When I hear the term industrial designer, images come to mind of cavernous warehouses or musky garages, spaces with everything covered in an equal-parts mixture of rust particles, dirt, and ash. Where, with every item you analyze, it gets harder to distinguish between tools, scraps, or pieces of other, larger pieces of art. The kind of ominous environment where everything dangerous is placed so precariously that if you were to trip on, say, a welder, the only certainty is that you would hit your head on something hard and sharp, with a good chance something would fall on top of you once you’ve grounded.
So when I walked into the home and studio of Nikkuu Design’s Melissa Moore and saw a living space composed of clean lines and simple color schemes, it became apparent that my preconceptions of industrial design were not only out the window, but had vanished down the block.
Born in D.C., Moore grew up with a passion for biology. As a child she built her own toys and games, dismantled household objects and reconstructed them to see how they worked. Biology and design aren’t as different as they might seem, said Moore–at the core they’re about exploring the intricacies of complex objects.
After attending Saint Mary’s college, Moore found herself teaching middle school math and science–a noble undertaking, but not enough to keep her creative drive at bay. Moore said that when she was hired at a charter school she found some freedom to combine science and art, but still she was stifled. “I wanted to combine the two studies more,” said Moore, “but I also knew that I didn’t want to be in a classroom much longer. I love teaching and it’s something I will always do, but designing has definitely become my most dominant passion. Finding ways to combine both are also part of my mission. ”
Faced with the decision of either going back to grad school for industrial design while incurring more debt or starting her own business cold, Moore chose the latter and founded Nikkuu Design.
Nikkuu’s first products were focused primarily on lighting, but as her vision grew, her products expanded to include furniture and jewelry. There are chairs made from old pallets, light boxes with live plants in them, and fixtures who’s “ropes” or “chains” are actually intricate knots tied into extension chords creating a unique esthetic in an object that previously was nothing more than utilitarian. Her favorite material by far however is clear acrylic. “I am very much into clean line and minimalism which is why I love this material. So much can be done with it but it is so simple. I can manipulate it easily and I like how it makes the object seem accessible while being contained at the same time.”
Now some of you may not know this, but the design world, as creative as it may be, tends to be a predominantly white male dominated business. It’s still a lot like Mad Men, only with less blatant misogyny in the office, and the racial prejudices are on a more subconscious “we just try not to talk about it” kind of level. Which is why Melissa Moore is a trailblazer conquering at least two different mountains in the industry. Being an industrial designer who is female and African-American. Moore epitomizes the types of role models that need to exist in this industry if we are ever going to completely do away with the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryces in the world.
These days Nikkuu Design has reached a point of “I actually have products that people are excited about, it is time to expand” and is growing through collaboration with other industrial designers as well as converting the first floor and basement of a property Moore rents out into a studio space and collective design studio. The group came out of an economic need to pool resources and find other industrial designers in Baltimore, being a city mostly containing graphic designers, web designers, and architects. The group is made up of industrial designers (recent SCAD graduates) and clothing/textile designers all working together to share tools, equipment, skills, and resources while helping to form a unique interdisciplinary design studio that does not yet exist in Baltimore. Which is frankly the type of “making it work” people should be doing more of anyways so long as their profession allows it.
Melissa Moore and Nikkuu Design are the epitome of the new philosophy that if you can’t find a job that fits all that you are, make one up. In her case her drive, experience, and dedication has made her As an exciting emerging designer who can serve as an example of trying to carve a niche for themselves in a world that struggles between letting go of the old way of finding a career and the new, more exciting world of creating careers using the passions you already have.
“I feel like I have infinite ideas and am always designing in my head. I am very influenced by infrastructure and architecture. I’m excited about assembly, process, nature, and countless other things that help to create the complexities in the world. My design philosophy is to use the least to create the most. My focus is on combining elegance, industrialism, and functionality to create products that are fresh and maybe even a bit confusing. People often comment on how they have never seen anything like what I produce and that is exciting to me. That’s part of why I do it” –Melissa Moore, Nikkuu Design.
Moore recently launched an Indiegogo Campaign to fuel her latest endeavors. Please take a moment to contribute here http://www.indiegogo.com/lightingproduction
For more information on Nikkuu Design, please visit the website here www.nikkuudesign.com