Student Story: Eric Saldanha, MA Design Products, 2018–
Eric Saldanha joined the Design Products Programme having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology. After graduating, Eric joined 3M Design’s studio in India, working for the company most famous for designing the Post-It note. While at the RCA, Eric was a member of a winning team of the RCA’s Grand Challenge, a collaboration with CERN to promote innovative design.
When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?
I always wanted to be a product designer. I love all design, but particularly the physical part. While I was working at 3M, there was this real shift in the design industry, it seemed, away from the purely aesthetic towards a consideration of what we as designers are sending out into the world. The RCA is one of the places that really embraced this and were one of the few places that had a pure product design programme. This really set them apart. I loved the programme’s connections to the design industry and the things the Programme was looking for was the kind of designer I wanted to be.
Can you describe what it’s like studying at the RCA?
It’s never monotonous. Some days you’re in the studio all day, others you have a day packed with workshops and lectures. You have group and individual projects running almost parallel to each other, so you have plenty of interaction to bounce ideas off each other. Sometimes it can feel like you’re running on fumes, but if you stop to think about all of the things you’re exposed to and are taking in, it’s just incredible.
Have you been set any particular briefs that have had a significant impact on your practice?
The Grand Challenge brief, which is set across the School of Design, encouraged us to look at the big problems in the world and that, no matter what we do, we have to be conscious of what we are producing as designers, whether that be in the materials we use or the social impact of our products. It completely opened up my mind. It can be intimidating facing these global issues, but if you distill them into something smaller and more specific that elides with your interests you can find a way to contribute.
What is the mixture of students like, and what are the benefits of being in an international community?
It’s so important as a designer. Anything that we put out into the world has to, on some level, be about the interaction between people, so it’s vital to have an understanding of different cultures. Being part of such a mixed group informs you in ways that nothing else can; no internet search can tell you what the shared knowledge and experiences of such a mixed group of people can.
What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?
Before arriving, I knew that this would be a rewarding experience, but the opportunities that have been offered in the six months that I’ve been here have just been incredible. I was on one of the winning teams of the Grand Challenge and we got to go to CERN. That was a dream; I couldn’t even fathom going to CERN. And now there’s Milan Design Week... It’s not even humanly possible to accept all of the opportunities we are given; you have to let some go.
What are your plans for this year, and what do you intend to do after you graduate?
Right now, I’m thinking about what I will be working on next year. I’m really excited to be able to deep dive into a project. After graduating, I hope to join the industry and really use my time here as a platform to become the designer I want to be.
What is your advice for students applying?
There really is no formula to applying. We have people from such diverse backgrounds, experiences, ages, ideas of what design is or should be — it doesn’t matter where you come from. I would just recommend being passionate and to stay true to the designer you are and to the designer you want to be.