What is the difference between a mockup and a prototype?

In our AMA (Ask Me Anything) series, industrial designer Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman answers questions about design and process from Instagram and LinkedIn. Rebeccah is the founder of Interwoven Design Group, a design consultancy that specializes in soft goods design and wearable technology. She has over 25 years of corporate design experience and has held positions as Design Director for Fila, Champion and Nike. She is the author of Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabrics, and speaks internationally on design, innovation and the future. In this issue she answers the question, what is the difference between a mockup and a prototype?

Watch the vide or read the transcript below for Rebeccah’s explanation for what is the difference between a mockup and a prototype.

What is the difference between a mockup and a prototype?

A PROOF-OF-CONCEPT prototype effectively gets the point across, quickly. Here at Interwoven, we make fast 3D sketches of mock-ups to determine function, scale, user interaction and many other things – these works-like prototypes focus on how it works. At the same time we often work on Looks-like prototypes that focus on the appearance of the product.  As we refine the design, the mock-ups increase in fidelity until we are making functional and appearance models. The final prototype combines the best of both of these into a fully functional prototype.

We will start working in paper, chipboard, EVA foam, and muslin then as the design evolves we will start to move into CAD for the hard parts and patternmaking for the textiles. We can cut, bend, perforate, hem, stitch and tailor anything relating to fabrics and textiles.

The final prototype brings together the Look-like aesthetic model and the functional Works-like model into a single streamlined prototype that is both aesthetically pleasing and fully functional.And here at Interwoven we specialize in wearable technology and soft goods. If you’re curious about what our work looks like, get in touch. You can follow us on our website or on our Instagram @interwoven_design.

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How do we find the right materials for a design?

In our AMA (Ask Me Anything) series, industrial designer Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman answers questions about design and process from Instagram and LinkedIn. Rebeccah is the founder of Interwoven Design Group, a design consultancy that specializes in soft goods design and wearable technology. She has over 25 years of corporate design experience and has held positions as Design Director for Fila, Champion and Nike. She is the author of Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabrics, and speaks internationally on design, innovation and the future. In this issue she answers the question, how do we find the the right materials for a design?

Watch the vide or read the transcript below for Rebeccah’s explanation for how do we find the right materials for a design.

How do we find the the right materials for a design?

Traditional industrial and product designers understand the importance of selecting the right materials, such as plastics, resins, metals, foams and other rigid and semi-rigid materials for functionality, aesthetics, and ease of manufacturing. As soft goods designers we also take into consideration the textiles for each project.  It’s when combining rigid and semi-rigid materials with textiles to consider how they interact with each other. 

We have discovered that not many industrial designers or project managers realize that textiles have more variables to consider than most materials. Variables such as stretch, weave, stitch structure, chemistry, finishes, adhesives, melting points, dyes, elongation, recovery, pilling, crocking, yarn gauge, tensile strength, specialized equipment, yarn structure (and more!) that can affect the performance of a finished good.  As textile experts we can help select the best materials for each project.And here at Interwoven we specialize in wearable technology and soft goods. If you’re curious about what our work looks like, get in touch. You can follow us on our website or on our Instagram @interwoven_design.

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What are E-textiles?

What are E-textiles?

We love innovative technology at Interwoven Design, and when you are talking about wearable technology, one of the most innovative tools at our disposal are e-textiles. What are e-textiles? Well, it can be a bit confusing. We’ll explain what they are, what they aren’t, and why we love them in this Insight article. You can also check out our fantastic interview with LOOMIA e-textiles expert Maddy Maxey to learn more about why e-textiles are a powerful addition to your design toolkit. 

There is a lot of jargon around textiles and clothing with electronic components or capabilities, some of which is official industrial jargon and some of which is convenient non-official jargon that also serves to confuse. Wearable technology, e-textiles, smart textiles, smart clothing, active textiles, functional fabric…what is the difference? 

A working definition

E-textile is short for electronic textile. It’s one of those terms that doesn’t have a standard definition, so even within the industry you hear a range of meanings. The concept involves some combination of electronics and textiles, but there is a spectrum that ranges from combinations that are high on the electronic part and low on the textile part to those that are low on the electronic part and high on the textile part. 

This streetwear brand uses e-textiles to create luminescent garments and footwear. Image via Halo Streetwear.

