Industrial Design is Leading the Future of Los Angeles

Speakers at the Core77 Conference explained how collaboration with local manufacturers can fuel the design process

With the largest manufacturing base in the United States and a growing population of designers, Los Angeles is proving to be fertile ground for creatives and fabricators alike. This past weekend designers, artists and business people gathered at the Core77 Conference in downtown Los Angeles to discuss the future of design, but the future of the city was a persistent theme.

A talk by Brendan Ravenhill, founder of Brendan Ravenhill Studio, demonstrated how the economic city dynamic helped create one of his most successful products. While looking for a way to shape his new grain spun-aluminum pendant lamp, a local manufacturer warned him that the tools would leave a wooden imprint on the metal shade.

Ravenhill turned this warning into an opportunity—he worked with the manufacturer to actually enhance the imprint, and create a modern lampshade with clearly visible, natural wooden grooves.

Successful collaborations such as this one may be coincidence, but data indicates that there may be something more to this intermingling of industries.The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the Los Angeles region has over 500,000 manufacturing workers, which is more than any other region in the country. Coupled with L.A.’s growing industrial and fashion design scene, the stage is set for creative and manufacturing partnerships.

Meanwhile, China’s economic boom is beginning to slow down and consumer demand for locally sourced products is drawing manufacturing jobs back into the United States. The service economy is increasingly dominating U.S. business and fueling urban gentrification, but a steady base of manufacturing jobs may help maintain cultural and economic integrity in our cities, and support demand for local production.

Experiences like the one shared by Ravenhill give hope that Los Angeles will continue to integrate the best of both worlds into design and manufacturing processes. Overall, the conference made clear that design thinking is not an industry specific idea, but rather a strategic way of driving a fully integrated business.

Also at the event, project leaders from Google and Levi’s discussed what will be a new ‘smart fabric.’ PSFK has been able to speak with Paul Dillinger, Levi’s Head of Innovation about Project Jacquard, but the partnership reinforces the idea of a strong designer and manufacturer collaboration throughout the entire production process.

The day after the conference, attendees were led on a downtown walking tour by journalist and urbanista Alissa Walker. Newly opened shops and museums and swaths of construction indicate an evolving lifestyle district. But there is plenty of reason to believe that Los Angeles will not merely turn into a city of takers, but rather revive its legacy as a community of makers.

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