Gray’s students pick up prizes in international design competition
The 10-day British Council event saw selected students and tutors from six UK universities, three East Asian universities and nine Chinese universities work collaboratively in teams of three to design objects with a positive social function using industry leftovers in Wuxi, China.
Fourth year Gray’s students Debbie Neish (21) and Helen McILwrick (21), who travelled to the competition with course leader Daniel Sutherland, won the Best Innovation, Best Use of Materials and Best Environmental Application awards for their work.
Working with a Chinese student, Debbie and Daniel created a swing seat from the caps of water coolers as well as a range of sensory children’s toys, while Helen worked in a group with a Chinese student and tutor, using toothpaste caps to create a collection of public instalments.
Helen explained: “We designed a concept which redirected the function of toothpaste tops and uses the sun to cast specific shadows. The collection was made up of four pieces – a QR code scanner which was aimed at helping to educate locals about water pollution; a light; sign posts; and a converted traditional Chinese game.”
The workshop aimed to explore the best ways to upcycle industrial leftovers and to promote the application of low-carbon ideas and eco design, while enabling participating students to develop their language skills, team work and intercultural skills.
Debbie said: “I was very happy with the awards we received, it was just the icing on the cake of a fantastic couple of weeks. The people from all universities were amazing and it was great to work with a completely different range of students especially having to work hard on the communication aspect of the project.
“Before we went out, I think we were quite worried about the standard of the other students – we felt that they would all be amazing but actually it was a really level playing field and I think we gave a good account of ourselves.”
She added: “It was nice to see a fully resolved design process from start to finish in 10 days, with outcomes that we were genuinely proud off. The whole experience was amazing.”
Helen said: “It is very hard to sum up the experience properly or to define which bits were the best as so much happened. I enjoyed meeting the people that we were in the team with – we were surrounded by so many people who were social designers and it was nice to sit when we were having dinner and chat about issues and projects. It was interesting to see how other teams approached the brief.
“The additional challenge we faced was that our teammates spoke very little English so we had to really think about how we were communicating our ideas and also that we were designing for communities that we were only learning about when we were there.”
3D Design course leader Daniel said: “The products and objects that were produced had to have a positive social impact – it wasn’t enough for us just to look at creating something useful, it had to contribute something to society as well which added another layer to the project and really helped the students push their ideas forward.
“From the point of view of being a course leader, I found it to be a very inspiring experience and something that we should try and do much more of. From a student perspective, you got a really professional experience of what it’s like to design in a team of people you don’t know.”
He added: “I see this as having been a vital experience, it changed how the students were looking at their work and indeed their understanding of how professional they had become as designers whilst at Gray’s.
“The 3DD course here is unique in that it offers students the chance to really explore Product and Craft Design together, and coupled with trips and experiences like China, we are now offering an even more cutting edge design education than ever before.”
Communications Officer | Design and Technology