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School of Design Work-in-progress 2016: Designs for the Real World

This year's School of Design Work-in-progress Show demonstrates how innovative design, technology and engineering are used across programmes to address real-world challenges; from sustainability and care for the environment – considering waste, the consumption of energy and production of food – to social issues, affecting all aspects of society from young people to elders.

Individual second-year projects form the majority of the Design Products show. Organised into studio pathways, the work demonstrates high levels of creativity and technical capability, balanced with contextual insight.

The ‘Design through Making’ pathway encourages students to develop individual, innovative ways of working through processes and materials. Often the outcomes are experimental and open-ended, with projects such as Fabio Hendry’s, which explores the felting process using steel wool. In the ‘Design as Catalyst’ pathway students use design to effect societal change. For example, Thomas Leech has been exploring the place of design within circular economies, with a focus on finding uses for cut-off leather from luxury goods production.

Considering urban living conditions and habits, Keren Hu has designed an elegant electric kettle for use in the living room. Various stages of Hu’s design are on display, revealing how the aesthetic of the final design developed and was informed by functional requirements. Hu is on the ‘Design for Manufacture’ pathway, and his work is just one example of the user-centred design approach that employs an in-depth understanding of the materials and processes needed to create end products.

Students on the ‘Object Mediated Interactions’ pathway, consider the way that objects and technology are related in the digital world. Frustrated by difficulties he has experienced in the past gaining access to Airbnb properties, Kristian Knobloch has designed a doorbell and app that allows guests to contact hosts more easily.

The show also features the outcomes of some first-year workshops, such as a series of stools made from a range of unconventional and unexpected materials. The students were instructed to create a stool, using only one tool and one material, providing lessons in the potential of tools and the versatility of the people using them.

This year's Design Interactions students have chosen to showcase their work in a live studio environment. Rather than create static displays, they have collaboratively programmed the space with a series of events. The programme explores social, cultural and ethical impacts and debates surrounding technology and design innovation, taking multi- and cross-disciplinary approaches.

During the show there is a rolling series of film screenings, installations, live performances and interactive and participative events. Calum Bowden's event explores ways that video games can be used as a form of peaceful protest, appropriating games such as Call of Duty and Counter-Strike. Other projects explore the context of the Anthropocene through imaginary nature-making machines and pose questions about future citizenship and the creation of future societies.

One day of the show will feature a live 'crit' with Critical Writing in Art & Design students, where the concepts and presentation of the students’ work will be critically examined. These events demonstrate the experimentation, collaboration, and critical thinking at the core of Design Interactions. Rather than creating solutions, they are posing questions, antagonising and broadening the definition of design.

The prototypes and propositions on display by second-year Innovation Design Engineering students also stretch the scope of design and all have very tangible real world applications. One group has developed Orgatronics, an organic material that can replace the copper elements currently used in circuit boards. This material is biocompatible, biodegradable and self-healing, which has huge implications for sustainability and waste reduction. The display shows Orgatronics in action, conducting electricity and conveying audio and video material, but also imagines future possibilities of this innovative material, such as smart buildings and living infrastructure.

Other projects provide solutions for problems arising in countries with high levels of migration. Seal is an app designed for use in Myanmar, to formalise casual agreements for the exchange of money for services. The app helps users make contracts and then holds the payment until each stage of the service or work is delivered.

The challenges and difficulties faced by those living in developed urban environments are also addressed. MURA playfully transforms a journey on the London Underground into a musical experience, using sensors in handrails and oyster card readers to dispel tensions and connect commuters. Designed for the office environment, Blume is a kinetic screen, based on the growth and movement of plants, which allows workers to adapt their surrounding to meet their needs, and suit their mood.

Global Innovation Design first-year students have recently completed a semester at Pratt Institute in New York, where they took part in workshops exploring the foundations of design, such as colour application and 3D abstraction. The impact of these workshops can be seen in group work and individual projects on display, such as a fruit bowl that can be adapted to accommodate different fruits and a chess set with alternative abstract pieces. Other designs include a water boiler, which can boil water in any vessel and a rice spoon that is free standing so does not come into contact with surfaces and bacteria.

Individual projects from second-year students display a wide breadth of applications and a global outlook. Christoph Massak has developed a steriliser from a pressure cooker, designed for use in the newly industrialised world. Made from simple components that are easily available, the steam from the cooker powers a timer, which alerts the user when the items are sterilised after 10 minutes.

Considering difficulties associated with urban youth, such as antisocial behaviour, Edward Brial, has created proMEthian, a series of workshops that encourage young people to be more creative using food. Perceiving creativity as a universally important tool and a valued quality in the job market, these cooking workshops aim to reintroduce young people to creativity, which is not always highly valued in formal education.

John Bertolaso, has created a modular clothing system that extends the life of clothing reducing textile waste. It is presented as a jacket, but the threads can be unravelled and the panels reassembled to form a different garment, encouraging reuse and adaptation.

Issues regarding consumption and waste are also addressed in the Service Design show. A Service Design lab has been installed, which encourages visitors to actively participate in the methods used by service designers and tackle the problem of clothing waste. Viewers are invited to add their answers to questions such as: Why do you get rid of your clothes?

Service Design is human-centred; taking a holistic approach to consider how customer and citizen experience of services and businesses can be improved. The Service Design programme is using the WIP Show to highlight the tools, techniques and methodologies of service design alongside showcasing first- and second-year projects.

Examples of service design applications include healthcare. Second-year projects on display address the delivery of end of life care, providing a total perspective of the interconnected needs of patients, family healthcare workers and volunteers. Another project considers the provision of banks for small businesses, developing structures such as an online tool that businesses can use to forecast and plan for long-term goals and events, integrated with the services banks can provide.

First-year projects are also on display, including projects addressing the best way to meet community needs in the borough of Lambeth, and more widely to look at transportation systems within London.

The display of Vehicle Design students’ work demonstrates the industry-leading imagination and innovation pervasive throughout the programme. The work highlights the diverse approaches to vehicle design, from the consideration of new materials and technologies, to the exploration of ways to sustain brand loyalty and customer inclusivity.

Growing concerns for the environment play an important role in many of the designs, both considering how vehicles impact on the environment, and how the environment of a vehicle can have a positive impact on its users. Yixuan Peng has designed a boat that contains terrarium-inspired tubes, in which plants are cultivated to help control humidity and air quality. Also inspired by nature, Kate Darley has considered the way that touch can be used to improve the customer experience of cars, creating a design based on natural forms such as feathers.

Some students take a broader perspective, addressing the whole system involved with transportation. Designing for future cities, considerations include the development of driverless vehicles, or current trends such as the rise of Uber, designing vehicles specifically with ride shares and private taxis in mind.

In a collaborative industry project with the Textiles programme, students were challenged to design for 2025 while retaining the essence of Jaguar. Designing for a new generation of drivers, students took inspiration from their urban surroundings, with designs based on free running and the pop-up aesthetic of the ubiquitous Boxpark, associated with urban energy and renewal.

Read more about Design Interactions, Design Products, Global Innovation Design, Innovation Design Engineering, Service Design and Vehicle Design, and how to Apply.