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 Design Thinking?
Watch the vide or read the transcript below for Rebeccah’s explanation for what is design thinking.
What is Design Thinking?
You have probably been hearing the term “design thinking” and maybe even wondering exactly what it means. Its a sexy phase – and one that a lot of people and companies are using. But is it thinking like a design or is it something more.
Basically, Design Thinking is a process that is very similar to the design process. It’s approaching a problem as a designer would. It’s used to solve problems by prioritizing the user’s or the customer’s needs. It relies on observing, with empathy, how people interact with their environments, with the objects and tools they use, and with each other. From these observations, you gain insights and then work in an iterative hands-on approach to create innovative solutions.
The 4 stages of a Design Thinking process are clarify, ideate, develop and implement. Very much like a traditional design process. The observation part is critical to understanding the problem and identifying the opportunity for innovation. 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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!