Sven Ladiges

MA Design Products, 2013–15

I studied Product Design at undergraduate level in Germany at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel. Afterwards, I worked for about two and a half years in a shipyard, mainly designing the interiors of power boats and sailing yachts. When I left, I came to London to do a four-month internship, and then joined the Royal College of Art.

I knew from the beginning that I’d go onto postgraduate study. In Germany, most people compare the BA/MA system with our old Diploma system and thus a Bachelor’s is often not seen as a full degree. I think it’s important to get some work experience in between as well. You learn so much about the realities of working in the design world and it gives you a totally different perspective. It’s easy to tell who has work and life experience, and who doesn’t.

I first thought about studying in Germany, but I also wanted to see what else was possible in Europe. London is a major capital for design and a great place to study. I was fascinated by the RCA because it had a very specific type of teaching, compared to other schools. The Design Products programme has now changed significantly, but I was really attracted to the ‘Platform’ system, where you can focus in one direction. There were nine platforms, giving a broad choice of ways to specialise; with that, came a lot of diversity among the people I was studying alongside. The discussions we had about design were much more diverse because everybody had a different opinion. It’s one of the most international Colleges I know of – I think we had only eight or nine students from the UK – so the cultural backgrounds are diverse, as well as the design backgrounds.

We started with a three-week project, working together with the second-year students, in collaboration with Fortnum & Mason. It was a fun way to get to know each other and the College. Then we had to choose our Platform. I chose the most industrial-based one, mainly concerned with real, useful products which solve problems or assist in everyday life. Some other Platforms were more concerned with questioning the world, or questioning design in general. The focus was on testing things in real life – not sitting at your desk, drawing and thinking, but rather going straight to the first mock-up to see how the idea develops and then testing. There was a lot of attention given to these design processes.

In the first year, I worked with a Textiles student on a brief to develop an initial concept and design for a new Thierry Mugler perfume bottle plus a name, packaging and advertising material. Then, in the second year, I collaborated with Innovation Design Engineering students on a project they were doing with Ford, for which the task was to create a vehicle for use in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s always interesting to work with students from different programmes who have a totally different approach to design and to tackling problems.

The Show is an important opportunity to present your work to the world and see people's reactions. You're there, at your stand, every day for two weeks and you have so many interesting conversations with people. Someone from the BBC visited, and my work was featured on their website and then on television and radio. That was great exposure, and led directly to my current employer getting in touch.

I’m now working at a design consultancy in London. It’s the same place I did the internship before my Master's. It’s great that I’m able to stay in London because I’m already starting to build a network of contacts here, and it’s hard if you have to leave straight away. You’re in a great position when you graduate: on one side, you’re struggling and unsure what to do next, but on the other, it’s one of those situations in life when you have so many possibilities.

"The focus was on testing things in real life – not sitting at your desk, drawing and thinking, but rather going straight to the first mock-up to see how the idea develops and then testing."
Sven Ladiges
Sven Ladiges