New conference creates space for debate in the product arena


The Product Design & Innovation Conference, being held in London on 18-19 May, is aiming to become the main forum for industrial designers in the UK.

The inaugural conference at Excel London will feature contributions from product design luminaries including Clive Grinyer, director of customer experience at Cisco; Peter Cooke, design lead at British Airways; and Seymour Powell co-founder Richard Seymour.

The conference has been developed by David Eldridge, editor at publisher Crain which is organising the event. Eldridge says, ’We’d been talking to product designers for a while we’d had a lot of feedback that there wasn’t a conference looking just at product design, although the sector is covered in other conferences.’

Kevin McCullagh
Kevin McCullagh

Kevin McCullagh (pictured), director of product design consultancy Plan and chairman of the conference, says, ’Product design is a global industry. We often work on international projects for overseas clients and spend too much of our life on planes. Our networks are far-flung and much of the debate seems to happen in US forums.’

He adds, ’We might also be guilty of being too “heads-down” on getting the work done and not making the time to meet up, take stock of recent developments and debate the way forward.’

Eldridge says the conference will be loosely themed, with day one looking at business models and strategy for product design groups and day two at materials and technologies.

He says, ’We will be looking at evolving business models for design consultancies at the moment remuneration tends to be fee-based and we will be looking at other models.’

Eldridge adds, ’One of the other things we will be looking at is how consultancies and in-house teams can work together. We will have a session looking at open innovation and look at where in-house teams can go to outside people to draw inspiration.’

The conference’s first day will feature Creative Barcode founder Maxine Horne discussing future intellectual property models that support open innovation and British Design Innovation chairman Gus Desbarats chairing a session looking at ’raising the profile of product design’.

A Pecha Kucha session will look at the question ’Where do good ideas come from?’ and feature contributions from Tangerine chief executive Professor Martin Darbyshire; Simon Colbeck, head of technology at Marks & Spencer; and Dr Bettina von Stamm, founder of the Innovation Leadership Forum.

Day two will feature a presentation from Sebastian Bergne, looking at ’achieving award-winning design with recycled materials’. Bergne will use the example of his Enjoy kitchenware range for Tefal, which was designed to use recycled plastic and also to use as little resin as possible.

Chris Lefteri, of Chris Lefteri Designs, will present a session looking at ’the new use of materials to deliver innovative products’ and the conference will close with Henrik Otto, senior vice-president of global design at Electrolux, looking at Electrolux’s design-led strategy.

Other speakers at the conference

  • Jon Hague, vice-president open innovation, Unilever
  • James Woudhuysen, Professor of forecasting and innovation, De Montfort University
  • Julian Thomson, director of advanced design, Jaguar Landrover
  • Sandy Spaan, senior design consultant, materials, finishings and technologies, Philips Design Centre
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