Student Spotlight: Industrial designer Jake Frey

We love this city because it is full of future innovators. Jake Frey is a senior industrial design major at Philadelphia University, and while he hasn’t graduated yet – he’s already got an impressive body of work and resume. We sat down with Jake to take a look at some of his designs, and to learn a little bit more about what it means to study design here in Philadelphia.

A self portrait of the designer taken while in France studying under Joep van Lieshout

Phrequency: What about industrial design  originally interested you?

Jake: I went to a performing arts high school.  I was focusing on architecture, and then I found product design. I looked at a lot of schools: Carnegie Mellon, Rhode Island School of Design, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, University of the Arts, and Philadelphia University. Philadelphia University had the nicest campus, so I looked into the program and fell in love with everything that it encompassed.

An inverted cross chair made of leather and black pine by the designer.

P: Can you tell us what the course work looks like for an ID major at Philadelphia University?

J: The first couple years are fundamentals and exploration classes. The past year has been more firm based. What that means is we worked with actual companies to find real life problems and solutions with their products. My senior year will consist of thesis classes, so it is whatever I want to do based off of everything that I have already done at school.

Two faced lamp made out of two way mirrors. When the lamp is not illuminated, the surface is completely reflective, but when lit, you can see the interior design which was inspired by an 18th century glass chamber lamp.

The designer's sketches and notes for the construction of the lamp.

P: What advice would you offer to anybody that has an interest in studying or entering the industrial design field?

J: Choose your school wisely. Also, just go for it. I know a lot of people studying at Philadelphia University who say they wish that they had done it. If you have even half of an idea of what you want to do and [industrial design] is it, get into it and go full blast – soak up as much as you can.


Beautiful Death Vase. A piece created by the designer to embrace the death of the rose as opposed to the living roses we're accustomed to.

P: What would you consider to be the most challenging aspects of industrial design?

J: Probably the less exciting clients. You have to understand that in the real world, as a designer, you are not going to have your dream job constantly. So, that’s a lot of what we learn – you might have a boring client, but your job is to make it so that client isn’t boring. It’s our job to decide the direction in which that company goes, and what they do, so that’s probably the hardest part.

An interior space project the designer is working on in his own home using his walls and black string.

P: Can you tell us a little bit about the internship that you had?

J: I did an internship at Atelier van Lieshout with Joep van Lieshout, and I was there for three months. I wrote him a letter six months prior that I really wanted to work for him. I had sent like, sixty hand written letters to my favorite designers in the world, and a bunch of them got back to me, and his program was great. He’s this crazy old Dutch guy, and I just fell in love with his story and his work. I lived there, had a room there, and worked there all day every day. While I was there I traveled a lot for the studio. I went to Austria to do a project, I went to North Holland, and I went to Germany. That was such an amazing experience especially because it was international and it’s a completely different world outside of the states. I can’t even begin to explain the things you can learn.

P: What are your favorite types of things to design?   

J: My favorite things to design are the things that don’t exist yet. For example, a couple years ago, the iPad didn’t exist, and now everyone knows what that is. The things that don’t have names because you don’t know what to call them, because the world doesn’t have them yet, they are what's really exciting to design and bring to life.

P: Which of your own designs are you most proud of?

J: Probably the magnetic light switch cover. It’s gotten a lot of press, and is still getting a lot of press. The design was featured on core77, which is the biggest industrial design website that there is. The editor wrote up a piece and it was on there last night. I’ve gotten a lot of recognition for that. That project was just one where the stars aligned, and it was just a great idea and great execution. Easy, and simple.


Frey's sketches and notes for the magnetic lamp switch design.

To learn more about Jake Frey and his work, you can visit his website