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North Van designer Ernest McCrank in his home office. Greg Hoekstra photo

T H U R S D AY J A N U A RY 6 2 0 1 1

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` new year A is unfolding – like a blossom with

petals curled tightly concealing the

beauty within. – Anon.

Design principles North Vancouver’s Ernest McCrank spent years working in the wilderness. Now he designs products to help others navigate that challenging terrain.


n the late 1990s, a number of provinces in China were faced with an interesting problem: residents were vandalizing, then stealing, in-ground parking meters. It happened with such frequency the government couldn’t justify staying with the current system. That’s where North Vancouver’s Ernest McCrank enters the story. Still a student at the time — McCrank was wrapping up a Master’s degree in Industrial Design at the University of Calgary (U of C) — he was charged with designing a new, individual parking meter about the size of an iPod, that would sit on the dashboard of one’s car. That new meter would hold a pre-loaded amount of parking time that a motorist could purchase at local convenience stores. COFFEE To check the device, parking WITH attendants use a compatible piece that reads the meter Sean Kolenko using radio frequencies. And, skolenko@northshore in a staple of the pay-forparking world, if you’ve got enough money in the meter, you’re good. If you don’t, well, you get the picture. “First and foremost it’s about constant learning. It’s all discovery, realization and interaction and knowing that what I’m doing matters,” says McCrank of his design philosophy. “I enjoy seeking inspiration and seeking an understanding of the world around me.” Long before McCrank turned his attention to conceiving and shaping products, an interest in the world — particularly the outdoors — led the 42-year-old to his first profession. A graduate of Lakehead University’s Outdoor Recreation program, McCrank spent years building ski jumps and planting and cutting trees across the country. But at one such gig in Whitecourt, Alta., McCrank, who says he’d grown a bit weary of his profession by that point, decided to make a change. A course calendar for the industrial design program from the U of C had been kicking around his truck for a while, so he packed up his gear, quit the job and drove the nearly 450 kilometres to Calgary to sign up for another round of post-secondary education. McCrank says diving back into the books after years touring around the woods of Canada was a bit of a shock because academia, particularly his new chosen field, had moved beyond the pages and bindings of the book. McCrank had to learn

his way around a computer. “That was the biggest shock, for sure,” he says, with a chuckle. “Prior to school I had no interest in computers. But I got into 3D modeling and it blew my mind. Now, I use it everyday. I liked tools before, now, I guess, I look at my computer as one huge toolbox.” And the rest, as they say, is history. In 2003, McCrank moved to the North Shore to work for G3, a company that designs outdoor equipment. In his his four years with G3, McCrank designed everything from avalanche safety tools, to ski bindings and accessories, to shovel blades. A bone saw he worked on for the company was even featured in the ID in NV art show at North Van’s Cafe for Contemporary Art last fall. The show, curated by local artist Adrian Boston, celebrated industrial design being produced on the North Shore and highlighted, amongst other companies, Rayne Longboards and Arc’teryx clothing. In 2008 McCrank launched his own business — the North Vancouver-based firm Bull Monkey Industrial Design. McCrank says self-employment has been a bit of an uphill climb, but 2010 proved to be a busy year. McCrank’s currently working on a medical device with a team from Calgary that assesses sleep apnea patients. He says it’s still in the prototype stage, but when completed the device will help gauge the extent of one’s sleep apnea and the needs of a patient depending on its reading. And he says he wants to diversify his work even further. Because of his experience working in the back country, designing outdoor products was a comfortable leap for his new pursuits. But, looking ahead, McCrank says his goal is to ensure all his work, regardless of its application, is not only good for the pocketbook, but for the environment. “It’s just not enough to design something. You have to ask yourself whether or not it’s the right thing to design,” he says. “Aside from the money, you have to ask ‘how does this help people?’ Other than that, the ideal scenario for me is just to keep working.”

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Thur Jan 6, 2011 Outlook  

Complete January 6, 2011 issue of The North Shore Outlook newspaper as it appeared in print. For more online, all the time, see www.northsho...

Thur Jan 6, 2011 Outlook  

Complete January 6, 2011 issue of The North Shore Outlook newspaper as it appeared in print. For more online, all the time, see www.northsho...