As a student at Nottingham Trent University, Ellie Moss took part in our Design Academy in 2016. Here, she writes about her motivations behind becoming a designer and how the programme made her feel differently about her chosen career path.

I find people fascinating. How we act and feel, what we believe, and how this consequently changes what is important to us and the decisions we make.

I think this interest is what led me to studying design, because design talks to people. Whether it’s to entertain or educate, to inform or consume, design has a critical role in ensuring the right people get the right information in the right way.

There was the opportunity to take part in Design Council’s Design Academy, which is a design programme for students to help develop strategic design thinking skills.

I studied Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University and my time there really couldn’t have been better. Trent encouraged us to solve problems and become thinkers as well as designers. In my final year, there was the opportunity to take part in Design Council’s Design Academy, which is a design programme for students to help develop strategic design thinking skills. It offers the chance to work with other students from different courses and strategic design specialists to solve a ‘care challenge’. This, I wanted to be part of.

The course challenged us to really focus on the end user, that is the person on the receiving end of design. Through the research methods we were taught, we examined the potential problems that an individual could encounter in their life and how to spot an opportunity to make it better. I worked on a care challenge that aimed to tackle the changing care needs of a dementia patient. My partners were Lizzie Honness (Graphic Design) and Kath Parkin (Textile Design). 

We assessed the difficulties which could arise when transitioning through dementia care, from recognising symptoms to long-term care in a specialist home.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Lizzie, Kath and I had a lot of laughs. We worked very well together and were able to help each other through the pitfalls we faced while researching in Nottingham. One of the main obstacles was getting into a position to talk to the right people in order to get the right information. Until one final attempt: we called social services.

[We] began to view the word ‘design’ differently - as something that... can be used to change social and health problems.

While on the call, we were told that it is best if a younger person is present during a dementia assessment because ‘older people play it down’. This seemingly throw-away comment helped us spot an opportunity to make transitioning through care a lot easier. Our final presentation to the Design Council panel in London highlighted how ‘waking up to dementia and not ignoring the alarm bells’ would aid an individual’s transition through dementia care. The sooner you spot it and accept it, the easier it is to find the right care at the right time.

On finishing the course, we felt as though we had started to harness an ability to make people’s lives better. Many of us began to view the word ‘design’ differently - recognising it as something that not only helps boost the sales of products, but can also be used to change social and health problems. This led to a shift in the way we approached our final projects at university, with many of us teaming up to solve complex problems by doing in-depth research that focused on talking to the people we wanted to reach. I worked with a fellow Design Academy graduate, Katie Webb, to produce a mental health first aid kit for teenagers.

At work I am encouraged to go outside the office to understand trends, how people will engage with products and what makes them want to buy them.

Since graduating from university, I have been working at Pentland Brands as a junior designer. Pentland owns a number of sports fashion brands and keeps people at the center of what it does – from employee through to consumer.

At work I am encouraged to go outside the office to understand trends, how people will engage with products and what makes them want to buy them. It’s important to understand what might stop someone engaging with sport and how sportswear can help to change that.

When working on a junior swimwear project, I could feel my Design Academy skills coming into play. While conducting research, I was beginning to understand how a parent and child buy their swimwear and how important swimwear is when encouraging a child to swim. For a nervous swimmer, the prospect of wearing something exciting and fun makes the experience that little bit easier for both child and parent. I kept this in mind throughout the design process.

Design Academy helped me in more ways than I originally comprehended and I am so thankful for having the experience. Any student who gets the chance to take part should run with it.  It really made me to want to keep changing things that make life just that little bit easier.

Thank you Design Council.

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