What to do with a degree in architecture – Motorcycle Designer Ed Jacobs

Stanford did not have an architecture program when I attended there many years ago. They did offer industrial engineering and a product design major, which I think is the predecessor to the now-famous D-school at Stanford. There are still students today that may have an interest in architecture or design.

When I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal about an architecture and industrial design graduate, I found the story quite interesting and reflective of how his core skills are translated for today’s needs. This Pratt Institute alum is Ed Jacobs, who designs motorcycles. How cool is this?

Using the computer-assisted design and manufacturing program SolidWorks Professional, Mr. Jacobs is able to develop precise 3-D models of parts and assemblies that can be rendered photo-realistically. When the design reaches its final iteration, Mr. Jacobs emails the file to Birmingham or to one of Confederate’s (the company where he works) suppliers for the part to be produced. The process is well suited to Confederate’s Machine Age aesthetic. Virtually all of the bikes’ structural pieces are milled out of billet aluminum by computer-numerical control CNC machines, which are essentially robotic lathes that precisely reproduce in steel objects designed in virtual reality. It might seem strange that a company that sold only 32 bikes last year would keep a full-time designer on staff. “It’s not just a guy drawing pictures,” Mr. Jacobs said. “The difference is that I’m having to 3-D-model and engineer every single part, from the sketch all the way through the manufacturing, figuring out how things can be tooled in the machines, building jigs, everything.” . . . .when deadlines loom, he will pull all-nighters, as many as four in a row. “Design is a funny thing,” Mr. Jacobs said. “You can keep going and going. Eventually you have to draw a line in the sand, but you keep pushing it to the last minute.”

via Confederate Motorcycles’ Ed Jacobs: The Master of Machine-Age Motorcycles| Creating by Dan Neil – WSJ.com.

Many higher education professionals today talk about educating students for jobs that don’t exist yet. I imagine that an architect major of 20 years ago, as Ed Jacobs is, likely never imagined that he would use his major in this way. Kudos to him for finding his path! Now . . . where do I get a ruler and drafting table?