Growing as a Designer

Growth as a Designer in Year 2’s Module: Product Design Practice 2

A brief introduction as to what this is; I’m studying Product Design Engineering and each year contains 6 modules. 5 of which are engineering modules and theres 1 design module which allows you to be more creative which is the reason this blog was created I guess.

Coming to the end of the year it’s wise to reflect back on what you’ve learnt, how you’ve grown and what needs improving on in the future so you can then use this as a guide to implement this improvements.

 Self Assessment and Criticism 

Coming into the module, I was skeptical of this module because of its design title. Having left Industrial Design and moving to Engineering in year 1 (look at my about page), I thought this would be hindering to why I moved to engineering. It turns out, in order to be a design engineer, the creative, unique side to the module is a necessity.

Throughout the year with the multiple projects, I think there is evidence to my growth as a designer. By reading back to all my self-assessments, it’s clear to see the depth of my personal analysis grew throughout the year. I was able to determine the improvements needed and through each project, I was able to correct them.

I was able to improve multiple competencies in the past year. Along with the rest of the course, I was able to communicate my ideas more efficiently. How I did this was probably down to the amount of presentations the other modules made me do. This aloud my confidence to grow, which made my ideas/ designs more clear to understand.

Another competency I improved was my CAD work. At the beginning, I was put in groups with experienced CAD artists which meant the delegation of the CAD work in the projects was given to them. When I told myself that I needed to improve my CAD in one of the self-assessments, I took it upon myself to be in charge of it and achieved the highest mark for that year.

Further evidence that my growth as a designer was in the feedback from the lecturer. For the 3 projects that had numerical feedback, the results went as 70%, 70% and 80%.


However, whilst the year produced overall positive growth in the module, certain aspects that I do need improving on or failed to show were as follows:

Prototyping skills. This was one of the competencies I failed to develop and show in this module. Prototyping and modelling is vital when communicating designs as it gives the client an idea of physical weight, tangibility and interaction with the idea; rather than looking at sketches/ CAD work/ 2D imaging.

Leadership skills. Each project had a chosen leader which I failed to be throughout the year. Whilst it was my issue because I never volunteered, I think I would have achieved higher individual marks if I was leader because outside this module, I have lead multiple sports teams which I’m disappointed I never had the chance to show my leadership skills in design.


Active Forms Project – Self Assessment

active form bulb

This project is the 3rd of the year and once again, the topic was up to date and modern. The selection of groups for this project was in our own hands for a change. Personally, I found this more satisfying as we all knew each other and straight from the start we were able to bond as a team whereas previous projects took about 2-3 weeks of getting to know the group. This section of the project is a self assessment where I pick 6 competencies to discuss my input and understanding of this project.

Group Link:

List of competancies to choose from:


This stage of the project was done more effectively than the last time I did this in the Mobile Phone Symbiosis project. This time the user persona was done immediately within the first few hours of our first group meeting which meant ideas could come earlier in the project. Of the 7 groups allocated this project, each group was given a design objective they had to work to. Our groups design objective was value in a domestic environment. This meant our concepts and ideas had to focus on the aesthetic look of the product whilst maintaining an active form. Idea generation went a little slow after it took a while to understand the active form concept. After a couple of weeks, the group and I managed to grasp the concept of active form and the idea of finding a metaphor and a ritual to encompass in our product. After analysing our persona we developed, we picked a ritual of cooking a traditional meal. From this we picked the ritual of washing hands. The idea of the tap was formed but the metaphor was to come next. I came up with the idea of using water running off a flower after being inspired in a lecture and looking at multiple products on the market now from which the group then looked into. After looking at relevant media we were able to come up with the idea of water running off the leaf. This beginning stage of the project went off to a good start I feel and our time management was on track.

