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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Magnetic tea raises funds for industrial design students

Western’s industrial design department is turning the technology of tea steeping upside down with its original magnetic tea-brewing vessel design.

The industrial design program is bringing back its originally-produced Imbue tea brewing container for more people to buy after they sold out in December 2014.

The magnetic brewing vessel is a portable tea steeper and mug that works by taking loose-leaf tea, putting it into the strainer, adding hot water, closing the lid and then turning the vessel upside down for the tea to steep. After steeping, the magnetic part of the container can be removed along with the tea leaves.

“Since this is magnetically connected to the lid, when you’re done steeping your tea, when you flip it over, it becomes a drainage sink, which is kind of nice because you take that hassle out of the situation,” industrial design student Ashkon Nima said.

The brewing vessel was created by Western’s student chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America in the industrial design department, a national society that works to share ideas of industrial designers around the world, industrial design student Dan Taylor said.

At the end of students’ senior years, final appearance models are required. Creation of the final pieces is entirely student funded, including the costs of equipment, as well as the event that showcases the projects, Nima said.

The Imbue brewing system began as a project to help fund student fees as well as a spring break trip, Taylor said. Each year, members of the Western chapter travel to industrial design companies across the U.S. during a spring break trip to help students become acquainted with the industry, Taylor said.

Students worked with local science museum Mindport Exhibits to present 130 preliminary units of the Imbue vessel in 2014, and all but a few sold out, Taylor said. During that time, students also received positive feedback about the product from consumers as well as potential investors.

Now the industrial design students are working with an overseas manufacturer to help bring Imbue to the general market, Taylor said.

On Friday, May 1, a Kickstarter will be launched for the Imbue project. With a donation of $27, customers will receive one of the brewing vessels. After a few weeks, the price will rise to $29.

Funds raised by the sale are being planned to contribute to future IDSA student projects and to help continue industrial design education at Western, Nima said.

Nima has been working with Bellingham partners and manufacturers overseas so the vessels can eventually be manufactured to reach a broader audience.

While it was Taylor, Nima and fellow junior Leah Cohen-Sapida who have dedicated the most time to the Imbue project, Taylor said it was the collective input of the entire IDSA classes that helped the three come up with the idea.

Taylor said brainstorming sessions between sophomore, junior and senior students helped take the initial, broad concepts of a fundraising product and eventually create the distinctive design of Imbue.

“When we were first trying to develop the product, we were trying to find something that was unique,” Taylor said.

Along the way, the students came up with the idea for the vessel be turned upside down in order to brew — a trait no other product on the market can claim, Taylor said.

While Taylor said the Imbue product has sparked a considerable interest among the loose-leaf tea community, a number of other products have been designed by Western students over the years. Recently, a concept for 3-D-printed jewelry was pitched, as was a combination bottle opener and coaster, and a notebook cover made from flexible wood that had been manipulated with laser technology.

The industrial design program at Western is incredibly competitive, with just 12 students in the graduating classes of this major, Nima said.

Even so, the students involved on the Imbue project are looking forward to seeing their product on the shelves, Taylor said.

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