Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?

I am the only product designer at my work, which is McCormick & Co, Inc.  I am 50, left handed, green eyed, father, husband, brother, son.  I like to tinker on stuff, machines, mechanical devices like motor scooters, espresso machines, tractors, motors.  I like woodworking, bicycles, cooking, fixing things and cats.

How did you get started in product design?

I stumbled into the field of ID accidentally, in Boston, in the early 1990’s.  I spotted flyers stapled to street poles that announced a showcase of vintage cars, an event put on by the IDSA.  I called the number on the flyer and obtained tickets at Design Contiuum the next day.  There, I met a few employees from Contiuum and they asked if I would be interested in a paid internship position.  That certainly opened my eyes to design, and led to my earning a MID graduate degree from Pratt Institute in 1995.  I spent 15 years in NYC in many design jobs, and finally moved out for this job in Maryland.

Where do you work today? What is your title?

I am the Global Package Design Manager for McCormick & Co, Inc. I am located in the northern suburbs of Baltimore.

How big is your company? How big is your design team?

11,000 employees, revenue is 4.8 billion, I am the (package) design team.  I do work alongside many of the excellent Packaging Engineers, both local and worldwide.

What types of things are you responsible for day-to-day?

I generally work in the front end development of product ideas.  I enjoy the process of finding the problems of the user experience within our cooking and eating environment.  My day can be consumer interviews, or Cad modeling bottles, or white space ideation of concept creation.  Mostly, my time is filled with development meetings, package research and innovation.

What do you love most about your work?

I love working on new ideas, because there’s always a better way to design for and provide people’s lives with products that offer flavor and enjoyment through the products we make.  It delights me that my tiny sculptures are in everyone’s kitchen cabinets.  I love to espouse design, it has taken over my life, and I see no sign of it stopping.  The enemy of good is better, and there is always better to be had out there.

What drains you at work?

Same old, same old.  The never ending cycle of not investigating new methods.  Choosing cost reduction over quality of goods.  Non-refillable packaging = landfill.  When slight adjustments are revered as innovation, then that is the death of the importance of the term.  

Can you walk us through your typical work day?

8:30amMy work day starts with an exceptional cup of coffee, period
9:00amDaily 1 hour product development meetings for various projects in the hopper
12 noonLunch – generally brought in
1:00pmDesign time – with more exceptional coffee
3:00pmMore project development meetings
4:30pmExit work for home

Where do you turn for inspiration?

Internet – blogs, magazines, news articles, core77, social media, motorcycle trends, vehicle designs, food specific magazines, luxury brands, architecture sites, staying aware of the liquor industry offerings.  In this era of negativity, I search for the goodness, the light hearted, and the satirical.  Without that, I’d be done.

What design or project are you most proud of? (It can be recent or older).

Although most of the products that I have designed entered and left the marketplace in a relatively short time period, there are a few that stand out, to me.  A few perfume bottles, a one gallon container, a grinder or sauce bottle in glass.  I have been granted many patents to protect my work.  Some of the things I tinker on at home are my the ones I am most proud of. 

I created a steel cage frame for my existing espresso boiler, roughly 26 inches wide, 14 deep and 19 high.  From the cad model, I was able to precisely cut and glue together a foam core mock up.  From there, it was a quick welding job- and, it fit up perfectly.

Walk us through the design process you used for a recent project (you can pick any project).

I spent half of last year chasing after a particular glass bottle design, shaped like a chiseled skyscraper, a mixture of triangles and trapezoids that had to meet many criteria points in order for it to be viable.  The label was especially tricky, as it bent around the angled and tapered surfaces, it had to be of paper, so the die cut was 3 tapered rectangular panels with precise angles and widths.  I had to readjust the math many times over as the design criteria was a moving target.  The interior volume of the bottle had to be exact, the weight of the bottle was not working out to be cheaper than the one it was intending to replace.  The supplier was having great difficulty in achieving the design intent, but the project continued to the point where enough were produced for a consumer test.  The results of that were that the new bottle was equal in preference to the old, and offered little to no increase in sales.  The project was halted.

On another project (this past fall) was a deep dive into ethnographic interviews and research that led to a set of goals for the package and brand to strive for.  Solutions were judged and scored on this basis, giving merit to how many of the boxes the design checked.  Aesthetic adjustments were then blended into the choices, building families of shapes for the different package size offerings.  We then let consumers choose which bottles were to rise to the top of the rankings.

What career advice do you have for product designers just getting started?

Truly ask yourself what it is about design that is most gripping, and aim for that to be your life focus.  It will give back to you what you invest into it. Empathy. Be good at problem finding by pushing off solving for them as long as permitted.  Just because you aren’t designing what you want to at work does not mean that you can’t design what you want to at home.  Make stuff. Life has chapters so don’t fret if the start is frustrating.

Where’s the best place for folks to learn more about you or follow you?

I’m weird, and so I get why no one wants to follow me, and that’s ok. I’m open to discuss, but I can’t say that happens often.  Email works.