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Q+A With David Goggans From Emerson Fans

Passionate and design-driven, David Goggans is a rising force as an industrial designer for Emerson Fans. With years of design under his belt already on top of his fresh Master’s in Industrial Design, Goggans brings relevant and innovative designs to Emerson Fans. Here’s a Q + A with David Goggans, discussing his background in design, his influences, and design process.

Ceiling Fans |YLighting
Industrial 60 Inch Ceiling Fan from Emerson Fans

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I majored in industrial design at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. I was a graduate of the Auburn University Honors College. I also completed a master of industrial design at Auburn University. I wrote my master’s thesis on Recommendations for Designing Spaces to Promote Creativity and Design.

How did you get into fan design?

I did not know that I would be designing fans when I was younger. I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was kid. Later I realized I wanted to be a designer. When I was in design school I found out that I really enjoyed furniture design. Emerson Tool Company, which Emerson Air Comfort Products is a part of, has a relationship with Auburn University where they sponsor studios. I participated in an Emerson studio as a design student and later was a graduate assistant for one of these studios; although those studios were focused on designing vacuum products.

I think my passion for design and furniture design in particular, my familiarity with Emerson, as well as my portfolio work made me a good fit for the fan design position. I really enjoy designing ceiling fans as a product and dealing with both the aesthetic and scientific nature of the product.

Ceiling Fans |YLighting
Highpointe Ceiling Fan from Emerson Fans

Who or what has influenced your aesthetic?

I draw inspiration from all over the place, and I feel it is important to be able to design to fit different looks especially with a ceiling fan. I try to vary where I am drawing inspiration from for different concepts so that the concepts are unique and fit within their intended markets. I keep up with what else is out there so I can know where we may have a gap in our product line in terms of aesthetics.

I look at adjacent areas and then areas adjacent to the initial adjacent areas. For example, when I am looking for inspiration for a vintage industrial fan, I may start with vintage industrial lighting, move on to steam punk aesthetics, and end up looking at Burning Man structures for inspiration. For a tropical fan, I may start looking at outdoor furniture, but will also look for inspiration in plants and the natural environment. Of course, sometimes I am drawing inspiration from seemingly unrelated areas such as architecture, cars, motorcycles, guitars, or electronics. Ideas can come from anywhere really.

Some designers, or architects, or artists have unique and recognizable aesthetics that are their own. I have a lot of respect for Johnny Ives, Marc Newsome, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Thom Mayne, Charles and Ray Eames, and others. I think it is important, especially in the role that I am in right now, to pick appropriate stimulus for particular concepts to lead the design in a certain direction. It is important to know what is out there and what has been done before me.

It is important to design products to communicate their functions. Really good design communicates use with no explanation. On the other hand, I like to entertain the idea that anything can look like anything. I think people can get conditioned into thinking that certain products should look or behave in certain ways, and it takes good design and good convincing to change their mindsets. With fans, some people will want a fan that looks close to the way fans have looked for decades, some people will want something that is a little more contemporary, others will want a fan that really makes a statement, and some people will want a fan that works with certain furniture or lighting or looks good in a certain space. I think it is important to design for all of these people. In designing fans with different aesthetics for different people, I draw inspiration from all over the place.

Ceiling Fans |YLighting
Aira Eco Ceiling Fan from Emerson Fans

What’s your creative design process?

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the creative process involves preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration. Design processes normally initially involve some or a lot of research to understand a market, the products in a market, and the relationship between a product and a user. If you want to innovate and keep up, it is also important to have an understanding of what is possible or will be possible with evolving technologies. Generally, there is a branching out of ideas and then a narrowing down of ideas and refinement and more refinement of the best ideas to get the best possible designs and solutions. This involves both divergent and convergent thinking. Creative and design processes are not perfectly linear, but they do move forward. Sometimes you have to blow up a design a little bit and rethink some aspects of the product, but you end up with a better solution. Also the preparation, the research, and reflection should never really stop, but there is definitely more focus on refining specific ideas in the latter half of a creative design process. Visualization is an important aspect of the design process in expressing ideas through sketching, model making, computer rendering, or other ideas.

As far as what I do, I try to absorb as much information as I possibly can about a product, its potential market, and what people want now and what they may want in the future. I look at what competitors are doing and what they are not doing. I think about all of that information a lot and I look for needs, gaps, and opportunities. I also think it is really important to take a step back, think about problems and solutions from different angles and to try to draw inspiration from all over the place.

Eventually, often unexpectedly, there are insights. Sometimes it will happen while I am already sketching and I will think of a new or different way to approach a design. Other times, it will happen on a walk outside or while I am daydreaming. Sometimes I try to structure my environment and my actions to increase the likelihood of having insights. From there, a lot of visualization is involved in testing out ideas. Iteration and evaluation of ideas is important in moving toward the best possible solutions.

I try to be more logical during the back half of the design process, questioning the decisions that have led me to the point I am at and making sure they were the right ones. Insights continue to happen, and the design can still change at points and sometimes definitely should, but ultimately you have to narrow ideas down, refine the ideas, and come out with the best possible product design.

Ceiling Fans |YLighting
Luray Eco 60 Inch Ceiling Fan from Emerson Fans

What is your design philosophy?

I want to design great products. All products should look good, but certain products should fit certain aesthetics. A ceiling fan should definitely look beautiful and it should move air, but even within ceiling fans there are different styles. A successful and aesthetic for a power tool is not going to be the same as a children’s toy or a medical device. I think good design communicates to a user what the product does and communicates to the user how to interact with a product without further explanation.

A well designed product should perform its job and perform it well. Ideally, designs should last, both in the aesthetic sense and the functional sense. Overall, it is about leaving the user with a good experience. I think it is also important to try to push design forward and to consider that just because things are a certain way now, it does not mean that they have to be that way.

Ceiling Fans |YLighting
Luxe Eco Ceiling Fan from Emerson Fans

What are your most favorite designs over the years?

As far as what others have done, I really like the design of the original iPod. It looks awesome, simple, the interface is great and was pretty different at the time, and the product made the entire portable music and music experience better. I really like the ergonomics and aesthetics of the Xbox One controller. I play video games, and I think Microsoft did a great job at making an object that people’s hands heavily interact with as comfortable as possible. I love Nike Air Prestos. My understanding is that they were the precursors to the Nike Free shoes. While not as flexible as the Frees today, Air Prestos were really comfortable and different for their time. I had a red pair when I was a kid. I ordered a blue pair a few years ago, but I wore them out. I also really like Eames furniture.

As far as what I have done, my favorite design is the desk I designed while an undergrad at Auburn. I pushed the aesthetic direction toward more of an artistic statement while still somewhat retaining the look of a desk with all of the regular functionality and more in that it managed cords and had a large drawer for supplies. I made it out of poplar and walnut wood. I have it in my apartment right now. That favorite might get replaced by one of the fans we have coming out next year though.


Sophia Zhang

Sophia Zhang

UC Berkeley graduate and technology enthusiast, Sophia brings her technical background to YLighting’s site merchandising team. Aside from her appreciation of business and innovative design, Sophia immerses herself in multi-genre entertainment from motion pictures to musicals. In her free time, she'll likely be Leaguing, controlling droids, or snuggling kittens.

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