Jim Yurchenco was responsible for squeezing the guts inside the impossibly slim Palm V. He helped build the mouse for the Apple Lisa, which was significant in that it was the first mouse ever used by regular people. He was the first full-time employee at the company that would become Ideo, the massively influential design firm. But before all that, he was a sculptor.
With the exception of Jony Ive (possibly one of the most well known inventors in the world today) you hardly ever hear the names of the people behind most of the everyday objects we use. Jim Yurchenco is one of those fellows.
Any interview with an inventor is fascinating to me. In fact the whole process of making things is a terrifically complex and rewarding experience and I know there’s just so much to keep learning.
I love this bit of advice that Yurchenco has for young aspiring designers:
I ask Yurchenco what his advice would be to this upcoming generation of designers. He answers without hesitation: Ask a bunch of people the exact same question. Why? Because you’ll get a bunch of different answers.
“When I was first learning about injection molding, I’d go hang around a tooling shop and ask questions,” he says. “And they’d have some language to describe what they were doing, and they’d tell me how they were doing it. And I’d go into another shop, and there’d be a little twist on it. They’d have a different language and a different way of doing it. And I’d go into a third shop, and it was the same thing. They’re all ending up with the same result in the end, which is an injection mold. But they’re getting there in different ways. And by constantly asking the same questions over and over again, I learned a heck of a lot about injection molding, to the point where I know a lot more than most of these toolers do. ‘Cause I’ve been to 300 shops and seen 300 ways of doing it. And the more you know how to make things, the better designer you’re going to be.”
Same can be said for the architecture trade in Singapore. Most architects don’t know how to really build a building. They only know how to draw something that looks really sleek. Turns out in most offices it’s the technical staff who know how to resolve things on site. I think that’s a huge pity because figuring out how to put a building together is an essential part of mastering the craft of architecture.
If I could go back I’d love to have been a carpenter. I find the thought of shaping timber with my bare hands absolutely mesmerizing.