Meet Lucas McGartland: The Designer Of Your Future Products

The USC student talks about his accomplishments in design and technology.

Lucas with his printer, Esso (Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy)

Lucas McGartland, a Saint Louis native and sophomore in the University of Southern California’s Iovine Young Academy has an affliction: he sees the design flaws in everything around him. This may not seem like a problem to most, but, if you are obsessed with the refinement of design, it is.

As McGartland says, “Good enough for me is a very, very high standard where it is nearly perfect.” McGartland refuses to sit by idly and allow this lack of proper aesthetic to continue; he is out to redesign the world. McGartland is a primarily self-taught graphic designer, coder, inventor and innovator. He has already spearheaded a number of projects designed to make our lives more aesthetically pleasing. Still, he knows that looks are not the only important factor: “It isn’t just about aesthetic, it is about both form and function.”

McGartland is currently designing and 3D modeling a shoe. He views an every day shoe as a blueprint for limitless designs; a blank yet highly intriguing and structured canvas. In other words: a designer’s dream. Utilizing the resources available to him through the Iovine and Young Academy, the second-year student has ventured into bringing his experience and aptitude for design to shoes.

Another particularly innovative task he has taken on is redesigning home printers. McGartland has conceptualized the printer to become a sleek, visually appealing, simple and highly functional machine. Updating home printers seems like an obvious upgrade that someone should have done years ago — what sets him apart is that he is actually doing it.

When Neon Tommy sat down and interviewed McGartland, he spoke about design fundamentals. Through conversation with a mind as innovative as McGartland’s, one can become acutely aware of the flaws in the visual construction of one’s own clothing, the room, even the microphone attached to his collar — apparently, his affliction is contagious.


Lucas surrounded by his shoe sketches and wearing a shirt featuring his logo (Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy)

Neon Tommy: In high school, were you able to take classes that helped you evolve into an innovative person?

Lucas McGartland: Not really even classes but just more like different extracurricular activities. I was heavily involved in the F.I.R.S.T. robotics program, participated in that for 5 years. I did a lot of fun off-season activities; built a Segway as part of that.

NT: So you’ve always been an innovative person, would you say? When do you think you first got interested in technology, and building/making things?

LM: At a very, very young age, I think my parents exposed me to a lot of different tech events. My dad is an engineer and my mom is pretty artsy, I guess [laughs]. So I remember going to these robotics competitions, probably when I was in first or second grade, and that is eventually what I ended up doing in high school, but I remember then being, like: “I want to do this, this looks like so much fun…” Then, that led me into the whole tech world and programming, I eventually started writing apps after I learned how to program and then from there I got converted to the cult of Apple, and that just turned me into a design person.

NT: But you still don’t have an iPhone!

LM: I still don’t have an iPhone and it pains me every single day, my life is miserable because of it… It’s this thing now where people don’t want to be friends with people who have green [message] bubbles. They don’t want to be associated with people like me.

NT: Did you teach yourself how to use Photoshop and other applications?

LM: Yeah, [I] self-taught… I don’t like doing video tutorials, I think they are too slow. Yeah, so when I started to teach myself how to program it was a lot of trial and error, just Googling things. I didn’t know anyone else who could program so that’s why I love being here because there are people smarter than me…. I didn’t even use Photoshop until I got to the Academy… Once I got exposed to the Adobe Creative Suite, everything changed and now I use Illustrator literally every single day.

NT: What aspect of design are you most focused in?

LM: I’m interested in all sorts of design, just everything, because it is all important.

NT: Why do you think it is important?

LM: Because it makes our lives better.

NT: If you could redesign any product now into the ideal form, what would it be? What is ripe for redesign?

LM: Well, I have been working on a printer; I think that is ripe for disruption. Printers suck right now, consumer printers are ugly, they are noisy, they are difficult to use and it seems like it’s a pretty good problem to take on and make them a joy and a pleasure to have in your home. I have been working on that project since the end of first semester last year and I have a prototype that I built over the summer. It is beautiful… it’s called Esso.

Lucas’s Printer Prototype: Esso (Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy)

NT: What has been the process of designing and making Esso?

LM: It was actually a final project [during] first semester freshman year. The whole ideas was we had to come up with a product and pitch it… My group came up with this printer idea and worked on it for about a month and pitched it… it was a lot of fun but we didn’t have good mock-ups of it, we only had 3D renderings so over the summer I decided to take it to the next level and actually try building a prototype version… I worked with a couple of my friends from back home and we ripped apart old printers, toner cartridges and reconfigured this old HP laser jet printer.

NT: What is the future for Esso?

LM: I’m going to keep making more prototypes and get closer to a final product that can be manufactured… there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but I will just keep refining and hopefully get to bring it to market.

NT: Talk to me about the shoe project.

LM: I wanted to do something I could actually design myself, then make the real product and shoes just have unlimited possibilities…. So I started designing a shoe, checked out an iPad… did five or six completely different concepts then ended up picking out the one I liked the most. So I did that, and used my sketches as a reference and then printed it on a MakerBot, broke my own record for the longest print… it turned into about 50 [hours].

A 3D Modeled Shoe done by Lucas (Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy)

NT: So now that the model is complete, what is the next step?

LM: Right now it is completely symmetrical, which obviously no shoe is… so I am going to tweak that to get it to the right foot shape. It’s also not in the correct proportions that it should be… There are a lot of different things that after holding it and looking at it that I know I want to fix. So I am going to go back and remodel it probably from scratch just because I know how to do it now and then get it printed on the powder printer, in full color and it will look and feel like an actual shoe, which will be pretty cool.

A Powder Printed Model of Lucas’s Shoe (Sophie Sanders/Neon Tommy)

NT: What would you be doing if you were born in any other age that didn’t have this sort of technology?

LM: I honestly don’t know. In any age I hope that I would be innovative. I feel like I wouldn’t be exposed to things that have inspired me so I don’t think I would have been as innovative as I am now. I’m not entirely sure. I would definitely hope that I would be changing the world in the past.

NT: How do you make time to go to class and still work on your projects?

LM: Hopefully, I will get to the point where I become this designer ninja where I can just knock things out super quickly.

Lucas with his sketches (Sophie Sanders / Neon Tommy)

If you want to stay up to date on Lucas’s new design ventures, follow his Instagram here or stay tuned for his website release.

Reach Staff Reporter Sophie Sanders here.

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