The Power of Commitment: Why Whipsaw?

Mike reflects on his time at Whipsaw

Mike Elam
October 30, 2023

As I reflect on my year as Whipsaw’s Director of Mechanical Engineering, I can’t help but recall a moment where I had the privilege of participating in a potential client call with Whipsaw’s CEO, Dan Harden. As the conversation unfolded, I found myself stepping into the spotlight, tasked with addressing a fundamental query that underpins our entire enterprise: Why Whipsaw? This seemingly simple question carries profound implications, sparking a journey into the very essence of the organization, its mission, and the unique qualities that set us apart in a competitive landscape.

While some people may know Dan Harden as one of the foremost creative luminaries in the realm of industrial design, our recent business call presented a unique juncture. Here we were on this call, with Dan being his usual poetic self. It was evident that our prospective client harbored the desire to collaborate with Whipsaw, but needed reassurance about the added value they’d get from us versus the thirty-some firms they were considering. It occurred to me that I knew the answer in a way that perhaps Dan didn’t, from my experience working outside of Whipsaw, both leading and working for other Industrial Design and Engineering firms.

What sets Whipsaw apart, in a word, is Commitment.

Dan and our team’s true commitment to achieving the best design concept is rare and exemplary. This level of commitment could only be found with an independent business and keen not to see his passion diluted in any way is exactly the reason why Dan has been vehement about remaining independent.

Commitment sums up our ethos: one that values the design outcome above everything else. The extent to which truth is pursued at Whipsaw is both remarkable and inspiring. Whipsaw is incredibly intentional about the talent that we hire (each person here was chosen from hundreds of applicants) and one can see the sheer beauty of the products that result from working with us, and the thought that’s gone into them.

At that moment, I realized that I had found a home. I haven’t felt close to this level of commitment to design excellence and the pursuit of perfection since leaving my own partnership behind when I moved to California from London in 2013.

Aside from taking on some monumental creative and project management challenges (and loving most), my early time at Whipsaw was one of study. I wanted to understand how Whipsaw operates, and what makes it tick, so I could mesh most effectively with the creative process and the business to maximize the outcomes that I, too, care so much about.

The dedication to delivering the best design concepts is at the heart of Whipsaw’s character. As a group, we embrace this mindset when solving problems and creating impactful experiences. It was in this environment that I found my home, rekindling my own passion for innovation and creativity and pushing my commitment to my craft to the next level.

Mike Elam

British-born Mike Elam is an industrial designer and engineer with 25 years of experience in consulting. He’s brought his unique blend of expertise to a diverse range of products throughout his career, including lifesaving infant warming mats for the Third World, solar-powered vaccine refrigerators, power tools, and baby strollers.

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