IIDEX Woodshop Winners Spotlight | Miles Keller

The IIDEX Woodshop Exhibition is just 2 weeks away, and now that we’ve covered the featured designers that were solicited for the initiative, we’re going to turn the spotlight on the 5 competition winners who will be joining their ranks at IIDEX. This week: Miles Keller for the Kona Chair


Miles Keller has over twenty years of professional experience as an industrial designer. His company, Dystil, is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and provides services in all facets of the design process. You may remember from the Designer Profile we posted some time ago, that Miles is one of Canada’s most highly regarded industrial designers and his work has been widely recognized, including the ID Magazine Annual Design Review (1989), the IDEA Awards (1997, 2005), the Virtu Canadian Design Awards (1995, 6, 7, 8, 9), the IIDEX/NeoCon Canada Awards (2002), the Best of Canada Design Awards (2002), and the Good Design Award (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005). His most recent accolades include a Silver IDEA award from IDSA and a Silver Design Exchange Award, both in 2006.

We caught up with Miles this week, and here’s what they had to say about about his competition submission, the IIDEX Woodshop initiative, and his new found love of Ash:

ideacious: As a city and IIDEX supported initiative to use a portion of the 200,000+ ash trees being destroyed over the next 5 years, IIDEX Woodshop has a strong narrative going for it. How did this inspire you when designing your piece?

Miles Keller: As has been pointed out by the first peoples, we breath what the trees exhale and they breath what we exhale…. we share a common destiny. We are joined, we are one. So losing up to 900,000 trees over the next ten years is a tragedy.

Many designers opt to work with aesthetically rich woods like Walnut or Maple. What are your thoughts on using Ash as your primary material? Is it a challenge, does it change your process, or do you disagree and think Ash is amazing?

I have to be honest, I have never really liked ash. But we did a lot of research for this project. And I discovered that ash was once one of the most revered hardwoods. And its one of the toughest; used in everything from baseball bats to hockey sticks. North American indigenous peoples used the wood to make things like spears in part because it was so tough and flexible.

We went to the Scarborough wood lot and walked through that vast pile of logs and picked one that would work for us. We needed green wood and straight grain. Then we found a sawyer and had it cut into planks. And in the process I can honestly I’ve developed a great affection for the wood. Its a beautiful, honest and strong, tough wood.

What qualities in other designers’ work often catch your attention or make you really think the designer is on to something?

Well, first off we’ re industrial designers, not woodworkers. But what I look for and really respect in other designers work is honesty, respect and craft. I love seeing work that respects the process, the material and the user. And hopefully its done in a creative, witty way.

And finally, what’s something that you’re really into right now?

What am I in to now? Ash! Honestly, I’m going to be doing more with this amazing wood. And sadly there’s a lot of trees coming down in the next few years. I love the idea of combining wood with new materials like carbon fibre or aluminum to create entirely unexpected and hopefully inspiring results. As for industrial design in general, there’s never been a better time to be in the profession. The tools and technology at our fingertips means the big problems facing us all can be attacked in new ways, like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.

Stay tuned for next week as we have the scoop on Randy Kerr and his submission, Vessel.