Summertime dreaming -- student interns design products Timbuk2 takes to market

Timbuk2 Designs recently added two new products to the company's lineup, ones developed over the summer by student design interns as part of a program supporting community arts and education programs that company CEO and President Mark Dwight is personally championing.
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Timbuk2 Designs recently added two new products to the company's lineup, ones developed over the summer by student design interns as part of a program supporting community arts and education programs that company CEO and President Mark Dwight is personally championing.

"A big part of our company's community and social responsibility mission is in arts and education and this internship program is one manifestation of that," Dwight told SNEWS®.

Launched for the first time this year, Dwight went into the classroom at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco to work with second-year students to offer them a "real client working experience in the classroom."

"We chose second-year students intentionally and not fourth-year students so that our project would serve to further enhance the shared experiences of students in school," added Dwight. "The two students we chose to come to work with us over the summer as paid interns are back at school, sharing their real-world experiences with fellow students, and that is both amazingly educational and inspirational."

The two who were chosen for the summer program by Dwight were industrial design students who stood out during the in-class portion of the program, putting forth effort, design-acumen and offering up product ideas that Timbuk2 felt could be taken to market quickly.

"Right products from the right people at the right time," said Dwight.

During the summer, both interns worked closely under Dwight's personal tutorship to bring their product ideas from the concept stage to the production stage -- an accelerated product-introduction program with graduation from class coming when the product actually hits the market.

The Digital DJ Hip Pack for music enthusiasts was created by Caelin White. White's product is inspired by her personal interest in electronic music culture and is designed to carry MP3 and CD players, full-size professional headphones, and miscellaneous personal items. The pack can be worn as a waist pack or shoulder bag, and is "perfect for mobile music lovers who prefer the superior sound quality and personal privacy provided by full-size headphones over ear buds," she said.

The Pro Series Messenger Backpack was created by Joe Urich. Urich's product is the result of his nine years experience as a bicycle messenger. While Timbuk2 is well-known for its single-strap Classic Messenger Bags, this is the first Timbuk2 backpack for professional bicycle messengers who prefer the two-strap backpack style. The bag features high-performance fabrics, including a rugged waterproof nylon laminate and highly-reflective safety material for nighttime visibility. The extra-large volume and variety of accessory straps permit transport of bulky and awkward payloads. Available in smaller sizes, the Pro Series backpacks are being marketed for use by commuters on bicycles, scooters and motorcycles.

And Timbuk2 is not shy about promoting the interns as designers of the products either. Each individual hangtag carries a picture of the intern along with a short description of the project.

Dwight told us he is already working with the same college and the same instructor putting together the class program and project for next year. Suffice it to say, the two "interns" have created quite a buzz around campus that goes well beyond the question, "So what did you do last summer?"

"This is certainly huge on their resume, and it is obviously very good for our street credibility," added Dwight. "More than that though, it gives me goose bumps when I think about how this program is enriching my experience as a CEO, and the students' experiences as they head on in life."

SNEWS® View: We've heard of quite a few companies working with colleges and universities on internship programs at various levels of involvement. However, to create an opportunity where two students are mentored by the CEO of the company, himself a design engineer, with the ultimate goal of actually developing product the company is going to sell at retail, well that's heady stuff for any student. Look good on a resume? Well, no kidding! Dwight's no marketing dummy either as this kind of program only makes Timbuk2 look very, very good not only on the street, but also to the corporate world buying their products -- Apple is already placing the Digital DJ into some of its stores. It also brings fresh ideas into the mix that, dare we say it, graduates and experienced design veterans might not put forward since they are already "conditioned" to a particular way of doing things. The DJ pack is a perfect example. Dwight pointed out to us that Caelin looked at the problem of introducing a unique DJ bag by observing students like her (she's a DJ too) weren't toting around vinyl anymore, they were all digital so a DJ bag needed to accommodate a digital world. So obvious now…but not before she pointed it out. Fresh ideas, fresh approach, fresh product.


Timbuk2 looking to stay on the growth fast-track

Only two weeks after being acquired by private equity investors, in an impressive deal that slightly eclipsed $22 million according to SNEWS® insiders, Timbuk2 Designs garnered 27th place in the Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the Bay area list compiled by the San more