muggs.jpgPerhaps the coolest thing about SolidWorks World is all the people you can meet. People that change things and know what the heck they’re doing. I had to privilege of speaking to a SolidWorks user and entrepreneur. The John Ferguson, aka Muggs, of John Ferguson Design.I didn’t get a photo of him, so I stole one from one of Matt’s posts. Thanks Matt.

I talked with him a lot more during the conference and if you ever get to meet him, you will be inspired.

How long have you buttered the bread with SolidWorks?
4+ years. Since October of 2003.

What kind of insanely cool products do you design?I “grew up” in the toy industry and I still do a lot of work in toys.
I do a lot of different stuff. I am involved with two companies that make automotive aftermarket intake and exhaust manifolds for super chargers and turbo chargers, I “grew up” in the toy industry and I still do a lot of work in toys, and I’ve done some medical device work. Lately I started to work in the furniture world, that’s a whole different ball of wax! Pretty much anything that keeps the heater running and food on the table.

You have your own design business. Have you always been independent or was there a point you felt the cubicle walls closing in that inspired you to go out on your own?
I worked at RJ Studios for 12 years as a modelmaker then as a designer. I was laid off in October of 2003 and decided that I would try to go it on my own and I have never looked back.

What’s the toughest part about starting and having your own design business?
I have always wanted to be in my own business but I was unwilling to walk away from a paycheck. Several years before I was laid off I purchased SolidWorks and started to do a little freelance work on the side and try to “slide into” a business. Well, when the paycheck walked away from me it made the “slide” a lot easier. In fact it was now time to sink or swim.

Do you think using SolidWorks opened some possibilities for you or is it all your charm?SolidWorks has gone from a parametric modeler to having some darn fine surface capabilities.
Yes, I’m sure much of my success is due to my charm! But seriously, yes SolidWorks is a huge part of why I’m still in business after 4 years. I focus on “swoopy” parts (yes I hate that term too, but it gets the point across) so I am “the surface guy” with some of my clients and that’s fine with me. SolidWorks has gone from a parametric modeler to having some darn fine surface capabilities. Now I know I’ll catch some flack for that, and I know that SolidWorks could greatly improve, but to be honest I have never been unable to deliver because SolidWorks couldn’t do what I wanted.

As someone who’s highly active in the SWX community, what is missing?
Tutorials! There’s no question. If you were to purchase Rhino today, there are literally hundreds of Rhino tutorials around. But look at any SolidWorks forum and what do you see from first time posters? “Are there any tutorials for SolidWorks”. And the answer is yea some but not a lot and not in any one place.

What would you say to someone that says, “Engineers are not creative?”
Well that’s just crazy! I know from being a modelmaker for more than 15 years before I got into design that the people that make things are some of the most creative people I know. Trust me when you work in the toy industry and you have to make an RC car do 10 different things and put 5 Lbs of crap in a 2 a Lb bucket, you’ll get very creative.

Two final questions, The internet certainly effects how we do business. How do you think CAD or the business of design will change over the next few years?
Wow! I think you should ask Matt (Lombard) this question. I stopped trying to guess what’s going to happen a long time ago. I’m wrong every time. What I would like to see happen in relation to the internet is a place that someone new to SolidWorks can go to get some help.

As I mentioned earlier, Rhino has many places that a “newbie” can go for help, but I think SolidWorks lacks that. Rhino (again as a great example) has [Rhino support has] a news server that’s dedicated to the world of Rhino and Rhino employees not only frequent it but actively participate in the discussion. I think SolidWorks tried to do that with their Customer Portal and the Forum there, but I don’t think it works as well. I think that maybe it’s the “customer” part that’s the problem. Maybe it should be a USERS Portal with no login just come and ask away.

What would you recommend to others interested in design and engineering that want to start their own business?You’re not rich the first $20,000 check you get and you’re not “out of business” the first time you don’t have work for three weeks.
Get a routine and stick with it. I made myself be very disciplined about getting up and getting going early in the morning, even if I had nothing to do that day. The best advise I got when I started is that you’re not rich the first $20,000 check you get and you’re not “out of business” the first time you don’t have work for three weeks. Things in business ebb and flow, and the sooner you figure that out the better off you’ll be.


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.