User Focus, Usability & Usefulness

After creating a thorough profile for our persona, the relevant information to our product were as follows. Our persona was a student trainee chef who doesn’t like the prep and washing of the job when he’s at home so an aesthetically pleasing tap was key for us. The product works by using sensors underneath the leaf making the water come out each leaf. The right hand side is blue, for colder water and the left hand side is red, for hot water. When the water is coming out, the bulb on the top reflects the temperature of the water by changing colour (similar to a leaf changing colour due to the season). Coming up with the washing hands ritual was done quite quickly and the whole group agreed on it. Whilst we documented the ritual well by using storyboards capturing a member to wash his hands I feel like we didn’t use this information enough to our advantage. Also, I noticed in a few other groups (group 3 and group 6 for example) that they had multiple people using multiple storyboards to perform their ritual. If the project was done again, I think the group would have gathered better information by using more storyboards. I would also criticise our groups decision to not pick an actual chef to study the ritual. It’s a possibility that it wasn’t achievable but the idea to not even discuss it was wrong. What better way to design a product for the user by studying that user and how interacts with the ritual?

Market and Business

Because the idea of active forms is relatively new and grasping the idea, like mentioned before, took some time, researching current products was more challenging than before. The way I went around it at first was to research into products that contain a valuable metaphor. For example I discovered this product that houses a metaphor:

metaphor product)

By looking at this I was able to then think, “right, how can I turn this into an active form?”. Our group did this with multiple products on the market today and the results we came up with was the flower metaphor, as mentioned before.

Before the group came up with the flower metaphor, I did my own little research into active forms. I first took some projects that Ben Salem helped run and tried to analyse them. Because the project is about a tangible interaction with the product and then the product giving back a response, I then looked into smart materials and how they could be put into use for this project. This is a stage of the project I wish the group would have looked into a little bit more. Because a smart material product is one that requires an input to make an automated output, I thought this could be used to the projects benefit but the group didn’t seem to want to go into further detail. I regret not pushing this further on the group but I do feel the final outcome was a satisfying one.

However, one piece of research I did, turned out to be quite effective in the final deliverables. Because the project was water running off a leaf I thought I should find evidence of this happening in nature. I then blogged about this video I discovered and it shows the water running off a leaf which we used for our final video. Research and existing products, I learned in this project were vital. Yes, there maybe some research that in the end, is invaluable, but the more research one does the more useful it becomes and a better understanding of the issue is gained.

Form and Aesthetics

The design style of the product we went with was minimalistic. We chose this because it fitted in with the designs that panasonic produce, our chosen brand. Panasonic was chosen as a brand because of its high value technological products, which was our design goal. Like I mentioned before, the aesthetics and the beauty of the product was our number one goal. For this to happen we were to make a product representing a high valuable flower and looking like a panasonic type product. I personally feel like we achieved the panasonic side and most of the flower side. I don’t believe we achieved the 100% value for the flower because we based our design to that of a dutch tulip. I understand that it is a moderately expensive, common and well known flower and it does provide a aesthetic beauty to it so we hit the nail on the head with associating it with a popular brand. However, I criticize this now as I wasn’t aware of it earlier, but perhaps if we were to look into more research into expensive flowers, the results could have been better. Also, if we were to look into japanese flowers as the brand we were using are japanese. It seems unlikely that Panasonic would base their design on a dutch flower rather than one of their own, like a japanese magnoli which could fit in with our tap.

Modelling Visualisation and Communication

Unfortunately, due to a little dispute in the workshop, we were unable to provide a full physical model for the final design. Obviously, this is disappointing that were unable to provide a model to show during the presentation because the client should be able to pick the product up and get a feel for it rather than looking at it through a screen. This meant we had to make our prototypes using CAD. The group leader allocated the CAD work to myself (after I hinted I wanted to do it) which was the first time I’ve been allocated this in this module. I took it upon myself to build the model stage by stage. At first I would start with the stem and then contact the others to see if they approve. Then came the leaves, spout and faucet. And finally the bulb. Once I did this, I then rendered it through Keyshot 3. I was then able to hand it out to the group members for the posters, movies and final presentation. I was impressed with my first attempt at such a complicated shape and I felt that the group approved too. Otherwise they would have mentioned it in the different stages I built it. The final deliverables of the project was a very risky time for the group leader. There was a mutual agreement that some of us wanted to contribute to this project something they haven’t done before. For example, Harpal wanted to design the posters and Dan and Callum wanted the movie. All fresh new experiences for the group turned out to be affective. We were all happy with the duties we were allocated and all gave a hand in every stage to the group members. This was an effective strategy as no group member felt like they were on their own at any point. From the last few projects, it’s been a clear problem that the presentation skills were lacking. To improve this, we made sure every deliverable was completed a couple days before the presentation and then a professional looking rehearsed Prezi was developed. This meant that we were able to continue the flow of the presentation without halting for an awkward pause.

