There are two ways to explain what ADX intends to be.
First, there’s a slightly complex one, from co-founder Eric Black:
“The perfect design office would be a shop with a number of different types of projects going on at once. Maybe there’s a motorcycle being developed, and some furniture, and a building, and some urban design. It’s multiple scales and timelines in this magical space and a very collaborative environment. You could design something and potentially produce it that day, then get instant feedback.”
Now for a slightly simpler way, from his business partner, Kelley Roy: “It’s like a gym for designers. Instead of a weight room and a cardio room and trainers, we have a wood shop and a metal shop and a team of experts.”
Even that doesn’t get to the scope of plans being hatched in a 12,000-square-foot commercial space at 417 SE 11th, at the corner of Southeast Stark. Roy and Black say they aim to fulfill a basic desire for collaboration and shop access for everyone from hobbyists to serious professionals, while also providing an event space and perhaps even some micro-retail.
Let’s take an example of who might benefit from ADX. Say you have in your head the image of a coffee table you’d like to make. You’re not a designer or a computer person, and wouldn’t know a wood plane from a wood duck. With a membership in ADX, you’ll have access to a team of designers called “The Gang of Ten” who will, at a discount on their usual rates, help take your design concept through the prototyping process and all the way to production. Along the way, you’ll not only build your table but also have a chance to learn about design, software, and even wood and metal tools.
“So that table’s been in this guy’s head for years, and now here it is sitting in front of him,” says Black. “They get the feedback they’re looking for, and the chance to tweak the design. Then the question is ‘Okay, did you just want to make this one, or do you want to take it to market?’ And if that’s the case, then we would have the resources to look at programming, manufacturing, marketing and beyond.”
At the core of ADX is the “Gang of Ten” designers. Roy says they will be freelancers with their own clients, but collectively possessing expertise in different design fields. They would collaborate on projects, create new business opportunities for each other, and be available to ADX members at discounted rates.
“These are folks who are probably now working in their garages or at a company and want to go on their own,” Roy says. “ADX is about sharing and collaboration, two necessities in our new economy.” She even envisions the possibility of an ADX brand.
They both talk in larger terms about how ADX fits into a new, more artisanal, skills-based economy. In fact, the building they’re leasing is a symbol of that.
“This building is from the late '50s, and it was built to serve economy of then, which was manufacturing,” Black says. “As soon as we saw it, we fell in love with the possibilities it offers. This is a perfect diagram of where I’d hope our economy is headed, which is people having the ability to come together and do their thing but also do it in a much smarter and more efficient way by sharing tools and resources.”
“We’ve been in the Central Eastside neighborhood for over four years,” Roy says. “and we really want to invest in the neighborhood, which is changing from old-school manufacturing to art, design, galleries, and more interactive uses. We want to be a permanent fixture here.
“Portland is such a collaborative place, and people love doing things together. There aren’t any big industries moving in, and people kind of have to take control over what they’re doing.”
Roy and Black hope to open ADX in May and are planning a series of open-house events starting in February to roll out the idea. Membership options start with a basic plan at $25 a month, offering access to the facility and the “Gang of Ten,” plus discounts on various classes and services. At the upper end is a $600 travel trailer as art studio. Coworking desks, that can also include varied levels of access to the production equipment and other facilities, go for around $300 a month. Discount memberships are available before opening.
Photo: Heather Zinger.
“I know there are a lot of people looking for this kind of opportunity” Black says. “I know professionals who will take a class just to get to the tools. There’s also a market for a hobbyist who’s tired of looking at a computer and wants to go make this thing in his head. There has to be a way for this space to lift people up a little bit. We can all sort of be on the same page and try to make some good things happen.”
To find out more about ADX or to get in touch, see facebook.com/ArtDesignPDX or call 503.915.4342 to sign up for a tour.
417 SE 11th Avenue
Portland OR 97214