Interview with designer Ryan Rutherford

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On October 15, 2012
Last modified:October 15, 2012


Who is the author of CUZ toys in rubber? Who created those cute colorful creatures that in the meantime are your pet’s best friends? Designer Ryan Rutherford A.K.A. Bryan Brutherford is a graduate of the Industrial Design program at Pratt Institute. After a successful career as a product designer developing solutions to client-based design problems, Brutherford decided it was time to make some fun stuff without any parameters other than his own. Discover more about Ryan Rutherford (who by the way just won a Designer Toy Award for “best self produced toy” ) in an interview here. Thank you!


Tell us a bit about yourself and your cute creatures.
I am a giant culture-less brute from NJ. I like cats, drive funny little french cars and tend to create cute stuff.


How would you describe your creative process? You sketch? You make models in clay? You use computer directly or 3D programs?

My process usually starts with me cracking myself up with an observation or revelation sometimes it’s relevant to the world at large but mostly it’s personal. It’s always something that i think is absolutely hilarious or witty beyond belief but when i try to explain it to other people they look at me like i have 4 heads. Then i have to figure out how to visualize it and make it a real thing people can touch so that everyone gets it and realizes that i really am witty and hilarious. I am a graduate of the Pratt Institute Industrial Design program so process is very important to me. I almost always start with a sketch although pencil and paper are not what i would call my native language so sketching is just a tool for me to start to understand form, proportion and composition. From the sketch i will either start to work on a practical model sometimes just cut paper, sometimes clay, sometimes whatever happens to be in front of me. It’s always a process of moving forward and learning as i move, i never sit down and just decide “THIS IS WHAT I AM MAKING” and then make it. It’s more like I am very comfortable in a practical modeling atmosphere either in pliable materials like clay or in a wood, plastic or metal shop where i am cutting and shaping harder materials. I am just as comfortable in a 3-d digital modeling environment.



I have been working with 3-d software and rapid prototyping technologies since about 1999. My process almost always involves moving back and fourth between digital and practical. I might sketch on paper, then build a sketch model, then use calipers to translate rough dimensions from the model in to 3-d software, then resolve the model in 3d and ad some engineering details before exporting to a 3-d printer. I might then take the 3-d printed model back out in to my shop and start sanding and carving or adding on clay or resin. Computers and 3d software are amazing tools but 3-d printers make them even more amazing. If you are creating a 3 dimensional object i believe you need to see it in the real world with your own eyes and be able to touch it and understand how it interacts with you and its environment.


Apart from creating, what do you do?
I make stuff, I collect stuff, i drive old cars, i pet cats.

Where does your inspiration come from?
humor and love, in the people and world around me

What does your work mean to you?
it is often my way of expressing humor and love.

Who or what has been most influential in your work?
Humor and Love, i can expand this one by mentioning my wife Tamara Petrosino (she is an amazing illustrator). Our relationship is built on humor and love, she is my “person” we see the same absurdities in life and find them hilarious together. She also really helped me embrace a sometimes cute, sometimes pop aesthetic at a time when i was tending to either be too serious or too barbaric with my design and that has worked out well for me. Sometimes the seriousness and barbarism still peak through.


When did you know you were an artist?
I guess right now? Seriously am I an artist? That’s pretty cool!

Your favorite piece of work that gave you satisfaction?
My very first product design after i graduated college was CUZ, a little squeaking rubber ball with feet, for dogs to chew on. It has gone on to be my biggest commercial success, sold millions, knocked off all around the world. I love that little guy i though he was the perfect embodiment of my personality and humor and the first generation are in my opinion a perfect design object. On the other hand the Ice Scream Man may have given me way more satisfaction because i literally did everything myself from concept to production, sales and shipping. I built my own little toy factory and run the molding machines on the weekend.
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