Here is Textile Learner’s definition

“Electronic textiles, or simply e-textiles, are textiles with embedded electronics and some fiber materials possessing electrical characteristics and providing some useful functions. An electronic textile is a fabric that can conduct electricity. If it is combined with electronic components it can sense changes in its environment and respond by giving off light, sound or radio waves.”

Here is Science Direct’s definition:

“Electronic textiles (e-textiles) are textiles that are, or are part of, electronic components that create systems capable of sensing, heating, lighting or transmitting data.”

We like LOOMIA’s definition best: 

“An electronic textile (e-textile) is a circuit that is either constructed into a textile or created with the intention of being integrated into a textile.”

While they are all valid and reading them gets us closer to an understanding, we find LOOMIA’s the most flexible and useful as it helps us to understand the two main categories of e-textiles: laminated and embedded. Let’s look at that definition again: An e-textile is a circuit that is either constructed into a textile (embedded) or integrated into a textile (laminated). What is a circuit? A circuit is the complete path of an electric current; a series of electronic components that create a loop through which energy can flow. 

The Sound Shirt allows deaf users to feel music on their skin. Image via CuteCircuit.

Embedded e-textiles

Embedded e-textiles feature electronic components woven or knitted into fabric. Directly printing or embroidering a conductive circuit onto a textile also falls into the embedded category. This type of e-textile tends to look and feel more like a textile, and is more likely to be driven from textile engineering. 

Take the example of a vest woven with a blend of cotton and a heat-conductive fiber to keep the user warm. The heat-conductive fiber is a conductive fiber, and any fabric woven with it is also an e-textile. 

Because they must be integrated at the level of the fiber, yarn or into the weave, embedded e-textiles tend to be softer, more sleek, and more comfortable to wear against the body, which makes them the more popular of the two categories. That said, the small scale needed for embedding limits the strength and complexity of the electronic components the final e-textile can contain, and ultimately limits their energy output. 

Laminated e-textiles

In contrast, laminated e-textiles involve electronic components like circuits and sensors that are affixed to an existing textile. These may be sewn on, joined with adhesive, attached to another substrate which is then attached to the textile, or attached with any number of methods. Laminated e-textiles tend to be bulkier and less comfortable than embedded textiles, though the development of increasingly small electronic components means that the gap between embedded and laminated e-textiles is getting smaller every year, with the bulk of laminated options going down and the performance of embedded options going up. An example of a laminated e-textile is a medical gown with a sensor built in to monitor biodata.

In this example, heart monitoring technology has been integrated into a sports bra and an athletic top. Image via Sensoria.

What aren’t e-textiles?

Wearable technology is not synonymous with e-textile though an e-textile might be used to create a wearable technology product. Wearable technology refers to an entire wearable device, not to a component. The same goes for a piece of smart clothing, which might incorporate an e-textile but not constitute one. An active textile or functional fabric refers to a textile with a special performance function like moisture-wicking or thermal regulation, and has nothing to do with electronic integration at all.

The term smart textile may be used to refer to an e-textile but is a larger, broader category that may also include metallic textiles, wearable electronics, fabric with medical applications or fabrics that can respond to stimuli non-electronically, like color-changing textiles that respond to heat levels. Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, the principal designer at Interwoven Design, has written the book on the subject, Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabrics. She defines smart textiles as textiles that use our senses “as a way of gathering information from and about us by means of pressure, temperature, light, low-voltage current, moisture, and other stimuli…Smart textiles “learn” from our bodies and our environments, and react.”

In sum

An e-textile might look more electronic or it might look more textile-like depending on its intended purpose and whether it’s embedded or laminated. The creation of an e-textile might be driven by an electronics engineer, a textile engineer, or neither. Could you incorporate an e-textile into a future project? More and more e-textiles are popping up on the market each season as it is a growing industry and a space worth watching for those interested in innovation and technology.

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What is an Industrial Sewing Machine?

What is an Industrial Sewing Machine?

At Interwoven Design we use industrial sewing machines every day, we couldn’t create our prototypes and soft goods without them. But what is an industrial sewing machine, and how is it different from a domestic sewing machine you might have used yourself at home?

Imagining the meaning of the term industrial, you can probably guess the basic meaning. Industrial sewing machines are intended for use by businesses and factories. As the name also suggests, they are heavy-duty, built to withstand this industrial use. That’s a start, but it only scratches the surface of what these beautiful machines can do. In this article we’ll explain what an industrial sewing machine is, how that differs from a domestic machine, what these machines can do, and common uses for those features. We’ll show you some of the machines in the Interwoven Design studio to illustrate!

