Name: Evan Hutker
Hometown: Martha’s Vineyard / Falmouth, MA
Education: Syracuse University
Work Experience: Designer, TOMY
Team: Industrial Design


You're a Principal Designer at Essential. How would you describe what you do?

Over the past 7 years, I’ve worked with every team at Essential. I’ve helped interpret research findings and envision future services with the Innovation Strategy team, define usable and intuitive user experiences with the Digital Experience team, and solve complex geometric tooling challenges with the Engineering team.

I’ve learned that the most valuable skill, one that crosses all disciplines, is the pairing of empathic listening and succinct synthesis. Listening to colleagues, clients, and users; understanding and feeling their perspectives; then translating that into straightforward, actionable content for others to act upon.

Evan shop lesson

Evan (Left) gives a lesson in thermoforming to colleagues. (February 2020)

What is the most memorable project you’ve worked on?

Several years ago, we were asked to reimagine the installation experience for bathroom faucets. We were not designing the faucets themselves, but the installation experience for both commercial plumbers and inexperienced homeowners. The client asked that we make users, who may have never used a wrench before, feel confident enough to replace a faucet themselves.

To efficiently ground our solutions, we built 2 full-sized vanities in the office and spent several days observing our co-workers removing and installing faucets. We, of course, kept track of installation times to keep the intra-office “research” competitive. Times ranged from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

What emerged were consistent pain points that we addressed through co-creation workshops with the client, and through “Frankensteined” (rapidly prototyped) mockups that we built to validate new concepts. What made this project memorable to me is how quickly we were able develop compelling, physical, solutions to a problem our team had never thought about before.

 Faucet installation project

Colleagues are observed removing and installing a faucet in a project to reimagine the installation experience.

If you could redesign any product experience, what would it be?

Disposable drink bottles. Why are the threads for the caps right on your lips? It drives me nuts!

The cap threads on the neck of disposable bottles should be further away from where they interface with the lips. While glass bottles have relatively decent lip interfaces, plastic bottles are far off the mark. It's frustrating that designers found it acceptable to place a mechanical geometry against one of the body's most sensitive parts. I can appreciate that the thread closure is an efficient use of material, but that doesn't make up for the bad ergonomics. Efficient - even sustainable - Design does not have to sacrifice usability. We've seen some innovation from manufacturers who have created alternative closures, but the industry standard design remains incredibly sub-standard.

plastic water bottle

The bottleneck threads of a standard bottle can create a sensitive interface for the lips.

2020 was quite the year! What is an unexpected challenge you encountered while working from home?

It wasn’t particularly unexpected, but maintaining team productivity and collaboration in workshops and brainstorms was a challenge early on. I didn’t think that there would ever be a substitute for being together in a room, throwing sketches and mockups on the walls around us for discussion, so I was surprised by how quickly we could find technology and workflow solutions to compensate.

We’ve become pretty successful using Miro as a collaborative whiteboarding app to replace our foam core pin-up boards. It allows the team to arrange, share and interact with imagery and sketches all at the same time, much like how we would in person. I’ve also converted to sketching on the iPad (I’d been an analog holdout!) and have found it to be quick and capable. My only issue is getting the iPad back from my daughter when I need to work while she's playing on it.


When you weren't working, how did you keep busy while we all stayed at home?

As a parent of two young kids, I’ve been staying VERY busy. I’ve learned to eliminate almost all procrastination from my workflow, balancing childcare responsibilities with another full-time working co-parent. While it’s been a tough experience, I’ve really enjoyed making lunch and eating with my family every afternoon. I've also watched either Cinderella or Frozen every day.



Essential Design is a leading Innovation Strategy & Design consultancy. We work across the healthcare, consumer, and commercial industries, helping our clients conceive and drive to market comprehensive digital, physical, and service experiences.

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