Tomorrow Lab works across design and engineering to conceptualize and develop innovative hardware products. They take client projects from any point in the development process, assisting with ideation, prototyping, testing, even manufacture.
Led by Ted Ullrich and Pepin Gelardi out of their NYC studio, Tomorrow Lab’s diverse team includes Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, Designers, and Business Strategists. While the past 40 years’ digital revolution was largely led by programmers, their focus on creating physical tech products represents the future of technology: a more direct and tangible, human-centered, and multidisciplinary approach to change-making.
Prototyping, in particular, plays a crucial role in every stage of their process. They take a hands-on approach to understand and push the boundaries of new technologies. In that vein, they established a design incubator called CoBuilt, exploring the line between rapid and traditional mass fabrication to lower barriers to entry to hardware design and production.
That’s in addition to a whole host of other in-house projects and experiments they conduct to continually expand their capabilities and imagination. Some are playful, like using a balloon as a gauge for hard drive space, or a mouth-shaped coffee lid. Some are more socially purposeful, like adapting a makerbot to CNC PCBs, looking beyond 3D printing for small companies’ plastics production, or this open source stand that converts your iPhone to an overhead projector.
Tomorrow Lab’s main work is on client projects, though. Hammerhead Navigation is probably their most awarded, taking home GOLD Awards at the 2015 Clio Awards and the 2016 IDEA Awards, a listing in Inc. Magazine’s 7 Most Brilliant Product Designs of 2016, and a product design award at the 2015 D&AD Interactive Design for Products.
They’ve also made STEM education kits, wearables for safer swimming, elegant water usage monitors, traffic analytics hardware, sleek wearable phone chargers, and a truly beautiful soil sensor system. You can see a complete portfolio of their work here.
They’ve worked with a full range of clients, from established giants like Google, Intel, USPS, and Lego, to brand new startups. Throughout their work with different companies, in different stages, and for different applications, their work holds a unified aesthetic, and the first principles behind them are evident.
For example, In Shelby Thompson’s piece, “Ethics in Design” on Tomorrow Lab’s Medium, she writes about their emphasis on, and acknowledged privilege to say no to work that, as their founder, “Ted Ullrich, puts it, does not support ‘the kind of world I want to live in.’” She writes that an essential part of their process of onboarding and developing projects is asking, “Is this product meaningful? … Do I want to be known for making these products?”
Tomorrow Lab spreads these ideals beyond their own work, too. Pepin Gleardi participated in Sub Rosa’s Applied Empathy Speaker Series (a phrase I personally am quite taken by), and Ted Ullrich, in his TEDxAtlanta talk, discusses the potential of modernizing design to “drive down barriers to entry and empower the little guy.” And these are just two examples. The point is that their work is purposeful, designed to innovate, and encourages a better tomorrow (ideas anyone can get behind, but we at Wevolver are especially juiced about).
Together, I think their work demonstrates Tomorrow Lab’s part in the “2nd wave” of Making (as Will Holman described in his interview for Make:). They embrace digital fabrication tools and technology for democratization and decentralization, hands-on learning, rapid prototyping, without stopping at those buzz words. They break through the “OMG 3D printers!” hype to actually figure out and create the substantive change modern design and tech make possible.