What is an industrial sewing machine, essentially?

Industrial sewing machines offer fast sewing speeds, powerful motors, and high stitch quality. Here a designer uses our straight stitch machine, a versatile workhorse stitch.

Industrial sewing machines are built for industrial use by businesses and factories, designed to be able to run several hours a day, every day. They are built to last with powerful motors and durable materials like aluminum and cast iron. They offer precision, fast sewing speeds, and higher stitch quality thanks to carefully calibrated components. They are able to sew through thick and dense materials, and can be designed to do complex stitches as well as automated stitches, which may reduce the labor needed as well as the level of skill needed to operate the machines. While they can in some cases do multiple stitches, it is more common that a machine specializes in a single type of stitch. Regular oiling and maintenance is required for industrial machines to run smoothly and reliably. They may also be called commercial sewing machines.

How is an industrial sewing machine different from a domestic sewing machine?

While domestic sewing machines often feature cost-effective plastic and nylon elements, industrial sewing machines are built with durable materials like aluminum and cast iron.

Domestic sewing machines are intended for personal and home use. In contrast to industrial machines, domestic machines have weaker (and less expensive) motors. The needle speed has a relatively low upper limit and can go extremely slowly to accommodate beginners. Many elements are made of plastic and nylon to cut down the cost as high quality metals are not necessary for the level of anticipated use. They can typically do a wide range of stitches and need minimal cleaning and maintenance. There is a limit to the thread and material thickness they can handle. They, like industrial machines, are capable of quality sewing, though this depends much more on the skill of the user and the suitability of the materials being used. Both types are available at a range of price points but domestic machines are typically much less expensive, with high quality machines for just a few hundred dollars compared to thousands for a specialized industrial machine.

What can industrial sewing machines do?

Most industrial sewing machines have a specialty. Any given machine offers a single stitch style: One machine does one stitch. There are many different types of machines to do many different types of stitches.

This industrial sewing machine from Juki is our walking foot machine, which means that the fabric is fed through the machine “feed dogs” from the top and the bottom. This is useful for sewing thick or unwieldy layers together.

If you take a look at a piece of clothing, especially clothing made with a stretchy fabric, you will often see multiple stitch types in the garment. Mass produced garments are typically made in an assembly line, with each station in the line doing one element of the garment. For most of these stations, with the exception of hand stitched elements, there is a dedicated machine. In the case of a standard dress shirt, for example, the machine that stitches the front and back pieces together will be different from the machine that stitches the buttonholes, which will be different from the machine that sews on the buttons, which will be different from the machine that applies the pocket, which will be different from the machine that hems the shirt. The stitches on a pair of jeans look very different, and the machines to make those stitches are different, too. 

Take a look at vintage garments; you see fewer and fewer machined stitch types the older the garment is. Perhaps the machines to make more complex stitches didn’t exist yet, or the garment is old enough that most clothing was made domestically, using classic straight stitch machines. Perhaps it was even made by hand.

How do we use industrial sewing machines?

In the Interwoven Design studio, we have four industrial sewing machines that do one stitch type each: we have a straight stitch machine, a zig zag machine, a four thread overlock machine, and a walking foot machine. Each machine has a purpose in our studio, and we need all of them to create the soft goods and wearable technology products that are our specialty. 

This is our industrial zig-zag machine. The needle moves left and right as the fabric passes through to create a zig zag pattern. This allows stretchy fabric to stretch even after being stitched, as the stitch expands and contracts like an accordion.

A straight stitch machine creates straight stitches in a neat line, though these stitches can curve on a garment or soft goods product up to a point. They typically cannot create tight curves. This is one of the most common types of stitches, though it is not suitable for stretchy fabric, as the straight stitches are rigid, and do not stretch. 

As we often use stretchy fabrics like jerseys and meshes for performance features, we need zig zag and overlock stitches that will expand and contract with the material. The zig zag stitch can often be seen on thick materials like neoprene, imagine a wetsuit or the padding in a bicycle helmet. The overlock stitch is a finishing stitch that is everywhere, easiest to see on the hem of a classic t-shirt.

Close-up of knobs on an industrial sewing machine
This is our four thread overlock machine. Each of these four threads leads to a different needle, and these needles move in three dimensions to create a stitch that can stretch with a material.

There you have it!

