Industrial Design Students Complete Knows Eyewear Sponsored Studio

This past spring, Assistant Professor Joyce Thomas’ third year industrial design students completed a sponsored studio with a startup company called Knows Eyewear. They learned about and utilized empathic design, which is a user-centered approach to design. Knows Eyewear’s co-founder Byron Ferrise and Head of Design Joel Ness participated as guest lecturers and critics. “Working with an entrepreneur and design engineer like Byron was the perfect opportunity to apply empathic design strategies to real-world products,” said Thomas. “The students not only had a better understanding of human-centered design but served as co-creators and users by providing meaningful feedback and then using that feedback to help improve the product.”

Knows Eyewear team members met with the students on a weekly basis to offer background information and discussions on eyewear design and product development. With Knows Eyewear examples on hand in the studio, the students began with a design sprint and then moved into product research for a deeper understanding of consumer needs. They finished the class by creating new eyewear designs on the Knows proprietary design platform as well as digital branding assets for the website and packaging. In addition to Ferrise, Ness and other Knows Eyewear team members, eyewear designer June He also participated as a guest critic of both the initial design sprint and final designs. He, an Assistant Professor at Drexel University, delivered a lecture on her extensive eyewear design career in New York City.

Knows Eyewear was founded in late 2020 by Ferrise and his cousin Ben Toussant, who wanted to create innovative eyewear that meets the needs of a diverse audience. Knows’ initial product line will launch on June 15 of this year and will begin offering prescription eyewear in the fall. Thomas said the eyewear studio was wildly popular with students, and the course was full within minutes of opening for registration. “There was almost a mad rush to sign up,” said Thomas. “Students were eager to apply their creativity to a fun product—especially the opportunity to do so with a startup company.” She worked closely with Ferrise to develop a curriculum that gave students an experience that was a valuable professional experience and also just plain fun.

Thomas, Ferrise and Ness reviewed all the final designs and chose Noah Fondren and Ashlyn Adair as the top two designers from the entire semester. Fondren’s trio of designs, named Attivo, Braue and Runda, were recognized by Ferris for the number of choices and the unique quality of the designs. “None of these frames fit Knows’ target customer,” he stated, “but they DO fit customers of other brands.” Ferrise called Adair’s Selete browbar design “Really well executed, an elegant design that fit the Knows brand well.”

Related people:
Joyce Thomas