Loughborough University Product Design and Technology student, Alun Hopkins, joins us this year on his student placement to experience life in a design consultancy. Here he explains what he’s learnt so far from his year in industry
During my second year of study at Loughborough University we were encouraged to seek placement opportunities in industry to put our developing design skills into practice. Design Reality were offering a chance to explore all aspects of the design process and I liked the diversity of the projects and the clients they were working with.
Five months in, I feel like a valued member of the team and have been involved in real life projects working to client briefs, deadlines and budgets. I have been working on a wide range of projects focusing on all elements of design, from aesthetics and styling to projects which are limited to function and mechanical performance. This has been great as I have been able to develop my creative problem-solving skills in both key areas. I have always had a passion for technology, problem solving, and innovation and it feels great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals in a professional environment.
Having access to the in-house technology and machinery at Design Reality has been a highlight of my experience so far. We have an advanced 3D printing service that involves state of the art technology, allowing us to replicate the properties of mass production parts with virtually no manufacturing constraints. It is really rewarding being able to hold your design in your hand after looking at it on a screen and you often develop different opinions about your design, especially when the parts are passed around the office! Seeing the design process develop through the various stages of modification to improve the form, ergonomics or function progresses your work to a higher level and introduces a more iterative approach to design.
Working closely with the product designers, electronics engineers and management team has made their knowledge highly accessible and I have received invaluable mentoring and guidance. It has been interesting to learn different ways of doing things and see how technology is being integrated into design, all the while being exposed to the fast paced environment and relationships typical of consultancy work. For example, how a product’s hardware may influence the shape and size of the product, how a user may interact with a device or understanding and prioritising tasks in line with a client’s expectations.
One of my biggest learnings over the last few months has been my understanding of the concept of designing a product from the inside out, letting the function drive the form. Being aware of the internal components, manufacturing constraints and user interaction of the product early on is essential to reach a successful outcome. Working within real-time time frames, budgets and briefs has helped me hone my thinking and contribute my skills to the wider project the team is undertaking. I’ve seen what a career as a designer is really like from the start and I’m learning to take advantage of every opportunity so that I leave here a better designer with real business experience to take into my final year of study.
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