Shop Talk Episode 13: Sam Birchenough of BRCHN Design House on the Next Generation of Designers

Muna Idriss Muna Idriss April 26, 2024

3 min read

Welcome to this episode of Shop Talk, a podcast from the team at Autodesk Fusion where we catch up with designers and makers live from their workshops. Whether you’re a Fusion fan curious about what our users are doing or simply looking for something to listen to in your own shop, we’re bringing you candid conversations with talented designers who pour their hearts and souls into their craft. In this episode, designer and Autodesker Jonathan Odom speaks with Sam Birchenough of BRCHN Design House.

Sam launched BRCHN Design House over eight years ago with the goal of propelling the product development industry forward by redefining the concept-to-market design process. Built on relationships with technology innovators, Sam paired the latest software and hardware toolsets with clean-sheet thinking to develop a vastly more efficient process when compared to traditional industry standards. The boutique design firm has delivered world-class design work to happy clients in industries as varied as consumer products, consumer packaged goods, medical, dental, transportation, furniture, and entertainment.

Below is a short excerpt from the conversation to give you a taste of what to expect. You can also listen to the full episode below:

This excerpt is edited for brevity and clarity.

Tell us about the local volunteer teaching you’ve been doing.

So, five years ago, this local Montessori school reached out and asked if I could come on and teach a summer program. I enjoyed it so much that I try to do something like it at least a few times a year. I learned a lot from these kids. It’s interesting to me how, as you go through life, you lose innocence but you gain experience. I make a big effort to keep the area under those innocence and experience curves as large as possible because I think that’s where you have the most potential. For the kids that I was working with, I was teaching them basic stuff in Fusion. I’ve used Fusion for a long time and feel like I know it well. But these kids were doing things in different ways, ways that I wouldn’t think of, to solve a problem. It opened my eyes to thinking, “Oh, I could do this process differently.” It’s crazy when you don’t think of the constraints. And this especially comes into play when you become familiar with manufacturing processes. You’re always thinking about design for manufacturing and the constraints of volume production. If you can keep that out of your head, it allows your mind to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. I think the further along you are in life, the more conscious effort it takes to think creatively.

One of the challenges that I run into is that I get a lot of resumes from design and engineering students who are fresh out of college and something that does take some experience is learning about designing for manufacturing. Most of our projects have volume production as the end goal. So that’s a huge part of what guides the design: how the product is going to be manufactured. And that’s something you know, that’s a bit of a challenge when you’re talking about college students, in my opinion. In engineering school, you don’t really learn how to make products manufacturable. I think some change on that front would be valuable.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Shop Talk. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, catch up on any episodes you missed, and get your audio-only fix on Spotify.

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