In an increasingly digital workplace focused on outcomes and needle-moving, the practice of working with our hands is a nice reminder of play, commitment, and independence. We built the Make Lab with the goal of creating an open space where our co-workers could explore, iterate, recharge, and learn together.
Make LabFounder, Designer, Printmaker, Instructor
Patrick Chew and I started on the same day as Software Product Designers. We bonded over a shared interest and past experiences with screenprinting. We had an internal hack day at the studio in the first couple of months. We were already bootstrapping, making prints with our own money and hanging them all over the studio. So our hack day project was to create a screen printing setup in the Austin IBM Design Studio. We planned for table tops with clamps to fold out of these sleek closets, like a murphy bed, and stash all the supplies inside. We drew the idea on Post-It note and thought it was perfect.
While that didn’t work out as planned, we kept pursuing the desire for a get-away-from-your-screens maker culture. A couple of years later, we had co-founded and built this maker space in our studio that was beyond what we thought possible; the GM of Design, along with all of the hundreds of Designers in Austin, got behind us and helped make it happen. We acquired a lot of various maker equipment over time, and it became a staple for anyone to step away from their work and make a screenprint or shirt, risograph print, 3D printed model, a hacked-together raspberry pi device, and more. As we connected with other tech companies with their own version of a maker space, like Airbnb, Pinterest, Nike, and Dropbox, we realized how essential our creation was.
Eventually, we got an initial budget to buy some equipment and supplies. For those acquainted, there’s a lot involved. We purchased a used 40"×40" automatic press, an exposure unit, a drying rack, and a washout booth. No more driving back and forth to the local car wash.
Select screenprints for special events
From time to time, we had special events at the Austin IBM Studio that we felt deserved a handmade gesture in the form of limited edition screenprinted posters. In the Fall of 2017, the IBM company and IBM Design career ladder added Distinguished Designer as the highest level you could achieve as a design leader. I designed and printed a 7 color screen print to commemorate this public accomplishment.
Then there was the Thinking Blocks print that Patrick and I did for when IBM’s CEO was visiting our studio. This screenprint won the number one poster in HOW Magazine’s international poster contest of 2016. As more IBM events worldwide happened, we were now being asked to create limited runs for them. We printed posters for AIGA National, Design Principal, and more.
IBM Studios Series
Screenprint on French Paper
As IBM Design began to grow beyond just the one Austin studio, to eventually 43 all aroud the world, Patrick and I thought a fun project would be to have one individual designer from each studio do a 12"×12" print with complete creative control—thier choice of ink and paper color. The only rule was that it had to be one or two colored. The designers would send us the designs, we’d print them up, and ship them back to their home studio in our trusted Uline stay-flat mailers.
We ended up having so many amazing designs submitted from cities like Hursley, Dublin, Shanghai, and more. It was a great project to include all of these product designers that originally came through Austin for their 3-month bootcamp where they were initiated into working as a designer at the scale of IBM.
Classes & Events
Growth and More Budget