University of Cincinnati graduate Alex Sizemore’s portfolio is one of those that not only impresses because of its technical abilities and adept concepts but because it induces questions in its viewers. Having studied industrial design, Alex combines traditional sensibilities and industrial production processes to create work which explores how our choice of materials – and what we do with these materials – can improve the human experience.
“I try to find a balance between working with industry and questioning its capabilities,” he explains of his design approach.
Throughout his time at university, Alex struck up a close collaborative partnership with fellow student Hank Beyer. The pair met during their first year and, over the next few, became more interested in materials and manufacturing. “We each have our strengths, but we both contribute to all aspects of the process from research and design to production and photography,” Alex tells It’s Nice That, “It requires a lot of trust, but our partnership tends to result in something we couldn’t create on our own.”
The most recent of these is For the Rest of Us, a journey into personal computing and the intangible values of regional materials. Typical of Alex’s practice, the thoroughly researched project examines our understanding of products, their perceived universal appeal, aesthetics and usability. By reinterpreting the archetype of a desktop computer, For the Rest of Us encourages discourse by challenging the concept that the materials best for industry are best for humanity.
Whether working with discarded materials, challenging the value of a process, or experimenting with substances and their natural interactions Alex’s work questions the responsibility of the designer “to explore these seemingly impossible realities in order to push our world towards more meaningful physical futures.”
It’s Nice That: Why did you decide to study industrial design? Was there a reason you chose the University of Cincinnati?
Alex Sizemore: I always thought that I would go on to study something creative. When I was in high school an art teacher of mine recommended that I look into industrial design because I was always focused on details. I applied to numerous universities throughout the US, and eventually decided to attend the University of Cincinnati. I wasn’t too happy with how close it was to home, but they have an amazing internship program. After the first year, you’re required to do an internship every other semester until you graduate.
INT: Can you describe a project you’re most proud of and why?
AS: I’m most proud of For the Rest of Us, the thesis I recently worked on with my friend Hank Beyer. Throughout the past year, we explored parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and New York in search of material sources and their associated processes, people, history, politics and values. From this exploration, we created a series of computers that illustrate an unconventional material’s value in everyday life and that displace the notion that materials best for industry are best for humanity.
All of our material studies were then compiled into a book, acting as a sort of field guide for future material investigations. We transcribed our interviews and documented the material’s source and the material itself. Each section also contains a leaflet, introducing the material and its theme, which allows the value to be taken and applied to other projects.
INT: Are there certain aspects of the discipline which excite you the most?
AS: I get excited when the field of industrial design intersects with another or when different approaches to industrial design intersect. Learning about or immersing myself in something I’m not familiar with is exciting.
INT: Do you feel you have a signature visual language? If so, how would you describe this?
AS: I tend to draw on observations to create objects with a neutral form, a sense of materiality and a focus on furniture, electronics and sculpture.
INT: Is there a particular person who has shaped your university experience or creative outlook?
AS: John Dixon. He’s a professor at the University of Cincinnati and I appreciated his approach to design education. He pushed us to experiment, he introduced us to different areas of industrial design and he was always open for discussion. Without him, I wouldn’t be creating the work I am now.
INT: Why did you decide to apply to The Graduates?
AS: A friend of mine recommended that I apply and I’ve always admired It’s Nice That. As a source of inspiration of mine, I feel honoured to have been selected.
INT: If you could create your dream project, what would it be?
AS: I would like to work on a project that somehow combines my interests in mass-produced products, gallery editions and exhibitions.
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About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.