Those are the basics of what an industrial sewing machine is and why they are powerful tools, especially for mass production. You can find videos online that will help you to understand the build quality, speed, and specialization of these impressive machines. Check out the rest of our Insight series to learn more about the design industry. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!

A Q&A with Outdoor Expert Greg Bass

“The market really wants to embrace more types of people”

A Q&A with Outdoor Expert Greg Bass

Spotlight articles shine a light on designers and design materials we admire. Our founder and principal designer Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman has met many wonderful designers in her time in the industry, and in our Spotlight interviews we ask them about their work, their design journey, and what inspires them. In this interview we spoke with Greg Bass, an expert in technical soft goods design and development with over 20 years of experience in the industry.

Greg has developed outdoor, cycling, and sport products for brands like Timbuk2, The North Face, and more. In 2018 he and his wife founded Telegraph Studio in Santa Cruz, California, where they offer product design, development, and strategy along with graphic and logo design. We asked him about what his love of outdoor activities brings to his work as a designer and what he sees in the future of outdoor and sport goods.

Greg Bass is an expert in technical soft goods design and development. Photo courtesy of Greg Bass.

Q: What are you working on that’s interesting to you at the moment?

A: I have a pretty wide variety of projects. I would say the ones that are the most interesting, inspiring, are ones where I’m able to push a brand into a new area. There are a couple of brands I’ve worked with for a long time, helping them to fulfill their mission. There’s a company I work with called Two Wheel Gear that is all about getting people to use their bicycles for transportation. They are looking at the bigger picture of how getting around a city without a car can really improve health, improve the environment, improve your mood for the day. They’re one that I always enjoy working with. I’ve been doing work with CamelBak recently on some new bags that are products they’ve never done before, I think that’s exciting, too. It is always a good challenge to help bring a brand into a new category or direction.

Q: Could you tell us about one of your favorite projects and share why it is important to you?

A: One that comes to mind is the No Reception Club project. My wife and I have a studio together: she does graphics and I do the product side. No Reception Club is really cool because they are a couple with this idea for a brand all about traveling with kids. We have kids too, so the two of us were able to relate and bond with them. We designed their bags, their graphics, the whole package, and it’s been super fulfilling. As a bonus the products have won multiple awards. They sold out on their initial production run quickly. That is a fun success story of a little startup that seems to be taking off, and it’s something that personally relates to my lifestyle.

Q: Everybody has a different way of defining soft goods, what does soft goods mean to you? 

A: There are a lot of different ways to define soft goods. I think of soft goods as any time that you’re using fabrics or other soft materials in designing a product, and that’s distinct from fashion design because fashion design has very specific parameters that make it fashion. There’s a bit of a blurry line between soft goods, product design, and fashion. I think it’s really just about using fabrics or soft materials in making some 3D object.

Q: I know that you specialize in cycling design and I also see a lot of photos of you on bicycles. How has your personal experience made you a better designer for these types of products?

A: I think that anytime that you really know the customer or deeply understand how they’re going to use their product, you can design it better. So I think that being into cycling personally in my free time and then also working with different brands on designing stuff for cyclists,  it helps me to get into the mindset. If you know, for example, with Two Wheel Gear: I don’t commute on my bike very often because our office is a home office, but I know what it feels like to ride your bike to an office or to a meeting. Being able to empathize and really take that experience and think, if I were riding my bike to an office, what would be things that would be difficult and how would I solve those problems? That’s all valuable, being able to understand the experience that you’re designing for.

Q: You’ve worked as a freelancer as well as in leadership. What did you like about those different roles? 

A: There are definitely pros and cons to both being in a corporate setting and being a design leader. It [being a design leader] has some real benefits as far as having a bit more of a defined role, a defined mission. Working in a big corporation, you have a budget and you have very clear structure. Managing people is another challenge for sure. I think designers who get into design leadership don’t think about that. Doing performance reviews and dealing with personnel issues, maybe somebody’s got a problem with somebody else they’re working with. That side of it is a whole other set of skills—that are outside of the design role—that you have to have when you’re managing a team.

Freelancing, on the flip side, has great flexibility and in some ways less flexibility. Being able to take off in the middle of the day to pick up a kid or go on a bike ride: I can schedule that in. But at the same time, my clients have meetings and deadlines that I always have to meet, so balancing that can be tricky. Being a freelancer is one of those things where, even when you’re busy, you have to be thinking about what your next contract is going to look like and who you can talk to. You don’t have the stability that you have in a corporate setting where you’re just focused on getting stuff done, getting the products out, and managing your team.

