Form3: Supporting environmental sustainability with innovative design

Since joining forces in 1997, Form3 partners Alex Feldman and Herb Bentz have led a team of innovators in the fields of industrial design and design engineering, and established themselves as the go-to design firm for many Western Canadian companies.

Alex Feldman and Herb Bentz each have over 35 years of experience in industrial design. Mr. Bentz has a Master of Industrial Design degree from the Royal College of Art in London, England, and is the author of Rationing Earth, a book on sustainability. Mr. Feldman, who has an Industrial Design degree from Carleton University, has taught at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design and is an adjunct professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business. Combining a shared passion for the environment, sustainability, and industrial design, they created Form3 with the aim of designing and producing better products.

Variety of products from concept to completion

As both Mr. Feldman and Mr. Bentz have diverse experience in architecture and industrial design, they have been drawn to a wide variety of projects. Over the years they’ve gained experience in all aspects of design, from the initial spark of an idea to providing their clients with the final production files.

“We do a combination of industrial design and design engineering,” Mr. Feldman says, “and we focus on product development from concept through to production. Our work also includes research to better define a problem that needs to be solved.” 

When generating concepts, the company draws from a broad range of talent and experience to generate numerous potential solutions, before narrowing down their best ideas. Once a design has been developed, successfully tested, and validated, all the necessary files are then handed to their client.

“We tend to brainstorm a wide range of solutions, and then refine preferred options through design development, prototyping, and testing. After validating the prototypes, we then proceed to design for manufacturing by completing documentation and 3D files used for production.”

Since 1997, Form3 have led a team of innovators in the fields of industrial design and design engineering. Pictured: Alex Feldman – Founding Partner

With over two decades of experience, Form3 is able to provide their services to companies of all sizes.

“We work with established companies looking to outsource or augment their in-house design development,” says Mr. Bentz, “and we also work with entrepreneurs and start-up companies looking to commercialize their ideas.”

Design for the long term

With a reputation for outstanding design work and dedicated service, the organization has grown steadily over the years. These days, the majority of their work is procured from repeat custom and word of mouth.

“Most of our work comes in through referrals, recurring work, and web searches.” Mr. Feldman explains, adding, “We’ve grown organically by concentrating on the local market.”

It is not unusual for the initial scope of a given project allocated to Form3 to expand from design services to other related areas.

“A lot of support work is required; assistance with product strategy, virtual analysis, testing, supplier sourcing, and packaging are often required by the same clients that get us involved in the original design efforts they had in mind, so the scope can often evolve.” says Mr. Feldman.

Their extensive project experience has allowed the firm to expand their network of production suppliers in order to assist with the growth and changing needs of their clients.

“Over the years we’ve built up a large network, including relationships with suppliers having specialized production capabilities.” Mr. Feldman notes, continuing, “This allows us to help our clients transition into manufacturing with suitable vendors, and to transition over time from low to high volume production.”

As expected from an innovative company, Form3 is always seeking to not only meet their clients’ needs, but to improve the quality of their products. Part of this includes producing multiple prototypes until each detail is perfected.

“We do a lot of prototyping. We have an in-house 3D printer, and we have significant experience with many types of physical modelling and rapid prototyping methods. We’ve procured varying quantities of custom components for marketing validation and performance testing.” Mr. Feldman says, “often we’ll assemble and test prototype components within our workshop, which in turn helps us to best evaluate the designs.”

Form3 have established themselves as the go-to design firm for many Western Canadian companies. Pictured: Herb Bentz – Founding Partner

Creativity through collaboration

Form3’s careful integration of talent and creativity within the company’s team, along with fostering a strong collaborative approach, has allowed the firm to solve complex problems on a wide range of projects.

“Our team has grown to over a dozen industrial designers and design engineers, which means we can provide flexible bandwidth, and integrate quickly into a company’s development schedule,” says Mr. Bentz. “We offer a rich blend of creative talent, technical skills, and knowledge. Companies are looking for fresh ideas, but they also need to work with an experienced design group with a grounded approach. We can provide innovative solutions while respecting constraints. After years of experience developing products which get to market, we’ve acquired a better understanding of how to resolve ideas and make them feasible as manufactured products.”

This approach has helped to strengthen their client relationships, while also boosting the design team’s morale as they witness their projects make it to market.

Wide-ranging skillset

With a broad range of skills, interests, and talents, Form3’s work focuses on technology products and high performance sports, although projects also include medical devices and custom architectural components. 

Mr. Feldman elaborates on a particular project they have with a sustainable development company: “In the agritech space, we are working closely with a local company, Ecoation. They’ve developed an AI technology to produce clean food by reducing crop loss, as well as the need for pesticide use.” he says, adding, “we designed the enclosures for their product to enable environmental and plant feedback sensing, machine vision, and processing functions, as well as the mounting solution that attaches to devices used within greenhouses.”

Our company is constantly gaining new experience, as Mr. Bentz explains, “We’ve been involved with several startup companies to help develop lithium-ion batteries for transportation and marine applications. We’ve gained a lot of experience dealing with very demanding requirements for technology products. We’ve helped solve some difficult problems related to safety, heat buildup, limited space, and waterproofing requirements. This has provided us with skills that have been very useful for other technology projects.”

With a broad range of skills, interests, and talents, Form3’s work focuses on technology products and high performance sports, although projects also include medical devices and custom architectural components

Emerging innovation hotspot

Vancouver is quickly becoming a hotspot for technology and outdoor recreation industries. There are many top universities and colleges in the area, producing the next generation of scientists, designers, and entrepreneurs are likely to join and enhance existing companies, or form their own. The attraction to Vancouver can only benefit Form3, as the city provides all the creative opportunities any prospective new team member could want. As Mr. Bentz states, “Work/life balance is important to people, and Vancouver offers an exciting environment for designers to join a firm involved with leading companies in technology and sports sectors, while enjoying the rich outdoor activities on the West Coast.”

Future design opportunities

According to Mr. Bentz, there’s a significant opportunity for growth in the area of clean technology, such as renewable energy, energy storage, and energy-efficient lighting, “We have decided to focus more on clean tech and outdoor sports in the coming years.” Mr. Bentz adds, “Clean tech relates to our overarching concern for the environment and our passion for outdoor sports leads to an interest in developing high quality sports products.” Mr. Feldman adds, “It’s an area we are naturally drawn to – we ride to work, we ride in the mountains, we ski in the back country and we kayak in the ocean –  we feel well designed solutions that encourage outdoor activities and lessen environmental impacts should also be the focus of our company. These products can reduce dependence on motorized transport and passive entertainment, both of which tend to be resource intensive. Also, products that are better designed tend to be used longer.”  

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