Self Assessment and Criticism.

From looking at the previous projects in this module and the problems that held the project back, I focused on improving these. I mentioned it in previous competencies but heres a few examples I was able to improve in this project:

Previous Projects Problem

  1. Generating ideas before we had persona and design style
  2. Avoiding tasks I’m unfamiliar with
  3. Not going further into researching the problem
  4. Not producing a flowing final presentation

What I did differently 

  1. Developed a thorough persona before developing ideas
  2. Taking upon myself to work on the CAD renderings, a process I haven’t done on this module
  3. Spent longer producing research and putting them on my blog
  4. Finished the deliverables earlier and prepared for the presentation earlier


  1. Saved ourselves 2 weeks of backtracking and spent more time on research
  2. Produced a high quality rendering that the whole group was approving of
  3. Research being put into the final video of nature showing flower running of the petal. However some research wasn’t expressed enough
  4. Able to produce an effective Prezi without pausing and clicking back. We were able to get our message across.

The critical side of the work has probably been mentioned earlier. If the project was to be redone, more effective research and expression of that research should be made. Another weak point that I think should be addressed in the project was time management. A time/ gantt chart was created but I feel like we didn’t stick to it. At times we were ahead which was positive but then suddenly, we were behind because we weren’t time managing well enough. This created more work in a shorter timescale which meant it was more rushed. Other than that I think the project was a success due to the reaction of the client after our presentation.

My input to the project I feel was greatly improved than the other projects. My attendance, my input, my design (sketches and CAD) work I feel, was all improved. I took on new challenges which is important for a designer and I hope to carry this project on further to an actual working prototype because I enjoyed the project, the concept and the design of the idea.

Product Innovation

I discovered this product on Yanko Design which relates to the my project is designing (finished in a few weeks so I’ll post it when finished). Whilst most of these ideas on the website:  are just the concepts , the ideas behind them are impressive and innovative.

(I don’t own the rights to this picture)

This designers are David Sweeney, Jeff Virangkabutra & Michael Korn and they’ve made this product, Water Me When I Tilt.

What does it do?

-When water is poured the vase rises up and stays there.

-When the flower has absorbed the water, the design makes the vase tilt back down.


The vase symbolises what a flower does when treated with water and the simplicity of the design makes it and eye-catching product and something worth considering to put into commercial use. It’s a good reminder to the user of this product to water their plants as they are often forgotten about and left to wilt and dry out.

Flower’s in Fast Motion

This is for my current active form project in uni (see posts below about it) but it’s quite a cool video to watch. Whilst it all looks good with the flowers pulsating like an inhaling, exhaling body but the rose for me is the best as it constantly peels away in a very aesthetically pleasing way

But the flowers involving water are what I’m focusing on. You’ll see why in due time.

Smart Way of Living

My uni project, mentioned in the previous post, is proving to be a bit of a challenge and getting to grips with the whole active forms situation, is puzzling.

One thing that triggered my mind when this project came about was SMART MATERIALS. A bit of boring technical stuff, a smart material is a material that changes it’s appearance when an external stimuli is inputed.

For example, the stimulus can be: heat, light or pressure and the change could be colour, electric power or even shape.

Developed around 50 years ago, smart materials have found their way into some innovative designs and it triggered in my mind because they change form as do active form products (loosely) so hopefully a bit of research into this can trigger some ideas into my current project.

