jruiter studio strips machines down, starts over, ignores all accepted norms
image courtesy of dean van dis




in his studio in west michigan, joey ruiter is redefining expectations in the world of art and design. his signature methods of mixing a range of ideas results in objects that meet everyday needs in surprising ways. that’s because joey ruiter and his team at jruiter + studio, can’t wait to strip a machine down to the bare parts, start over, and ignore all accepted norms.

the ‘snoped’
image courtesy of dean van dis




just like ‘the buggy robot‘, ‘snoped’ is a great example of the studio’s design process. taking a 1980s chrysler ‘sno-runner’ and blending it to form a whole new level of winter travel. with a lightweight chassis and a motorcycle stance, the piece of work re-establishes what a snowmobile should look like. powered by a 90cc engine, the ‘snoped’ is almost two meters long. the body is made of aluminum and composite plastics with a front grille completely filled with headlights. influenced by some of their favorite winder apparel brands, this bike/snowmobile extends riding on top of the snow even further.

the front grille with built-in headlamps
image courtesy of dean van dis




but even on days off, the studio loves to experiment with any junk they can find. on a cold michigan winter, they decided to put another 90cc motor on a bike frame that was heading to the scrap pile. without any criteria, goals, thoughtful planning or design, they gave themselves an evening to make a fun bike they called ‘moped’. these late night conversations help the team create new stories, memories and interactions with each other, ultimately pushing innovation and new ideas forward. 

image courtesy of dean van dis




we spoke to joey ruiter about aspects of his background that shape his designs, the studio’s strongest assets and his favorite piece of equipment in the workshop. 



designboom: what originally made you want to study industrial design and become an designer?


joey ruiter (JR): as a studying artist, I was already playing ‘industrial designer’ altering cars, bikes, and small objects. at that time, they didn’t have a name for it. I always felt like an outsider in the art community. then one day, I saw a scooter designed by kirt martin during a student show at the kendall college of art and design. that changed everything. 



DB: what particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?


JR: I grew up in michigan – so it’s basically the capital of motors and horsepower. we are american mid-western creators, so access to shops, garages and resources are always just down the street or at a neighbors. seeing this first hand, gave me an appreciation for how complex simple things are to produce.

image courtesy of jruiter studio



DB: overall, what would you say is your studio’s strongest asset and how have you developed that skill over time?


JR: our studio’s strongest asset is developing skill through huge fails and wins. I want each project to speak for itself, be something of its own, and break into new references so its hard to categorize. the recipe is a mix of the power of gesture, form, and presence. add in simplicity, use of materials, and something known, finishes it off nicely.  but it’s definitely, not easy.



DB: now that computer generated visualizations are so commonplace, is there still a place for physical model making or sketching designs by hand?


JR: the only reason this ‘snoped’ is interesting is because it exists physically. it was a conversation, then a sketch, a foam core mock-up, lots of measuring, and a CAD model for some sheet metal. no renderings were created as of yet…



what’s your favorite piece of equipment in the workshop to use? 


JR: the basics: a foam core, hot glue and a very sharp exacto blade.

‘moped’ street bicycle/motorcycle
image courtesy of dean van dis



DB: what are your biggest frustrations when looking at the design industry?


JR: almost daily, I drive a 1962 lincoln ‘continental’. it speaks to design for the sake of just being there. it’s beautiful. it has tremendous presence, full of life, and is terrifically fun to drive. this is my frustration with the industry. we want this emotional connection with objects and it isn’t that hard to get. it’s just shapes, colors, and sprinkled textures here and there. we are so generalized and market driven by expectations, that design suggestions are based on previous sales. it’s getting boring and sets us back in time. 



DB: can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on that you are especially excited about?


JR: I can’t really talk about anything but I will…vaguely. I have a few contract furniture clients that we are exploring. so we are in the midsts of journey. also, there is a new car in the shop called ‘the consumer’. I can’t say anything else.


portrait of joey ruiter
image courtesy of jruiter studio


footage of the ‘snoped’ project
video courtesy of baas creative