Patrick Murphy joined the Trig crew in the spring of 2011 as an industrial designer, upon the recommendation of another Trig designer, Smith Newnam. We owe Smith quite a bit for this great referral, since Patrick has quickly established himself as a formidable design talent within Trig’s innovation management strategic framework.
In addition to his traditional industrial design talents in renderings and 3D CAD, Patrick has established himself as a skilled animator and graphic designer in support of Trig branding projects for ready-to-launch client products.
The Tangents Blog sat down with Patrick to figure out what makes him tick.
Tangents: Why did you decide to pursue industrial design as a career?
Patrick Murphy: My father was an architect, and my mother an interior designer, so I think I was genetically pre-disposed to do something creative. Like a lot of people, I had no idea that industrial design even existed as a profession until very late in high school.
I knew that I wanted to make things for a living, and I had been drawing and building pretty much everything as far back as I can remember. Legos, Erector kits, and K’NEX eventually gave way to more “custom” sculptures out of cardboard, tin foil, tape—whatever was lying around. I assumed this proclivity to create meant I was to be an engineer; however, it is an understatement to say that math was not my strong suit! In fall of my senior year of high school, with college applications looming over my head, my mother finally clued me in that ID was a viable profession, and that the university right down the street from us offered it as a major. The very description of industrial design read like a call to arms for me, and months later I applied to the College of Design at NC State. And away I went. . .
Tangents: Tell our readers where you source your influences for the great design and animation work that you do.
Patrick Murphy: I’ve never been one to sit back and really examine my “design philosophy” or trace my influences to a high degree. But here goes: I try to exercise the timeless motto of “form follows function” in everything I do, which fits with one of Trig’s core principals of pragmatism.
I think this concept has been sold out a bit, by others, yet it remains an essential design truth. Things, shapes, and structures will often design themselves if you just remain attentive to and solve the basic functional problems of a product concept. I also enjoy progressive styling quite a bit though—I like looking at other people’s work a lot, seeing how they handle edges, finishes, controls, and other design attributes.
Precedent is a huge source of inspiration for me. I used to look solely at the work of really successful design firms to develop a “design morality” of what was good and bad. I’m comfortable enough now though to take a broader look at what’s happening across the industry, and I’m constantly looking on design blogs, tech blogs, looking at student work, and even random stuff in stores that catches my eye. The lesson from this sort of perusal is that you can find really cool design solutions in unexpected places. I also try and save inspiration that really affects me, or that I want to use as a muse for a future project. To that end, I keep a cache of images on my computer of cool solutions I find.
As for animation, well, that’s been a much later development for me. Since I wasn’t “classically” trained in animation, the beginning of my hurried introduction to the art could be described as just “hanging on,” doing the basics, letting the software dictate the outcome. I’ve come a long way, though. I’m at the point where I can start with a vision of what I want to happen on screen and bend the tools to my will.
I now have some pretty successful projects under my belt, where we’ve gotten some great client feedback, the sort that leads to even more business in this space. Once again though, the inspiration comes primarily from looking at the work of others. I’ve started to look at commercials and try to break down how they pulled off certain aspects of animation. Now that I’m really thinking about it, it’s funny that being a designer makes you see something as less of a finished product and more as the result of a process.
Tangents: What do you like most about your work at Trig?
Patrick Murphy: I absolutely love working at Trig, for many reasons, three of which stand out: Good people, breadth of work, and creative influence. The Trig team never seems to fail at being a dynamic and collaborative group—our principal, Ty Hagler, demands that of all of us, but it’s not a hard directive to follow for this team. We all have these profoundly distinct skill sets that we bring to the table, and there is a high level of respect for everyone’s ideas. We just mesh well as designers and as people.
The scope of work I get to take on is huge. Being part of a boutique design firm, I take on a much more diverse array of tasks than I would as a designer at a firm with more “division of labor.” In addition to traditional design work, I also have become a primary source for graphic design work, patent drafting, animation and video production, website design, and even participation in high-level innovation management exercises. I feel like I’m getting a lifetime’s worth of design experience in a relatively short time at Trig.
The influence that I’ve been allowed to have on the creative work of Trig, under Ty’s direction, is awesome. I do have an opinion, taste, and ethic that I’m very confident in, though, and it is highly respected and regarded at Trig. A lot of trust is placed in my work, and in addition to that being a great feeling, it pushes me to be ever better. I realize that to even have this opportunity to exert such a high level of creative influence on client projects, for someone so early in his career, is quite rare.
Tangents: Tell us about any pursuits you have outside of your professional work.
Patrick Murphy: I’ve had quite a few pursuits and hobbies over the years—darts, rock climbing, yoyos—many things. I’ve been collecting bottled water bottles for a while now, mostly PET examples, some glass, and mostly higher-end “designer” specimens. Despite my severe abhorrence for the actual concept of bottled water, the bottles themselves make fascinating objects to display and observe from time to time. Blow molding is such a cool method of manufacture, and plastic bottles are the very essence of it.
I am also an avid cyclist, although my fiancé would call me an avid hoarder of bicycles! There’s something that inexplicably links design and cycling. I guess it’s the subconscious wish of designers to “change the world” somehow, although most have little to no idea of how to accomplish that. Cycling is, at least, a small practice of this ethos. I love riding, but I also love tinkering, building, and customizing my bikes – probably more than actually riding them. In between my first design internship and finding a “real job,” I actually worked as a bike mechanic in a shop. You get a great feeling of technical prowess from building and tuning a mechanical machine to perfection, and then feel like you are faster because of it. It is also an outlet for my insatiable desire to color-match things, and this practice is actually encouraged in building bicycles.
I’m also capping off an eight-year pursuit by getting married in September to an amazing woman.
Tangents: Thanks for your time today, Patrick. We’ll let you get back to that pursuit!