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On the Job: Brian Mason

Dec 01, 2021   |   by Theresa D'Orsi   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Brian Mason ’03 Th’05 | Product Designer

In 15 years at design firm IDEO and medical device startup Willow, Mason was involved in more than 50 medical and consumer products, from early-stage research to the manufacturing floor. Now the mechanical engineer is bringing his experience in innovation to audio products developer Sonos in Boston.

Brian Mason
Brian Mason

Is there a favorite phase of development?

I love to see a team making progress together. My time at IDEO taught me how important (and fun) early research, ideation, and prototyping is to the design process—when we take an early, ambiguous idea or conflicting feedback from the field and are able to eventually converge on the best product for users. At the same time, I love spending time on the factory floor working with the technicians and manufacturing experts to troubleshoot and balance trade-offs leading up to high volume production. There is nothing like seeing an early idea make it all the way through the process and then be made in the hundreds of thousands and, I hope, millions.

How has Dartmouth Engineering informed your approach?

Thayer allowed me to go deep in both design and engineering. Professor Peter Robbie and John Collier’s design classes gave me a deep appreciation for research, brainstorming, and rough prototyping. Always ask why. Never get married to a concept. And build to learn whenever possible.

What energizes you?

I feed off of a team moving a concept forward. There is nothing like a team gathering around a prototype or sharing concepts with prospective users.

What are your current challenges?

I am working to find new tools to energize teams. Being a team lead over Zoom is limiting: The go-to’s of late nights in the lab, traveling with teammates, or laughing over lunch are all on pause right now in our work-from-home world. In addition, there is a constant challenge of too much to do in a day and too many good ideas to work on. Our team is being diligent to prioritize and focus so together we can deliver.

—Interview by Theresa D’Orsi

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