Grant Keeney, May graduate (B.F.A. in Furniture Design), went for playability and style in his designs when Brunswick Billiards asked for a new approach to table tennis. The purveyor of home game room products came back to Herron on the heels of its successful 2014 venture through the Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life to create version six of the iconic Gold Crown billiards table. The winning design, by Colin Tury (M.F.A. in Furniture Design, ’14), is slated for production in 2017.
Keeney’s two concepts wowed Brunswick with their angles, clean lines and Mid-Century forms. “The legs fold up and the table folds in half, but you won’t want to put it away,” Keeney said, as he presented his prototype of the extruded aluminum “CL-1” table with soft-close accessory drawers for stowing the net, paddles and balls. His second design, the “Cornerstone,” features 360 degree pivoting casters built into the legs, and a low-slung, arched base. “There’s nothing out there like it close to this price point,” he said. “These designs target Millennials and everyone else.”
In addition to Herron faculty members, Brunswick representatives Brent Hutton (B.A. ’79 Bloomington), LifeFitness vice president of global consumer sales; John Kazik, vice president of business development; and Greg Tennis, manufacturing and sourcing engineer, were on hand for the April presentations from the six students who took on the challenge. Eighteen students had attended a March call for proposals where Hutton described the project in detail and called on them to bring their creativity to bear.
Brunswick also chose designs by seniors Ben Sallee and Vance Wilson as second and third place winners. The finalists earned $1,500, $1,000 and $500 awards, respectively, and each student who presented earned a stipend for their materials and time.
Cory Robinson, chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Herron, said, “For fine art and design students this kind of project is gold. Real professional practice that comes from working with an established company like Brunswick is not the same as a simulation.”
For this project, the school again brought in special expertise from Glen Fuller, who ran a customized class for the students who created designs for Brunswick. “Glen brings work experience as a professional industrial designer. He’s coming from a place of authority and put the students through their paces conducting in-depth market research on trends and competition in the leisure sports industry,” Robinson said.
Robinson encourages businesses that want to partner with Herron to begin the conversation well in advance. “The ideal situation is for us to accept a new project in the spring semester, so that we can use the summer to work on it as well, and then complete the assignment and present in the fall,” he said. “The businesses that partner with us seem very pleased and energized by the experience. They are learning something new, too.”