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A Fresh Perspective in Product Design

Beau Oyler is an Academy of Art University alum who embodies our school’s core values of inclusivity and collaboration. In 2005, he graduated from the Academy’s School of Industrial Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Today, he is a successful design entrepreneur and CEO of his own award-winning design agency, Enlisted Design, which has an extensive (and ever-growing) portfolio of work with some of the most innovative and creative companies out there.

Developing a Collaborative Design Philosophy 

Industrial Design is the professional practice of designing products, and Industrial designers are designers who develop concepts for how a product looks, functions, and is manufactured.

The Academy’s School of Industrial Design positions students at the intersection of culture, technology, and business by teaching them how to turn future visions into short-term tangibles that positively impact on others.

According to the Academy, “Industrial design is more than just self-expression; it is the evolution of both function and aesthetics in everyday life.”

Enlisting a Fresh Perspective in Product Design

For Oyler, the beauty of industrial design is that you can transform an idea into a tangible product that can positively impact a person’s life. He wants to create brands and products that people love, which is a guiding philosophy for Enlisted Design.

Founded by Oyler, the studio focuses on industrial design, branding, and packaging design. They work with big and small companies – from Fortune 500s to emerging startups – and span across all industries, including consumer technology, homeware, food, and lifestyle apparel. The connecting thread is that the design work elicits an emotional connection with people.

What makes Enlisted different from other creative agencies is their collaborative process. Oyler has always had a unique ability to truly collaborate with his design partners, a skill that his time at the Academy helped to develop by fostering collaboration between design students and industry companies.

Enlisting a Fresh Perspective in Product Design

Oyler describes Enlisted as a synergistic perspective of brand, industrial, and packaging designers who come together with a common goal to create products that will have a meaningful effect on people. “That’s why we are Enlisted: We enlist our clients into our design team. Likewise, they enlist us into their business,” he states.

Oyler hopes that his team will look back at the years they have spent at his company as filled with experiences that “stretched them and grew them and pushed them really hard, so that they wanted to do better and that they wanted to do more.”

Enlisting a Fresh Perspective in Product Design

Chasing the Entrepreneurial Dream

In addition to founding a design studio, Oyler has the added experience of being a successful entrepreneur. In 2010, two years after founding Enlisted, Oyler and the team felt compelled to create their own product – a vertical indoor garden and organizational product that would help them stay decluttered.

They named it Urbio, and after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (raising $77,000 as opposed to the initially planned $17,000), Oyler and his former co-founder, Jared Aller, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank. The reality television show offers budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch five industry titans – the “sharks” – hoping to persuade them to invest in their companies. 

Oyler and Aller successfully pitched the Urbio product by focusing on its unique style and functionality, and the two entrepreneurs walked away raising nearly half a million dollars.

From there, Oyler grew Urbio into a fully realized, practical brand that people love. In 2015, Honey Can Do acquired Urbio, and it continues to be a beloved space-saving solution. Urbio’s products are sold at globally renowned retailers such as The Container Store, have received numerous design awards, and have been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc., Dwell, GQ, InStyle and Wired.

Designing with an Inclusive Perspective

Oyler continues to remain active with the Academy. In 2018, he was one of four panelists in the Academy’s Inclusive Design Forum, which was held in conjunction with the university’s San Francisco Fashion Show.

Oyler and Special Olympic star Chelsea Werner joined moderators Stephanie Thomas and Flore Morton for a panel discussion on inclusive design, which considers the full range of human needs and differences including ability, language, culture, gender, age and more. 

Many of the topics Oyler touched upon during the discussion reflected how the Academy helped shape his design principles. The Academy has a unique inclusion policy, which affirms that all students can thrive within the Academy’s curriculum.

This philosophy is evident in the diverse experiences, ideas, and passions manifested in student work. On the panel, Oyler spoke about his own lifelong condition of hemophilia – a bleeding disorder that is not necessarily visible on the outside, but has a huge impact on Oyler’ s design process.

“When I start the design process, I dive deep into really understanding who is going to use this product, how are they going to use it, and how can we design it in a way that is going to be a delight for them to use.” – Oyler

Bringing it Back to the Academy

In addition to sharing his perspective on stage, Oyler has supported the Academy’s efforts by teaching at the Academy from 2006 to 2016. The Academy’s classes are taught by top professionals in creative and innovative industries.

These courses help students curate their talents and gain skills that will develop them into the most sought-after candidates in the creative marketplace. And yet, what makes the Academy unique is its rare inclusive admissions policy, which is built on the idea that a student’s potential is not determined by the past, but the present.

Enlisting a Fresh Perspective in Product Design

Perhaps one of the best connections Oyler and the Academy have is a shared love for the Bay Area. Enlisted Design is headquartered in Oakland, CA, and Oyler loves the area for the very same reasons the Academy maintains its campuses in the Bay Area: it is a hub for creative minds to explore and come together with potential industry partners.

This unique location has made the Academy one of the most diverse artistic communities in the world. Academy students, like Oyler, have the confidence to express themselves and go after what they want with no hesitations. 

Oyler credits the Academy for bringing out his best. “Those years at the Academy I was pushed so hard that it showed me what I was capable of. It showed me my potential,” he said.

“The first day I walked into the Academy I felt like I had come home. This is where I belong, so I just dove in headfirst.” – Oyler

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