Popular Smart Material Products


1) Photochromic Lenses. Photo =  ancient Greek for light. Chromic = ancient Greek for colour. The glasses changes colour when the stimulus, sunlight is shined on it

2) Thermochromic Mood Ring. Thermo = ancient Greek for heat. Chromic = ancient Greek for colour. The ring changes colour when the stimulus, heat changes due to the mood changing (e.g agressive mood = higher temperature)

3) Another application for thermochromic materials can be a thermometer. Used to find if the child/ adult has a high fever when the colour changes to match a high temperature.



This type of smart material turns a mechanical stress/ force into electricity or electricity into a force. The mechanical stress can be just a footstep can generate electricity.

This idea has lead to multiple designs that have tried to make renewable energy.

One designer, created his own Eco-Energy Floor. A couple pictures taken from this industrial design website (which I’ll be reviewing shortly) show the idea briefly but have a look at the whole concept.



Another concept with piezoelectric materials

I personally believe that there is a lack of products on the market that include smart materials. This might be because they are fairly new (50 years doesn’t seem it but compared to basic materials like metals and woods, its a baby!) and the materials are continually being developed. I think they are an impressive development in engineered materials and they also provide an aesthetic quality that many basic materials lack.

If you have any more innovative products using SMART MATERIALS please let me know. I love discovering cool new things/ products/ materials/ designs so please share them with me.

Active Forms – Designing The Future

At university I’ve been given a project of designing an Active Form product. In terms of quickly summarising what that is without putting you to sleep, it’s a representation of a system or routine due to the similar shape of a recognisable interaction.

WHAT?! Exactly my thoughts when I first heard it.

ASLEEP YET?  It’s a fairly new area in design so I’ll give you a couple of examples of what I mean rather than a fairly adequate description. But before, some  key words popped in my head in this introduction lecture that I think need considering.




My lecturer, Ben Salem, has helped these Active Form products come to life. Here’s the link to his quick overview into Active Forms and pictures/ descriptions of the projects he supervised whilst at the Eindhoven University of Technology


Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 16.10.59(all picture and video rights are reserved by Ben Salem)



This active form represents a petal and a flower. The colour of the device changes due to heat and is ergonomically interacted with like a flower. The petal is opened and closed semi-automatically and reflects the atmosphere of the room whilst the core can be blown on or rubbed to change the temperature of the room. The video briefly shows the working prototype.

The link has and shows all:


Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 18.46.43(again, all rights are reserved by Ben Salem)

This is another form of tangible interaction of an active form. This time it involves making TEA. This follows the routine of making tea and involves the metaphor of flowers in a vase, the vase holding the boiling water and the petals hold different types of tea.

How It Works? As mentioned before, it works by placing different brand/ type of tea leaves into the bulb type petal. Once the stem is pushed down it triggers the water to start boiling (like switching the kettle switch), the stem will rise vertically again when the water is boiled (similar to when the switch is released in a kettle). Then the stem is pushed back down with the cap on the bulb being opened releasing the ready made tea.

On a personal note, I prefer the second active form as a whole. The reasons being the simplicity and the idea of the design is something I highly praise. The other design is simple and clever but I think it fails to beat the tea maker with the 3 words I associate with Active Form. I like how both designs encompass nature and human rituals in one design




Mobile Phone Symbiosis

Self Assessment

This is the 2nd project now where the topic of design has been very up to date and in someways futuristic. With the 6 of us in a group, we were fortunate enough to all have a different view and a different approach to the project. All of us enjoy different hobbies and we tried to use this when creating a suitable design for mobile phone symbiosis.

Group Website


This particular part of the project we brainstormed ideas before we chose our persona. This was an error as it turns out because we had no focus point as to who we were designing for. We came up with concepts like a 360 degree camera or a high end tracking device but had no body to design it for. With this, our group had to backtrack slightly and come up with our persona. Our persona was a 35 year old doctor who struggles to find the time to enjoy the things he wants to do like spending time with the family, travelling or even keeping an active healthy life. So to solve his crisis, we came up with a phone case containing a set of sensor scanners that would collaborate with the users smart phone to get a quick and accurate result and then store the information in the hospitals network. Once, we had our persona, the ideas were continually flowing. The whole group contributed creating multiple designs that we believed would solve our personas problems. In terms of originality, the only thing that even came close to what we designed was a prop made in a popular sci-fi television series.