Q: Are there manufacturing techniques you are especially excited about right now?

A: I think that one of the things that’s not fully exploited yet—but I think we’ll be in the next five years—is computerized stitching and robotic operations. With the push to manufacture domestically or closer to home, labor costs are going to be such an issue that investing in a machine that can do a lot of sewing or a lot of the operations will help companies to be able to afford manufacturing stuff closer to home. I’ve seen factories in Asia where they didn’t want to invest in a CNC machine. They do and then, within a couple of years, they have banks of CNC machines because they save so much time and are just so much more accurate. So it’s good and bad.

Robots are going to replace people at some point but at the same time, companies are always pushing to have great quality and lower costs. I think that it’s the world we’re living in with 3D printing, with circular knitting, with all these different types of production that you can do that are more computerized and less hands-on. It’s going to open up new possibilities and I think it’s a give and take like anything else. It’ll be great to be able to manufacture things in North America more than we do now, but there won’t be as many people doing it. 

Q: How do you work with sustainable materials when designing for outdoor and sport?

A: That’s been a huge change over the last five to ten years. I would say 10 years ago we wanted to be using more sustainable materials, more recycled materials, and they were either really difficult to find or really expensive. But there’s been such a push from some of the big industry leaders, like Patagonia and REI and The North Face, that the fabric mills and the suppliers are all investing in it. These days, even if I’m working with a small company, it’s much easier to find recycled material or something that has natural content that will work. It’s not crazy expensive. That was always such a challenge; we would find a really cool material but it was three times the cost of something that wasn’t recycled. Now you can find something that’s maybe 50 cents a yard more, which is pretty easy for most customers to absorb.

I’ve seen more and more brands, even small startup brands, that want to use sustainable materials. It just wasn’t a consideration for people a while back. I think that definitely in outdoor and sport, people’s mindsets have shifted to be much more attuned, looking for sustainability as a benchmark or baseline.

Q: At this point in your career, what are your favorite kinds of problems to solve?

A: That sort of gets back to the first question. I think it’s about new innovation or doing something that is pushing a brand or a category. That’s always fun, you know? And it’s not always a big success because sometimes you’re pushing into something that’s too new or you’re ahead of the market. When I was working for Specialized [Specialized Bicycle Components], we did a collection of bags for bike packing. It was not a niche thing but it was just coming up at the time and we did a nice collection. It didn’t take off in a huge way but now, every brand has bike packing bags. That’s interesting; being able to know when the market is ready for your new innovation, or what you’re doing.

I like adventurous brands or somebody who’s willing to push their boundaries. I’ve worked with some brands that didn’t make soft goods, and helping them to imagine what a soft goods line would look like for their brand is sort of fun. Oh, you make Watches. What would a brand that makes watches do for travel? 

Q: Could you talk about what you see in the future of outdoor products?

A: The interesting thing that I see with outdoor products is that there are two divergent directions. One is to bring more people in and really expand the market to be almost anybody. There was an article I read the other day about how REI is going to take the word adventure out of their marketing and it’s going to be more about experiences, because some people are intimidated by climbing a mountain or, you know, freezing, or some of those adventure things. I can see that the market really wants to embrace more types of people and I think that’s great, being able to embrace different backgrounds, different body types, different abilities. I see that as a really big trend in a lot of brands.

The other side is the push for innovation and being super technical, things that use the highest tech materials and the newest manufacturing processes. Like a NASA level thing for climbing Mount Everest, which most people are never going to be able to appreciate, but for the people that do, it’s important to them. I remember when I worked for The North Face we had these Himalayan products that you only really need if you’re going to be sleeping on the side of a mountain, but we would sell a ton of them in Manhattan.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to add or questions you wish you’d been asked?

A: One of the things for students or people who are just getting into soft goods design is being able to understand the various processes because, like I said, it’s sort of a gray area between fashion design and product design. That is sometimes intimidating for people. I’ve had people who are trained as industrial designers reach out to me and say, I don’t even know how to start designing a suitcase or a backpack. There aren’t a whole lot of programs out there for people who specifically want to do this kind of stuff. There are a few that steer that way, but I think that that’s something for people to dig into. There are resources online where you can see how bags are made or luggage is made or shoes are made, and those are all really good ways to start in the field.

Check out the rest of our Insight series to learn more about the design industry. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!