SPOTLIGHT Product Designer Focus
▼ Students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)
STUDENT DESIGNER FOCUS Last year Simone Ridyard, Senior Lecturer at the Manchester School of Art was one of our judges at Mixology North. With the help of the MSA’s Lois Blackwell and Lucy Gannon, she gathered a group of final year students to get their perspective. The students are Poppy Cambridge, Danielle Ives, Henry Dashwood, Erin Woodford and Kate Demmerling
What are the key issues facing the industry for new designers? Danielle: Relying on us to have knowledge of the environment. We have a responsibility for sustainability issues. Meeting expectations of younger generations coming in. Being up to speed with new materials and technologies is a big responsibility for new designers who are just starting in the industry. Henry: Yes, also thinking about the afterlife (and lifecycle) of interiors – again on the theme of environment and sustainability, thinking about how a space can function after an office moves out, for example. How to develop adaptable spaces that can help secure a city or the planet. Kate: Creating more timeless aesthetic interiors – not relying on fashion or trend – to suit the needs of the building and client. I feel the legacy of a space is important. Erin: Cost to the company of a junior designer is cheaper – so, potentially, new designers in the company can take the risks and push the boundaries, especially on new bids and start-ups. What makes a good, commercially successful design? Erin: Isn’t that an oxymoron? Commercially successful does not always mean good. Poppy: I heard a talk by Urban Splash, discussing
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sustainability and looking at the lifespan of a building across the 24hr day, so thinking about the night use of the building too as opposed to the standard 9-to-5. So, how it can be used in the evening. Also, flexible working spaces. Henry: I think the commercial success of a space should link to place-making – taking into consideration local residents and the neighbourhood satisfaction of a space. It’s hard to judge but should be about communities investing – bringing interest into the area, which has a knock-on effect. What are the drivers for the next 20 years that will form the workplace? Kate: Not a specific driver, but I think the workforce itself is the driver. There can be up to five generations in a workplace – and their behaviours and choices inform the design needs. Lois: Yes, workers do have the power. Employees do say what they want. But there needs to be more of a dialogue – their needs taken into consideration, with the designers leading. Danielle: That very hierarchical old-fashioned approach doesn’t work – it is better to be on the same level to encourage working on an intergenerational level. There needs to be more open plan than cellular offices and closed doors. Poppy: ‘Must-have’ products sometimes lead. When the trend is the driver, workplace environments copy and then feels like a uniform aesthetic.
Kate: Younger generations’ expectations have derived from their experiences of higher education facilities, which offer a variety of multifunctional spaces to suit different modes of work. I believe these expectations will leave this generation frustrated when entering a workplace that doesn’t have its employees’ wellbeing as a focus, therefore organisations wishing to attract and retain the young workforce must provide a workplace and organisational culture that focuses on wellbeing. Erin: For AI, I’m fairly sure that it’ll never replace sketching entirely. You’ll ultimately be able to use software instead of hiring a designer and I think this will take over for certain design and build firms or small residential firms, where innovative design is of little importance vs cost. Computers only really learn from precedent and it’s difficult to create a generative system that will consistently produce usable, innovative solutions, whereas imitating features and piecing something together according to some rules is much simpler for a computer. As far as the design process goes, however, I think sketching is always going to hold value. Sketching not necessarily with a traditional media. I sketch on an iPad and a cintiq and with VR and the process is always the same. NVidia have a piece of software that takes colour coded input and composes a landscape from it. It works similar to Photoshop’s Smart Fill, but uses a pool of photos and machine learning to design the fill rather than the adjacent areas of the image. The NVidia software can be used to ‘sketch’ landscapes and I’ve seen a lot of environment concept artists use this as a base for photobashing and overpainting.w