“I grew up spending summers on Long Lake in Clintonville and just fell in love with waterskiing and wakeboarding,” Follett said, noting he skied two years for the UW-Stout Water Ski Team.
In 2014 he talked his family into buying a MasterCraft 1997 ProStar speed boat. “The layout is amazing,” Follett said. “It is able to hold a lot of people on a small craft and not feel like you are on top of each other.”
Follett chose UW-Stout after becoming familiar with the university as a student at Ashwaubenon High School attending SkillsUSA, where students compete in career and technical education contests. “I didn’t even need a tour of UW-Stout,” Follett said. “As I learned more about the programs at UW-Stout, that is what set it apart for me.”
The experiential learning attracted Follett as well to UW-Stout. “I was looking for a university that has more of a connection with industry and people who are teaching have had real-world experience. The smaller classrooms sure were a huge selling point for me. I wanted to go to a school that was accredited, and the UW-Stout design degree is accredited. It was also more affordable compared to other industrial design programs.”
His senior project focused on designing a day yacht. Working with boats combines Follett’s love of architecture and furniture. “Everything is designed for a specific purpose, and the aesthetics have to flow together,” he noted.
While at UW-Stout, Follett was able to take part in four paid internships and credits those with helping him to land a job right out of college. He had one at MasterCraft in June 2019 working as a junior designer for MasterCraft, NauticStar and Aviara Boats, the latter which builds luxury dayboats. NauticStar builds 18- to 28-foot bay boats and deck boats.The MasterCraft internship was through UW-Stout Cooperative Education and Internship Program.
In May and June, Follett worked at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc where custom luxury yachts are built. From July to the end of August, he interned at Facheris Design in Miami, an independent consultant designing superyachts. That same time he also interned at Argos Nautic, which designs dinghies for yachts.
Erik Evensen, associate professor of design and program director of the Master of Fine Arts in design, said Follett has been incredibly motivated to become a boat designer for as long as Evensen has worked with him.
“It's a pretty niche industry, so we did an independent study to help him build a portfolio of drawings and renderings to help him be competitive right out of the gate,” Evensen said. “Not many designers get to follow their dream on day one. But Zach has worked hard, stayed focused and it paid off. He really earned it.”
Eventually, Follett would like to design and build his own 16- to 17-foot boat. “It is a hobby that I would love to do,” he said. “It would be a Gentlemen’s Racer. There is a nostalgia for them, and I like those boats.”