Strength in diversity

The New Designers Part One awards provided the judges with a variety of student work. Matthew Valentine picks out Design Week’s top three choices.

Judging the output of a year’s design graduates in one morning is a difficult task, but one which has become an accepted part of New Designers at the Business Design Centre in Islington. The judges made an eclectic selection in the varied categories.

Design Week’s 1000 prize went to Andrew Evans of Edinburgh’s Napier University, for his portable ultrasound scanner. Developed for vets, it has, potentially, more widespread uses – such as with the emergency services – and was seen as a great improvement on the models which preceded it. That Dynamic Imaging, the company for which Evans developed the product during a work placement, is to develop the project further and has given Evans a job counted in his favour.

Another factor was the depth of his research into how end-users of the product – vets – work. The model Evans’ scanner will replace looked like a very large electric typewriter and was mains-powered only, meaning that pregnant farm animals had to be moved close to an electrical socket.

The new model uses the same basic technology, but has its own power supply or can run from the mains. It comes in modular form, allowing options such as larger screens to be added if the scanner is to be used in a surgery. And it is belt-mounted, rather than coming as a back-pack, because vets are apt to take off their upper body clothing and shove their hands up a cow’s bottom at the drop of a hat.

Evans had some stiff competition for the DW prize. After long discussion, potential winners were whittled down to a three-strong shortlist, with the scanner competing against a novel toothbrush holder and a chair.

The toothbrush holder, created by Jane Chalk of Exeter School of Arts and Design, impressed the panel with its simplicity, ease of manufacture and sense of fun. A simple piece of plastic, fixed to tiles or mirrors with suction pads, it could retail for as little as 3, and has clear commercial potential.

Available in a selection of bright colours, it could also bear logos and advertising, says Chalk. And manufacturers and retailers seem to be showing interest in the design. A selection of spice pots and light fixtures on show, also by Chalk, suggested her accessories could well become a familiar sight.

Chris Hunsicker’s chair from the University of Portsmouth stood out for its compactness and workmanship. Inspired by the cruise ships of the past, and their emphasis on compact, folding furniture his design folds flat against the wall to give the appearance of a wooden radiator.

Although he originally created the chair for domestic use, Hunsicker has researched the use of alternative materials for the design and its suitability for use outdoors or in public buildings – metals and plastics could both be applied. It would need suitable graphics for public use as, when it is folded away, passers-by don’t realise it is a chair.

While the three shortlisted designs are worlds apart in terms of their application, they shared an innovative approach and a functionality which impressed the DW judges. And they left the impression that we will be seeing much more from their creators.

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