User and user ability

As stated in the previous competency, the user we came up with was a busy middle-aged doctor struggling to find some down time with the family. So, with this in mind, making a simple product to use was key. All the doctor had to do is log on with a password, scan the patient and then receive the accurate diagnostic. We tried to make sure that we didn’t have too many parts to the product, so we embedded the scanner into a case for the phone. This way the doctor can walk around comfortably and have easy access to it by keeping it in his pockets. In looking back at the project, I feel like there was a bit too much going on in the scanner and that perhaps if we developed it for 1 specific purpose (e.g sex clinic checking for the obvious). That way a multiple range of scanners can be developed. The user persona we came up with was a little bit last minute. Because we were trailing behind, we needed to catch up quickly, hence why the persona was a little last minute. The majority of the group put a lot of effort into catching up with this part of the project and had we not, we would have struggled to make the final presentation

Form and Aesthetics

The form was mainly to be designed around the phone. The screen size was important for us so we decided to look into the market of mobile phones so we could pick one to design our case around. A wide variety of current cases had a built in battery power pack which we thought would be appropriate for our scanner (seeing as it would take up some power to use). Because we were designing for a doctor, we decided it was appropriate to incorporate the red cross in our case with a rubber grip to avoid dropping the product. This section of the project I felt was done very quickly and fewer people were starting to put there input in, including myself. I guess the reason for this is the other projects we had on the go left the desire lacking for this project. I understand this isn’t a profesional way to attempt a project and a client wouldn’t care but with 5 assignments on the go, it was difficult to keep up.

Modelling, visualisation and communication

Fortunately, we were fortunate as a group to have confident designers when creating the visualisations. David Forster was our group leader and had a good skill in Solidworks to create our rendered design. For the final presentation, we communicated our ideas through an instructional commercial video. We thought that it wasn’t necessary for the whole group to say anything because we said mostly what we wanted to say in the video and using the previous groups as an example, I feel like whenever everyone speaks in a group, the order will get jumbled and the infamous awkward pause is generated. Along with the video, we intended to discuss a little bit about the advertising poster that we created but failed to clarify behind it. We had a comment in the presentation saying the poster looked like ‘a rave’. We didn’t intend for that to be the case, I feel like we intended on putting it around hospitals to make the hospitals look better than the plane white walls. Also, the groups website said I wasn’t involved in the app design. I felt this was a bit harsh as I was involved in developing it, just not the final rendered design.

Design method and practice

The distribution of the workload created by our group leader, David Forster, we were able to have a sufficient distribution of workload. Admittedly, It wasn’t evenly distributed entirely, but the without one person we wouldn’t have completed the project. The team leader was a fantastic help in the project and as you can see, contributed more activities than anyone. However, my own opinion and I think he would agree, he tended to take a bit too much. The concepts method was a good method. Everyone had to initially generate ideas, come back to a meeting and then choose a few and develop more. This method enabled us to continually narrow down the best design, develop it more and then narrow it down again. In terms of tools used, a simple pen and paper sketch was used, then using solidworks, adobe illustrator and then photoshop. The tools we used really helped us communicate our design a lot easier

Self assessment and criticism.

During this project, I felt I grew a bit more as a designer. As part of developing my skills, I practised using SketchBookPro to generate random sketches (as seen in previous blog posts). This showed my commitment to me wanting to develop my skills. However, I feel some people in the group were stronger using some software than others. And it was the stronger people who used that software to generate the designs. I think it should be the weaker people using them as it will make them grow more as a designer. I personally felt like my contribution towards the latter stages of the product deteriorated due to reasons mentioned above but my overall contribution I felt was key to the project. My skills as a designer has improved like my sketching on CAD software. I feel that the project was a good success, I know people were taken back when they saw our presentation video and I believe that if we had more time for the project, our time management and our workload distribution would be a lot more even and effective.