Industrial design with a super hero twist

Jackson Gordon Designer Interview Afera

Jackson Gordon (January, 1994) is an industrial design student at PhilaU (Philadelphia University). He definitely wants to become an all-round designer, but for now his protective armoured suit modelled in Batman’s image has become world news in 2015. After receiving lots of media attention and positive feedback, he decided to streamline his designs and began selling them, and many props, to the world. Industrial design with a (unique) wink.

What inspired or triggered you to study industrial design at Philadelphia University ?
“Initially, I studied to be a science teacher, but I just got bored at that after three semesters. I have been in prop making hobbies for probably the last 10 years and I came to a point that I liked to turn my hobby into a profession. I did not want to be an engineer. That is too much math and generally not very interesting to me, so I decided to be a designer, because that is really what I already had been doing for a pretty long time. So, why not do that professionally?”

Is industrial design a general study?
“Yes, it is. I like that, it’s one of things that attracted me to the program, because I had very random and various hobbies over the years. I used to modify Nerf guns and started doing costumes and got into really niche hobbies such as making specific lightsabers. I wanted to do something different in my workshop every single day.”

Jackson Gordon suitYou have become internationally famous by designing a Batsuit that actually can withstand punches, machetes and baseball bats. Are you a huge fan of Batman, is it your love for cosplay or did you just want to make a better version of the suit Batman wears in the movies?
“It’s probably a combination of all three of those. My personal interest though was not the actual finished product, but much more learning about certain materials and processes in order to make something like this. When you tell that to someone who isn’t a designer, it just makes you sound like an idiot, but from a design standpoint the tools and processes you use to make a project are actually much more valuable than the final project.”

What materials did you use besides Kevlar and silicone moulds?
“The armour plate for the suit itself is made from a super dense plastic called Kydex, which is used for super high-end manufacturing, but otherwise no one uses it for anything. It is sort of an unknown material, but it happened to be really good for what I wanted to use it for. There’s Kevlar in the layers of the suit. The padding is made from closed cell high density foam.” Gordon, how he prefers to be called, hasn’t used self-adhesive tape for this particular project. “And I avoid glue whenever possible, because I like to be able to take things apart after I have made them. The entire suit is either sown or screwed together. “

I understand creating the helmet has been your greatest challenge. Why?Batman Combat Helmet
“The helmet is the only armour I couldn’t do in Kydex. The machining that would be required for a piece as large and complicated as this, is something I don’t have access to. I used a bunch of much softer plastics to get it into the shape I wanted. The helmet model was constructed from 1/4" Sintra, urethane resin and ‘Appoxie’ putty. Once the shape was complete and smoothed out, it was moulded and cast from a durable polyurethane resin, which makes it moderately durable and protective, but just a little bit less than the rest of the suit. The eye inserts were made from 20 gauge steel mesh, providing significant eye protection without limiting visibility.”

Your Batsuit-project was successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter. So people believe in what you are doing. Furthermore you are founder and president of Armatus Designs, a small Pennsylvanian costume and prop making company. Is it your goal to design exclusively for niche markets, or would you prefer to become an all-round industrial designer?
“I would definitely prefer to be an all-round designer. I got to do something that I love doing, like these projects, but it is not something I am going to be doing for the next ten years. It is a side project, if anything.”

What have you designed so far?
“It’s mostly costume work, one-off pieces. I did three suits this summer and the most recent one is probably the one that I am most proud of. I did a casket helmet, not based on the one for my suit, a costume utility belt, and two other small props.”

Do you also design stools, chairs, lamps , etc?Batman Utility
“I am doing that in my normal design curriculum, but not as Armatus. In my curriculum we’re actually doing a stool right now. The next project will be a chess board. I can’t wait!”

How do envisage the future of design?
“More people get access to things like 3D printers and CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines, I actually have those at home. 3D printers become less and less expensive, you see them more in normal homes. People who no interest in science have one as a normal appliance and be able to print things that will serve as products for everyday needs.”

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