Alea Oakman, ’20, is a Product Design major where they create a wide range of products. Each student will have their product sold in ReFined, a local store in Allentown. (Jillian Wolfson/B&W staff)

Product design students sell work in local store


Product Design III, a hands-on and interactive class, is teaching students how to manufacture, market and sell their products. 

Professor Wes Heiss, who teaches the class, challenged his students to create products using three different materials: metal, felt and plywood. Throughout the semester, the nine students enrolled in the class have worked with local manufacturers to create their products. 

Each member of the class will have their product sold in ReFind, a store in Allentown that sells products from furniture to antiques. ReFind focuses on selling reclaimed and up-cycled products that are environmentally friendly. 

Students have created products ranging from deviled egg holders to wooden food platters reminiscent of artist’s palettes. 

Students developed and pitched three product ideas to Professor Heiss and a guest critic, who select one product for the student to develop and sell. 

Alea Oakman, ’20, who is enrolled in the class, created a deviled egg holder in the shape of a Christmas tree. Oakman said the class offers a special opportunity for students to bring their product ideas to fruition. 

“It’s a really good chance to learn about manufacturing and production of products that you don’t typically get in other classes…” Oakman said. “You don’t usually get to the point of making the product in bulk and actually selling it (in other classes).”  

Matthew Fainor, ’20, said the inspiration for many of the products created came from the customer base of the store — many of the store’s customers are young and middle-aged people who work in Allentown.

Fainor created a travel jewelry roll made out of felt.  

Students in the class gain a deeper understanding of the developmental process by creating products. Along with crafting their products, the students have created an advertising campaign and are helping create the in-store display. Fainor and Oakman are leading public relations for the project to help spread the word. 

“You might have all these cool ideas, but to actually make them come into existence, it’s a lot of practical prototyping, sitting down with manufacturers and people that know how to bring things to reality, and figuring out where those limitations in production are,” Fainor said. “That’s been a really big learning curve.”

Emma Kwasnoski, ’20, created an art-deco shelf using a flat sheet of metal. She began by prototyping with cardboard to figure out the structural component before she created the metal shelf. 

Kwasnoski said the class has enabled her to combine what she has learned during her time at Lehigh to create a tangible product. 

“I’ve done engineering and entrepreneurship, and it’s nice to bring everything together with manufacturing your own products, designing them and then selling them,” Kwasnoski said. 

The students’ products will be sold at ReFind in December during the last week of classes.

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