Designing a snowboard binding
Deakin University design students demonstrate the process of taking an idea, building a concept, and taking it out into the real world. (Vision courtesy Deakin Universirty)
Milliner Richard Nylon is all about the pushing the design envelope. When he was commissioned to make a Minnie Mouse headpiece, he turned to technology.
“Millinery is an applied art that most people think is frozen in 1950. It isn’t, and I encourage my students to explore new technology when creating hats,” says Nylon, who also teaches millinery at RMIT.
It’s the design department that adds the value. If you’re not designing right, then you’re not manufacturing anything that people want to buy.
Dr Paul Collins, director of the Bachelor of Design Technology course, Deakin University
The innovative designer says millinery has to employ modern technology to be relevant. His students have explored digital printing on fabrics, and 3D printing, but if they are using technology to create a hat it must add something. “I want them to make sure that it can’t be done any other way.
Modern mouse: milliner Richard Nylon used new technology to design his Minnie hat.
“If students are using 3D printing, I want them to push the medium, otherwise what’s the use? Yes, 3D printing is (great) for prototyping and speedier product manufacture, but as an artist, how can you add to that? I encourage students to explore and push the medium, and let’s see what happens. Technology allows students to carry their visions further.”
Nylon’s Minnie Mouse headpiece looks like the round ears we are used to seeing, but the ears are hollow and the outer shell constructed with the words ‘I love you’. “She’s always saying ‘I love you’,” says Nylon. “This creation could only be done using 3D printing technique.”
Best foot forward: Deakin university students test design modifications they have made to snowboard bindings. Photo: Supplied
Nylon and his students are an example of how technology and creativity are contributing to Victoria’s strong design industry, which is forging ahead to replace the vacuum of our declining manufacturing industry.
“Good design builds a better product,” says Dr Paul Collins, who worked for General Motors Holden and Ford, and is now the director of the Bachelor of Design Technology course at Deakin University in Geelong.
“The decline in manufacturing in Victoria is because we’re building stuff people don’t want. Commodores and Falcons were not selling because people had other options that suited their needs better.”
Despite closing manufacturing plants, Holden and Ford have kept their design departments, says Dr Collins.
“It’s the design department that adds the value. If you’re not designing right, then you’re not manufacturing anything that people want to buy. The success of Apple is that it’s a design-led company.”
Dr Collins predicts a strong design industry for Victoria. “That’s where the jobs are going to be.”
There is a shift to design, agrees RMIT design lecturer Simon Lockrey.
“Holden and Ford design teams in Australia are in demand worldwide. They are competing globally and winning work contracts against design teams In America, Europe, and Asia.”
Last year, Swinburne University of Technology opened its $100 million Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre.
The key word is “Advanced”, says Industry Innovation Projects coordinator and lecturer Dr Carl Turner.
“Design, at multiple levels, is an important strategic capability that complements advanced manufacturing. The Centre … will enhance Australia’s ability to develop an internationally competitive, highly productive and technologically advanced manufacturing sector.”
There are also lots of design opportunities with the many design engineering firms here in Melbourne, says RMIT third year mechanical engineering student Josh Gurtler, who leads RMIT’s electric racing car team.
Technology paves the way
Gurtler still hand sketches, but CAD (computer aided design) technology helps him to modify designs quickly, and make a realistic model of the car right down to minute details such as bolts and washers. The team uses Autodesk Inventor CAD.
“We can clearly see if the car will work. Will a component fit and work with other components?”
Computers design in ways that humans can’t, says Jeff Kowalski, chief technical officer at 3D design software company Autodesk, which gives design software free to students and educators.
“We define the outcome and let the computer generate the design. We’ve gone from telling the computer what to do, to telling it what we want to achieve. The designer starts with goals, and then explores permutations to solve the problem. We can give the computer the design constraints and it will make suggestions.”
For example, intelligence built into Autodesk Inventor tells Gurtler where in his racing car he can remove material to make the lightest structurally sound design possible.
“The computer is another designer in the room. It can also work out the thing you forgot to ask for,” says Kowalski.
User experience (UX) design
The user experience is becoming an increasingly important part of design. “All products we design come with human interaction,” says Dr Collins.
To inform their snowboard bindings design, Deakin students surveyed snowboard users to find out why and how injuries happen, and tried to understand how they use a snowboard. Students used the Quick Surveys online questionnaire. (Survey Monkey is another.)
After making modifications to existing designs, students sought more feedback and communicated directly to a few select users with skype, email, and videos.
At Swinburne’s Design Factory, part of the Design Factory Global Network, huge video-conferencing screens are used in design factories in kitchens and break out rooms all over the world for easy collaboration with students in different countries, says lecturer John Eggleston.
“Each design factory has live feeds that enable serendipitous communication. It’s like walking into a room and bumping into someone in another country.”
Swinburne also uses a telepresence robot (a video screen attached to a long stick on wheels) for international collaboration. For example, students in Norway and Australia can control the robot at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva in Switzerland to see what’s going on, says Eggleston.
“It brings opportunity for different expertise and different perspectives to challenge the status quo in another country. And different cultural perspectives may provide a new lens to see design for a product designed in Melbourne.”
Project management and collaboration tools used by students and industry that suit the visual aspects of a design project include Invision, Basecamp, and Slack, says James Noble, who mentors students at Tractor design school, and founded Carter Digital, a user experience digital agency in Fitzroy. “Better than emails bouncing backwards and forwards.”
Business consulting firms PwC and Deloitte now have digital arms, says Lockrey, and are employing design graduates to design user experiences, for example, an insurance company designing customer services.
“Service design and digital user experience design are two of the new paradigms that industrial designers contribute to. Most products have digital elements these days, so you need to have design input to engage the user.”
Think of driverless cars, which could learn the experiences that different people may want when they are travelling, says Lockrey. “This could include the entertainment they may want, the food they may eat, the lighting levels they desire to sleep, the smells that they prefer, or the social interactions that they value, all in the act of driving from A to B.”
It may not employ as many as manufacturing, but clean and clever is an export industry many are keen on and Melbourne is in a good place to deliver talented and industry ready design graduates.
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