Of pool tables, table tennis and furniture design students

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist

If you are looking for some custom home game furniture, perhaps you should check out Herron School of Art and Design.

It has paid off for Brunswick two years in a row.

That’s Brunswick as in air hockey, foosball, putting greens, pool tables and table tennis tables.

It’s those last two — first pool tables and then table tennis — that will showcase the skills of Herron furniture design graduates.

Last year Brunswick Billiards challenged Herron students to reimagine the company’s iconic Gold Crown pool table — which debuted in 1961 — to appeal to modern tech-savvy consumers looking for clean lines and a way to reconnect with family in the home.

Grant Keeney with his table tennis designs

Grant Keeney with his table tennis designs

The winning, modernized design for the table that had starring roles in “The Color of Money” and “The Hustler” was the creation of Herron 2014 furniture design grad Colin Tury. His design is slated for production under the Brunswick name in 2017.

In April, Brunswick was back at Herron for seconds, holding a student competition for designs for future versions of its tables for the game I grew up calling Ping-Pong. (I also grew up calling that Indiana pastime of throwing bags in a hole “bean bag toss,” but what do I know?)

“Everyone grew up calling it Ping-Pong,” Grant Keeney assured me.

On the way out: The Gold Crown V model of Brunswick Billiards’ pool table, (shown) will be upstaged in 2017 with the unveiling of the Gold Crown VI model designed by Herron School of Arts alumnus Colin Tury. Image courtesy Brunswick Billiards.

On the way out: The Gold Crown V model of Brunswick Billiards’ pool table, (shown) will be upstaged in 2017 with the unveiling of the Gold Crown VI model designed by Herron School of Arts alumnus Colin Tury. Image courtesy Brunswick Billiards.

Keeney, a 2015 Herron furniture design grad, took first place in the recent competition with two new concepts for table tennis tables. His prototype of the “Cl-1” table folds in half, has legs that fold up and has drawers for stowing the net, paddles and balls.

Again clean, modern lines ruled the day.

“These designs target millennials and everyone else,” Keeney said.

I’ve never seen a table tennis table with equipment drawers, so I asked Keeney about that design aspect.

Drawers aren’t typical unless you are looking at some high-end models, he said. Most often a unit for storage is sold separately.

But for this Herron designer, “it made sense” to use the underside of the table for storage, incorporating what is typically wasted space, Keeney said.

The designer and I have at least one thing in common: Neither of us excel at the game.

“I’m pretty terrible,” he said when I asked if he played table tennis, and whether that played a role in how he mentally prepared for the design task.

Given his playing level, he approached designing the table as if it were a piece of furniture more so than a game.

And taking a more aesthetic view of the task makes sense since there is only so much you can do given the standardized size of the tables.

Keeney is now a preparator/mount maker for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where he works with his hands and puts the same craftsmanship and design mentality into play that he used in furniture design at Herron. Recently he built metal support stands for the marionettes on display as part of the IMA’s current Gustave Baumann exhibit.

Colin Tury, winner of Brunswick pool table design competition

Colin Tury, winner of Brunswick pool table design competition

Both Tury and Keeney tackled their Brunswick design tasks under the tutelage of Cory Robinson, chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Herron, and Glen Fuller, a local industrial designer whom Robinson brought in.

“Cory Robinson and Glen Fuller were extremely helpful and went the extra mile to make sure we knew what we were doing,” Keeney said. The hands-on work involved in the project expanded students’ vocabulary in digital design and fabrication, he added.

Herron’s new Think It Make It Lab also proved invaluable in the project. Without it, “it would have been extremely hard to get everything accomplished,” Keeney said.

The new Think It Make It Lab at Herron will include equipment and projects like these and more (clockwise): Art work from Herron's 2013 Undergraduate Student exhibition, printed with a 3-D printer; A Stratasys Objet 30 3-D printer; detail from a bench created by then Herron graduate student Vincent Edwards using a CNC router; an EZ Router CNC router. (images: Herron staff, Michelle Pemberton, Stratasys and EZ router)

The new Think It Make It Lab at Herron will include equipment and projects like these and more (clockwise): Art work from Herron’s 2013 Undergraduate Student exhibition, printed with a 3-D printer; A Stratasys Objet 30 3-D printer; detail from a bench created by then Herron graduate student Vincent Edwards using a CNC router; an EZ Router CNC router. (images: Herron staff, Michelle Pemberton, Stratasys and EZ router)

Keeney was one of a few students involved in setting up the equipment in the lab, which expanded the school’s capability to educate students to work on concept design and prototyping using a variety of digital fabrication methods. The Think it Make it Lab includes 3-D printers, a 3-D scanner and a computer numeric control router, and is adjacent to a digital fabrication lab with laser cutters, plasma cutters and milling machines.

“We are so excited at the prospect of providing a collaborative environment for research and experimentation at the intersection of art, design, technology and culture,” Herron Dean Valerie Eickmeier said in a statement announcing the lab earlier this year. “Centers like this are common in Silicon Valley, but there are few housed in schools of art and design, and they are scarce in the Midwest.”

Another reason for Brunswick and others to keep coming back to Herron.

For more information about tapping into the talent at Herron School of Art and Design, contact Brad McKinney in the Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life at (317) 278-9423 or basile@iupui.edu.

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