Ross Stevens

Left: Ross at Incredibledge 2012. Center: His home constructed out of shipping containers. Right: Children's TV designed with Philippe Starck, 1993

Left: Ross at IncrediblEdge 2012. Center: His home constructed out of shipping containers. Right: Children’s TV designed with Philippe Starck, 1993


Ross Stevens is an industrial design icon and design futurist. He has worked with many of the world’s leading product designers.

designledfutures2Ross co-founded Design Led Futures whose customers have been Fisher & Paykel, Methven, Nike, Vodafone, Weta Workshop and Wellington City Council. Visit Design Led Futures website

He co-founded and is the design director for Pure Audio (2009), which involves hand building high end audio products for people who love music.  As design director for Plinius (audible technology), he was responsible for the industrial design of the now iconic Plinius curved range of products which were introduced to the world market in 2002, and future studies with students exploring ideas that extend 80 years in the future. He is senior lecturer on complex 3D digital form at Victoria University School of Design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ross dedicates his life to design, working across diverse fields, and future studies with students exploring ideas that extend 80 years in the future. He is senior lecturer on complex 3D digital form at Victoria University School of Design in Wellington, New Zealand.

As co-designer of the Fisher & Paykel Smart Drive washing machine, between 1987-1991, Ross has been integral to the evolution of innovative industrial design solutions in New Zealand and world-wide. He sees his products go from dreams, to production, to sale, to use, then inevitably to disposal.


Images from top left: PureAudio’s Power Amplifier designed with Gary Morrison, 2010. 4D research exploring time and wear in electronic product. Jamie Mayne’s project BeingHuman biologically merged digital intelligence with the human body. A study into the trends of biotechnology and nanotechnology resulted in a second skin that would mediate between people (when they are spending long periods of time online) and the physical environment (e.g. providing warmth, protection and architecture).


Ross reflects on changes in the research he has been doing with staff and students at Victoria University of Wellington’s design school.

“If you can dream it, you can print it.”


Low cost 3D scanning:

Allows people to capture the shape and form of objects in the physical world and transport them into the computer’s digital space. Once they are digitised, they can then be rendered and manipulated, and these 3D digital forms made physical again through 3D printing. This approach creates perfectly fitting ‘biometrically tailored’ objects, such as Jake Evill’s ‘Cortex’ cast and Earl Stewart’s ‘XYZ’ bespoke shoes.


Jake Evill’s ‘Cortex’ cast provides an exoskeleton to protect broken bones. It is an injury-localised exoskeleton that is lightweight, washable, ventilated and recyclable. 2013 design awards include: international James Dyson Award 2nd place, New Zealand national James Dyson Award winner, and Icon Awards ‘Technology of the Year’ winner. Listed in at #4 of world’s ‘Top 100 Science Trends in 2013’.  Image courtesy Jake Evill.



Earl Stewart’s ‘XYZ’ shoes are customised bespoke shoes for the individual, based on scans of the feet, with several iterations available all in one print.

Advancement in technology due to the use of 3D printers is changing the face of prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in industrial design, architecture, construction,  automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech, fashion, footwear, jewellery, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields.


As technology applications continue to expand for 3D printing, and prices drop, more goods will be made at point of purchase, where they are consumed, or in the home.

Over the past few years, Ross has seen the rapid reduction in the price of 3D printers and the creation of the Free CAD website with open source design files.  This has seen the realisation of the dream of downloading an object from the internet and 3D printing it out at home.


3D printed rings from Ross’s daughter’s 10th birthday party

Ross Stevens spoke at IncrediblEdge in 2012



Professional 3D printers can print in a range of digital materials from hard to soft. This has seen the creation of complex multi-material products that could only be made on 3D printers.


The ‘Expose’ loudspeaker designed by Simon Ellison is printed in two parts, requiring only the electrically conductive coil to be fitted.  The ridged and flexible areas are all printed in one process. Image courtesy Simon Ellison.


As the precision and material diversity of 3D printing has improved so too has the goal of exploring ways to combine biological and synthetic processes.

'Datavores'-3D-printed-insect-by-Sarah-Kong-for-DLF-jpgThe project team attempted to research and come up with a scenario of what Wellington could look like in the year 2040. The project’s roots were derived from the concept of overpopulation, the decline of the natural environment and rising water levels.

Sarah Kong’s future research with “Davatores”, the team effort of the Design Led Futures project, suggests the creation of digital insects that are capable of delivering information.

mollusk-comboCloser in time are experiments with Paua working as co-creators. A 3D-printed scaffold is used to determine the shape of the synthetic shell but the Paua mollusc is encouraged to add a layer of colour refractive Nacre. An unexpected result of this research was the formation of microscopic algae structures allowing much smaller scale construction than 3D printing alone.

'Metaglobs'-Generative-Code-experiments-by-Michael-Groufsky,-Douglas-Easterly-and-Ross-StevensThe most startling revelation of the last two years is how synthetic and natural processes are converging to produce objects whose origin is difficult to determine.

The ‘Metaglobs’ research undertaken with Michael Gruofsky explored how generative code could be used to make infinite variants of the same basic object.  The conclusion to this experiment was to release the synthetic objects into a pristine natural environment.

Image: Szilard Ozorak.


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