Eye on the Prize

Eye on the Prize

Since students started graduating from UL’s Product Design and Technology course eight years ago the University has celebrated seven finalists winning nationally or among the finalists at an international level at the annual James Dyson Awards.

With their eyes firmly on the top prize, product design lecturers continued to focus and nurture the creative ideas of their students and in 2015 UL gained its highest placing yet as UL graduate Cathal Redmond was named in second place in the International James Dyson Award Competition. Having qualified through the Irish leg of the competition Cathal competed with over 700 entries from countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and US, with his invention ‘“Express Dive” underwater breathing system’. He is the first Irish student ever in the eleven year history of the awards to win an international prize, scooping an excellent 2nd place worldwide.
No one in UL was more pleased than Muireann McMahon, Course Director for Product Design and Technology. “The James Dyson International Awards are an excellent platform for students to showcase their creativity and get recognition for the products they are developing, giving them confidence to pursue those ideas after they graduate as real business opportunities”. Creativity being the name of the game, UL Links spoke to Muireann to find out what makes a successful product design student.

“Design is fun! Designers change and manipulate our world and create new worlds in which people can do things differently. As a designer your work has the potential to positively change people’s lives which is such an interesting space to work in. The best designers are empathic, creative, openminded, curious people who look around and see things others don’t; opportunities that can be exploited and problems that need solving. Designers can recognise the overlaps between people, planet and technologies and are comfortable working at these intersections. Where designers really excel over other disciplines is that they can make intangible ideas real through sketches, models, prototypes, buildings, spaces, experiences and services.

Our approach to teaching Product Design in UL is to expose the design students to the myriad of different ways of doing, seeing and practising design. Students are given the space, the support and the encouragement to explore, experiment, build, test, learn and improve through their project work. These practice, studio-based, projects are supported by modules in CAD, engineering, manufacturing processes, new product development, materials, business, ergonomics and technology.

"Students are given the space, the support and the encouragement to explore, experiment, build, test, learn and improve through their project work."

A lot of the projects we do at undergraduate and research levels are collaborative endeavours with people both inside and outside the University (locally and internationally). These research collaborations not only uncover new ideas and knowledge, they also introduce our industry partners to the benefits of working with designers. For a Product Designer graduating today the career opportunities are very diverse – we have graduates working in areas such as medical devices, sports equipment, toy design, user experience, consumer products, design engineering, set design and sustainable design as well as research and consultancy. Design in the future will be far more flexible and fluid, with less defined borders between the creative disciplines. By teaching ways of thinking, collaborating, co-designing and participating we are preparing our UL graduate designers for the creative careers of the future.
We are very excited by the success of our graduates and to see how they move through the undergraduate programme and on to bringing their innovative ideas to commercialisation”.

"It is very satisfying seeing our graduates’ designs in the hands of real users and having an impact on their lives."

This is the hope of recent winner Cathal Redmond whose design “Express Dive” allows divers to breathe underwater for up to two minutes. Once the air supply begins to run out, the user simply resurfaces and holds a button to refill the one-litre tank. “I’d like to set up my own company and develop the product further to get it past safety regulations. The dream is to see it on the shelf available for purchase but the real crowning glory is to see somebody using it”. Muireann mirrors the sentiment, “It is very satisfying seeing our graduates’ designs in the hands of real users and having an impact on their lives”. The UL Product Design students showcase their talents every year as part of the Design@UL Graduate Showcase which, for the last 5 years, has taken part in various city centre venues including Fablab and the former Franciscan Church in Limerick City. This exhibition highlights the fruits of their undergraduate studies at UL and also includes the work of students of Architecture, Digital Media Design, Civil Engineering and Technology Education. It is a clear illustration every year of the innovation and creativity of the students and the commerciality of much of their creative output.

Muireann highlights the opportunities “Design is very much in the consciousness of business and society both in Ireland and internationally. Multinationals are hiring designers at the highest levels, designerfounded companies are growing quickly and the social impact of design is being given a platform to thrive. There has never been a better time to be a designer!”

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