Eric Whewell is one of seven senior designers on the Boa design team in Denver, CO, and is a champion of the philosophy to design first with the end user’s desires and needs in mind. Whewell has been at Boa for about three years and played a pivotal role in the design and direction of iP1 and the new low power system, to be released in January 2016. He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2005 majoring in industrial design.
For those who may not know, Boa Technology Inc. is the manufacturer of the award-winning and patented Boa Closure System, initially invented to replace the traditional lacing of snowboard boots. The Boa Closure System today is found on millions of products for snowboarding, cycling, golfing, athletics, outdoor sports, utility and healthcare. The company was founded in 1999 in Steamboat Springs, CO, and operates from its headquarter in Denver and from subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Mondsee, Austria.
What inspires your designs beyond the outdoor industry? I like seeing how architecture and automotive design tackle similar questions we get every day. Weighing the importance of what the future looks like, while remaining appropriate to today’s more conservative tastes, and preserving function first. Buckminster Fuller pushed the envelope of acceptability in his era, but continues to inspire us to move that needle today. Moving an aesthetic forward while defining what a brand’s core attributes are is a tough game to play.
What’s the coolest part of working on this design team? Our team has this great vocabulary to describe the intricacies of each of our designs. I’m sure, from the outside looking in, it could seem confusing. The silhouette (face, first read), and profile (grip, discovered once touched) of each design are the main attributes that define the character of our dials. We want each of those to correlate with the target category and segmentation strategy for the system.
Favorite day of the week? Thursday is bowling day, our office team has a lot of fun.
What’s your best product failure been? Fortunately we have a great team that checks each other’s work often, so mistakes don’t make it out the door. Although I think I could be blamed for pushing the limits on branding at times. I’m often attempting to question what premium branding is in our space, and pushing the line in terms of fitting within our brand standards.
Everyone knows how BOA works. What’s something we don’t know about how it’s made? Our product team 3D prints our work up to four times a day to iterate subtle changes. This results in hundreds of prototypes before the final version is done. I have bags of discarded systems that didn’t make the cut. We also work in double scale quite often. So we’ll have huge dials on our desk that look like cartoon versions. This is mainly caused by the ridiculously tight tolerances we work with. Those tolerances really push our mold makers to the limit, and are so far from achievable in RP that we just double the size to solve the problem.