This year’s product design exhibition is, as always, eagerly anticipated. Sharing its space with digital interaction design, it is one of the most exciting and engaging exhibitions at the degree show. On entering the exhibition, it is very clear that it is not just the students’ work which has been meticulously put together; the display space, fittings and layout have all been carefully managed, to maximise the impact of exhibits. The atmosphere too is inviting, with upbeat music and a bar which provides visitors with craft beer and other refreshments. These seemingly small details have created an environment not dissimilar to a high-end consumer electronics store or a funky metropolitan cocktail bar. The result is a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, appropriate for the show.
Aesthetic detailing is something you might expect from designers. When most people think of design, they think of the point where art, science and technology intersect. However, some of the under-appreciated aspects of modern product design are also on show here, for example, social and sustainable designs that focus on the designer’s responsibility in creating products and services, which have minimal detrimental impact on the environment, or which aim to bring about positive social change.
Jack Fisher’s concept, “Furnify”, aims to combat the ever increasing problem of industrial and commercial wastage. Normally discarded materials such as cardboard and timber off-cuts have been employed to create useful pieces of furniture; they are then sold on the brand’s website. Even the labels on the pieces, made from reused cardboard, enhance the brand’s aesthetic and identity very well. These designs highlight the fact that even supposed waste materials can be given value, if we are more innovative in our attitudes. This “upcycling” concept has huge potential, and it would be exciting to see local councils and businesses supporting this idea, producing more efficient waste management .
Creativity is a difficult thing for us to quantify or appropriate; however, it is a characteristic which each of us possesses in one way or another. It is well-documented that having the ability to think creatively can have a positive impact on every part of a person’s life. Lynsey Brownlow’s “Out of the Box” challenge kit is designed to allow adolescents the opportunity to be creative and share such creativity with others. The kit on display is called “film maker” and acts as a catalyst for creating animated short films using a smartphone or other handheld camera device. Also displayed is the online platform for users to share their work, which already contains some amusing examples of user-submitted content. “Out of the Box” has the potential to better prepare adolescents for adult life, not only through what they produce with it but also through the experiences they will have using it.
These are just two examples of some of the excellent work on show this year. From a heat-powered study lamp to a portable movie theatre experience – and a lot more in between – it will be well worth taking the time to see them all. At the exhibition, you should take the opportunity to engage with the designers themselves for they can give a first-hand account of the design process, the ideals and experiences which have shaped their work. If you want an immersive and inspirational experience at this year’s degree show, look no further than the product design exhibition. (Try not to be too disappointed if you find they’ve run out of craft beer: it was quite an opening night!)