Michael Hoefler's interests range from painting and illustration to sculpture and jewelry design. He says, “I came to Parsons as a fine arts student because the school is known not only for design but for social responsibility as well. I switched to Product Design because it is anti-elitist. The things we design are useful to everyone.”
Hoefler’s BFA thesis project, BOUNCE Baby Sign Products, reflects both his commitment to social responsibility and his knowledge of product design. The project has special personal significance for Hoefler, the son of Deaf parents. He explains, “Many Deaf children have hearing parents who only know how to communicate verbally. Parents don’t learn sign language because it is foreign and they are given only an institutional approach to it. I wanted to take everyday necessities and toys, such as baby blankets and building blocks, and add American Sign Language and illustrations to them to introduce sign language to parents and to give both hearing and nonhearing children a method of preverbal communication.” Parsons awarded Michael one of six grants given to students whose work demonstrates exceptional social awareness.
After graduating in 2008, Hoefler’s thesis project helped him land a consulting job with Go Baby, a New York-based accessories firm that offers products targeted to new mothers. Since then, Hoefler has consulted with a wide variety of firms such as jewelry company Bijou International Corp., and architectural design and environmental signage offices Macro|Sea, Bettina Zerza Architects, and Lebowitz Gould Design Inc. Hoefler has redesigned objects like watches and desk accessories to make them more striking. He has also created ergonomically sophisticated utilitarian goods such as a paint roller, flashlight, and computer mouse. And he has created logos, hand-drawn illustrations, and computer-generated rendering of products. His broad design experience with a range of firms informs his work as a guest critic at project critiques in Parsons’ Product Design program, where he helps current students strengthen their concepts and execution.