This week, New Design Magazine reached out for a profile feature. We explored how 3D printing has impacted workflow, whether product design is becoming increasingly multi-disciplinary, IoT, my advice for students heading to New Designers exhibition and how I got into design in the first place. Have a read below:
What influenced your decision to study Product Design?
It never seemed like a decision. I don’t remember a time when something else seemed like an option. Design encompassed everything I loved and was interested in and was also the thing I was best at. I used to draw logos and characters and stuff as a kid and was always interested in brands and famous entrepreneurs. More importantly, I was always incredibly curious about why things were the way they were. I was also lucky that my school exposed me to Product Design very early on and had some very passionate and pretty eccentric teachers.
Where did you study and why?
Sheffield Hallam University. A really great city for the creative arts. More specifically, I was aware of the brands that they lined up live projects with and where past students had gone on to work. Also, I just got a good feeling when I visited.
What did you enjoy about the course and do you feel it equipped you for the commercial environment?
I liked how practical and real it was. Live projects with multinational brands like 02 and Proctor & Gamble and then having the opportunity to present concepts to Directors in industry. It was very clear that implementing the skills learnt to create good designs had significant positive impact. Getting this exposure with real-world design briefs was the best part. I’d say there are many areas that could have prepared me better for the commercial environment. For example, deeper knowledge in designing for different manufacturing processes and perhaps some software. However, this quickly gets learnt in the job and I wouldn’t swap this for the time spent developing the core competency of actually thinking things through in terms of design approach, interpreting a brief, identifying user needs, visual communication and the ability to define the characteristics of the solution, etc.
When did you join IDC and what were your experiences before this?
I joined IDC in May 2015. Prior to this, I designed outdoor gear with Lifeventure and Lifesystems. I designed baby strollers and other nursery products at Mamas & Papas before that, and also designed kitchenware products for theSource, a consultancy focusing on cookware and homeware. I had also worked on some furniture projects and had a lot of experience with an agency working on branding projects, marketing strategies and website usability. A good mix of different design projects.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you have worked on at IDC?
Yes, sure. I’ve worked on a lot of medical devices, surgical instruments and other healthcare projects. Also, premium consumer products and specialist industrial and scientific equipment. Much of the work we do tends to be highly technical. A lot of electro-mechanical products where we need to blend form with intricate function. The latest project to hit the market was a BBQ Heater for Chesney’s, which was a Finalist for Product of The Year Award at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
Is there a design process followed on each project or does each need to be worked on differently?
There is a broad process, but the project always drives the approach. Never the other way around. There are tools and methods that are appropriate for the needs of one project, that may not be necessary for another.
Do you specialise in any sector?
If by sector you mean product category, then No. I believe the mindset, tools and skills required to design a successful medical device for use at home by a patient are the same skills that allow you to design an electronic cooking appliance to the same level. I think the ability to ask good questions is paramount. On the other hand, I would say that the medical experience definitely makes me aware of certain considerations for those types of projects.
To what extent is digitisation of products, IoT and 3D printing impacting your work?
3D printing has had a significant impact. It has essentially reduced the time and cost of a feedback loop, which inherently allows for more iterations. Assessing various aspects of a design in 3D so quickly for such low part cost means that more prototypes can be made and tested in a given period of time. Also, the relative low cost of the printers themselves means the capability can be brought in-house which is also beneficial to the process.
As for IoT, I wouldn’t say that there is any particular mix of connected devices that has made their way into the design process in a way that adds significant value. Sure, you can check how your 3D print is getting on from a camera in the printer giving a feed to a smartphone, but I don’t think there is any combination of modern IoT devices right now that I’m using that bring serious value. The main impact is the fact that the IoT device market is growing so we are getting more clients coming to us to design these products.
With digitisation, I’d say that digital sketching is valuable in many scenarios. When the rigidity or over-refinement of CAD isn’t appropriate but you still need a good rendered concept sketch – this is where digital sketching comes into its own. I don’t see it for brainstorming ideas or even initial explorations of form. That’s pen and paper. The speed, layering, accuracy and editability make it ideal for more refined concept sketches that are sent to clients. Sketching on different layers and using symmetry tools are perfect examples where digitisation has added significant value compared to analogue methods.
Is Product Design becoming increasingly multi-disciplinary and why?
There’s no doubt it’s multi-disciplinary, but I’d say the skill set is evolving rather than growing. I think all the aspects that had to be considered to design a successful product 20 years ago, are still required today. Take user interaction as an example; a Colchester lathe from the 1960s has an interface, as does a VR controller of 2018. The outputs are different, but the general approach, thinking and skill set to design them successfully is broadly the same.
Is Product Design becoming less separated from design engineering and why?
There are semantics at play here, but I do think there is an argument for that. There is a continuum of design activities required to develop a product, and different individuals sit at different places along it. The excess of degree course titles has definitely blurred the lines between design and engineering from an education point of view, but in real terms I think it comes down to depth and width. One individual might span across the general product development process but offer less depth and mastery.
Who are your design influences /design idols?
Loewy, Rams, Ive. They’re icons for good reason. I’d say I’m also influenced by people I’ve worked with and also people outside of design. Entrepreneurs, filmmakers and small business owners that I know personally.
What is important about New Designers exhibition and what does it provide graduating students?
It gives students a huge opportunity to present themselves to the types of people and businesses they want to be working for. A real opportunity for exposure and a way to share with others everything they’ve been working towards. Never again will they get an opportunity to stand in a room full of potential employers like this. It’s good fun, but they need to remember why they are there. If you’re not at your stand and you are not engaging with people and sharing your ideas, then you’re not going to get much out of it.
What advice would you give to new graduates and students moving on from University and what tips would you give on creating a portfolio of work?
Design students should be focusing all their attention on the portfolio. It’s the most significant factor for anyone trying to land a role as an Industrial Designer. Students should be offering insight into HOW they got to the end solution within their projects, not just WHAT the solution is. Communicating the process and development work along with shots of the final design, as opposed to a portfolio full of renders. There is a lot I could go into here, but one other thing is to make sure that the folio is visually impactful. This should not be underestimated. Too many students try to convey the whole story through very large paragraphs of text, rather than telling the story visually. Another thing would be to show EVIDENCE of the skills necessary for that particular role. Stating something in a CV is nothing in comparison to visual evidence in a portfolio.
How best can students market themselves?
First and foremost, by absolutely nailing the portfolio. Then, by making themselves and their work discoverable. Attending events, entering competitions, getting portfolio reviews, engaging on social media and also networking directly and trying to establish personal relationships. Apply for jobs that become available, but also take a pro-active approach. Who do you REALLY want to work for? Even if they don’t have a current opening, have you thought how you might be able to meet the Design Director for an hour and present your work? It’s down to creating remarkable work and then being resourceful and engaging with as many decision makers as possible. You’ve also got to persevere and accept that rejection is part of the process.