independent artists, we’re thrilled to include TAIT’s award-wining Precision Mobile this season. Made from solid brass and stainless steel, this modular, kinetic mobile was designed to bring gentle movement to lofty, open spaces. A made-to-order piece, this stunning sculpture is available only in a limited run of three. Read our interview with Matt below to learn more about the creative process behind his unique approach to industrial design and see a video that brings the Precision Mobile to life from package to final assembly.
How would you describe your work you do at TAIT?
"TAIT Design Co. is a product design company in the broadest of senses. I never turn down the idea of working on any particular type of product inside or outside of a different category. This is partly out of necessity but also because I enjoy tackling different types of design problems. Designing for our toy line is quite different from designing a sculpture for the home such as the mobile, but each product we work on has inevitably fed itself into the next. The work coming out of our studio exhibits a simplified graphic approach to form with an intense focus on detail, material, and experience."
What does your creative process look like from start to finish?
"Every process starts with an idea, but sometimes it also can start with an 'I wish I had that.' With the mobile for example, it was the latter. I thought my living space was missing a dynamic element. Light moves in and out of the windows, but what about the air that stirs from movement inside our homes? I typically begin my design process with basic sketches, material research, and some sort of rough schematic. I then will start prototyping in the shop, often making things out of paper or cardboard first. With the mobile, the wings were first made with paper, and once I had the proportions right I moved to steel – bending and welding prototypes in the studio."
"For me, I always start with a very rough prototype to prove out the idea, and will iterate as many times as needed. Sometimes, this process has taken as long as a year for me. How will this cable connect? How will it screw into the ceiling but still fluidly rotate? How will someone receive the product, and what will their experience be assembling it and ultimately displaying it in their home? These types of questions refine the design of the product throughout the process. The majority of my process is outside of the computer, besides when we need to create CAD parts for machining or graphics for packaging."
What do you hope to communicate, or have people experience, with your designs and this mobile series in particular?
"Product experience is everything to me and I love this question! Designed objects can be purely beautiful and there is value in that alone. But for me, design that can create a memory or bond through experience gives my work meaning. For the toys we create, it’s the stories we get from our customers about their kids throwing airplanes in the backyard and igniting a memory from their childhood of doing the same. With the mobile, it is the peaceful movement it creates in the room as someone reads a book or lays with a loved one on the couch."
Are there any rituals or routines you follow while creating?
"Most of the production work we do at the studio occurs during the day, so when I’m working on new projects it is usually at night. I listen to music and jump between sketches and different machines in the shop to mock up prototypes, solving little problems as I go. I’m also very lucky to have many talented and passionate creative friends around me to collaborate with in Detroit. Inviting them in for their feedback is an important part of my process."
Where do you go when you’re craving inspiration?
"I’ve gained a lot of inspiration from visiting museums around the world and design festivals that I’ve been fortunate to be at or take part in. Recently I was able to go to Salone Del Mobile in Milan and also have a booth at The Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair, both of which had a lasting impression on me."
Who are your artistic or design influences/heroes?
"Anni Albers doesn’t get as much attention as she should! Her weaving work is incredible. I also really admire Eva Hesse, she was so prolific and ahead of her time. And of course Ray + Charles Eames, they played off of each other so well and broke through in so many mediums. They defined what good design meant in America well past their passing."
What role does art and design play in your own homes? Tell us about your decor style.
"I collect things from the past and present, limiting the objects in my home to those that hold the most meaning. Artwork by different friends is highlighted throughout my space, and framed photos are hung on my walls. Besides this, my collection of art and design books are always within reach. I also make specific pieces for my space - a few years back I created a set of slab wood and steel furniture, and it’s been so nice to see that set age gracefully. Keeping pieces that last a long time is really important to me."
| Shop the Precision Mobile by Tait Design Co. |
Images via Tait Design Co.