We asked Michael Murdoch, Founder and Creative Director of  The House, to help us find four new up-and-coming designers to be part of our Ones to Watch 70th anniversary showcase. 

Scouting for Ones to Watch 

Michael joined us at the RSA Student Design Awards now in its 91st year of encouraging emerging designers to tackle social, environmental and economic issues. Michael helped us to help pick four up-and-coming designers with vision, innovation and ambition.

Q. How was your day scouting at RSA Student Design Award finalists? 

There was a huge range of talent showcased at the RSA. All the design solutions had a socially responsible twist to them from community toilets in the developing world to sinks that help you consider the planet when using them, as well as a new way to date and do good at the same time. It’s great to see such amazing talent come up with ingenious ideas not only to become commercially viable but also have a social impact.  

It’s great to see such amazing talent come up with ingenious ideas not only to become commercially viable but also have a social impact

Q. What made you go wow?

The Good Morning mobile app from duo Lizzie Reid and Olivia Charlesworth of Kingston University was a simple idea but a great one. They managed to combine a real user need, great design and the potential for the product to scale (or be purchased by the mighty Facebook). This simple app allows users to send song choices to friends, which wakes them up in the morning instead of an alarm clock – something friends and couples would love.

Having a national award from the Design Council would have been great when I first graduated.

Q. What did you want to see more of? 

There was quite a variety of ideas from apps, to spaces, to new ways of working together and supporting a community. However, it would have been great to see more user-testing and minimum viable products to really see the ideas come to life. There were a few brilliant ideas but without being piloted it was hard to know if they would really work. A little more testing, failing and learning would go a long way to improving ideas and making them a success.

Q. How did it compare with your experience of exhibiting as an up-and-coming designer?

Having a national award from the Design Council would have been great when I first graduated. Highlighting the most ambitious and creative designers in the UK gives us all something tangible to aim for which leads to more innovative ideas. The level of presentation, imagination and creativity has risen greatly and it’s brilliant to see the level of entrepreneurship rise too.  

Q. Did you spot anything that was a game-changer?

Decorate Paints by Alec Machin, University of Nottingham, is a new paint container that reduces both paint and packaging waste. The paint is stored in a bag made from a metallized PET that maintains its temperature. It also has a one-way pouring valve preventing paint drying out, and the plastic lid, outer and valve can all be recycled. Terrific. If this idea goes into production it will not only reduce costs for consumers but the environmental cost too. This really stood out to me as I've been decorating recently and can see this is certainly a problem that needs solving. 

Q. What drew you to your four Ones to Watch?

Oliver Brunt, Northumbria University

4SANITATION: Managing Personal Dignity in Times of Need


Oliver Brunt's 4SANITATION

4SANITATION is a frugally designed hygiene pack for use in refugee camps. It consists of 4 ultracondensed, long life soap blocks which are infused with a harmless yet powerful substance called Titanium Dioxide, which destroys bacteria and odour whilst also leaving a shield of protection after use. 

The overall level of presentation was fantastic, combining a great idea with branding, product design and business know-how. The attention to detail for this product was great, even creating a name to match the idea 4SANITATION. The four simple blocks of soap promoted cleanliness and use with simple icons and colours, relying on great design for communication.

Lizzie Reid and Olivia Charlesworth, Kingston University

Good Morning


Lizzie Reid and Olivia Charlesworth's Good Morning app

Good Morning is an alarm clock app targeted at 18 to 25 year olds where users select songs for friends or strangers to wake them up. Its aim is to give loved ones a positive start to the day. I could see a real need for this. With friends in other countries or just other locations it would be great to send them a song to wake up to just to say "hi" and show you're thinking of them. The design was also beautifully simple, clean and colourful, taking on the principles of the app itself.

Lee Clarke, De Montfort University

The Community Rail


Lee Clarke's Community Rail

The Community Rail is a system for leasing bulky items, for example vacuum cleaners, which are installed in communal areas of limited space accommodation such as single room flats or student halls. The communal rail eliminates unnecessary ownership of bulky equipment, while providing a space for social interaction among residents. Living in a block of flats myself the need is clear. Space, particularly in cities, is at a premium so sharing bulky items like vacuum cleaners would be great. If we can share cars via similar schemes, then the same could apply for a block of flats or student halls.  


Alec Machin's Decorate Paints

Alec Machin, University of Nottingham 

Decorate Paints

Decorate Paints is a solution to reduce both paint and packaging waste. As I’ve said above, this could change everything for the paint industry. Not only does the packaging look great and stack well, it allows users to make the most of paint and avoid wastage. I hope a paint manufacturer picks this up and makes it happen as it would be great to see it in the shops soon!

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