We were excited to be invited back to take part in one of the most important design events in the UK – New Designers. Our panel this year chaired by Sarah Dawood, Deputy Editor of Design Week, led a discussion on the importance of design skills, design education and the future of design.

The UK is responding to the fourth industrial revolution within which the world as we know it is rapidly changing. As technology advances and jobs become automated, many skills important today will be less so in the future. In response, the demand for skills that cannot be automated will grow such as; creativity, social perceptiveness and visualisation.

As shown by our 2017 research, design skills provide the workforce of the future with the tools to respond to unprecedented challenges by placing people at the heart of solutions.

Our Design Academy programme teaches the students of today to become the change makers of tomorrow. Building their skills and capabilities while working in multi-disciplinary teams to tackle one of society’s biggest challenges – redesigning the experience of ageing.

While walking around the exhibition, it was great to see student designers creating new products, services and systems that seek to make life better by design. Here, Sarah Weir, Design Council CEO, celebrates her top five ‘ones to watch’.

1. HeX Earbuds

Designer: Elen Parry, Manchester School of Art

Elen Parry

HeX Earbuds are an audio headphone designed to protect and prevent hearing loss for those who require hearing aids. The geometric design aims to remove the stigma around traditional medical hearing devices and the cutting-edge technology can be used by everyone, not just those with hearing loss.

“The motivation behind HeX Earbuds came from my 20-year-old cousin who recently began wearing an over-the-ear hearing aid. She found existing devices unattractive and impractical as they made it difficult to listen to music with earphones and were uncomfortable to wear with her glasses. I wanted to design a beautiful product which removed the stigma around hearing impairments that could be used by all and not just people with disabilities.”

Sarah says:

“Elen is one of our Design Academy Alumni, whose product is an excellent example of inclusive design, with multiple uses for a range of different people. HeX combines the best of design, being people centred, utilising the latest technologies and materials, whilst also looking great.”

2. Anticuus Toaster

Designer: Ralph Deloso, University of Teesside

Ralph Deloso

Anticuus Toaster is a classic yet time-honoured product combining the ‘60s retro’ aesthetic with modern materials and technology. Designed to reduce consumerism, Anticuus Toaster comes in a range of interchangeable panels to suit any individual style, making it a life-long product to accompany kitchen trends. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the toaster comes with an LED count-down timer making the user fully aware of how long you are setting it for and how long is remaining.

“I am starting a job with ESSE in a week which I am really excited about. I think working within an organisation, combined with the experience of working with different disciplines on Design Academy, has changed my mindset on how to work with others more.”

Sarah says:

“Ralph is one of our Design Academy Alumni whose product combines the best part of the past with current technologies. Utilising techniques learned through Design Academy to further understand how users interact with everyday products, Ralph has designed a toaster which could well be a future classic. The interchangeable panels are a great idea to shift our thinking in a throwaway society. I’m also thrilled that Ralph has a job with one of the many businesses we have supported in the past.”

3. EPI Aid

Designer: Luke Underhill, University of Huddersfield

Luke Underhill

Epi-Aid is an easy-to-use seizure medication kit designed to safely administer medication to people who suffer from epileptic seizures. Inspired by personal stories, Epi-Aid has been developed with leading health care professionals, incorporates a mouth guard allowing for teeth protection and is 90% more sustainable than disposable syringes.

“My research shows that people with epilepsy are at higher risk of breaking or cracking teeth which can end up costing thousands in dental fees. I designed my product to protect teeth leaving the patient with one less thing to worry about.”

Sarah says:

 “This product really shows the value design has in making life better. Responding to the needs of the people who will use it, thoughtfully developed with professionals and imaginatively put together in a way that will have a big impact in the market.”

4. Fink

Designer: Amber Jacklin, University of Lincoln

Amber Jacklin

Fink is a colour picking stylus and graphics tablet designed specifically for children to maintain the physical techniques of traditional art within an ever-increasing technology-led world. Young designer’s will develop their cognitive hand movements and creativity alongside technology. Fink is the bridge between classic design skills and the future digital era.

“Future jobs are going to require a lot of people to get used to and accustomed to technology, this is a really creative way to introduce them to it.”

Sarah says:

 “This product cleverly integrated design and technology, Fink enables a digital generation to use their creative imagination.”


Designer: Jake Thompson, University of Sussex

Jack Thompson

Flare is a smart bike light and intergrated app that allows riders to collect data on the quality of our road surfaces and infrastructure. Flare is aimed at regular cyclists who want to make a difference to the roads we ride on. Collected data will be displayed on a map and will be available to local councils as well as the public.

“I designed my product to help councils focus their resources to create more inclusive cycling infrastructure to get as many people as possible on bikes.”

Sarah says:

“This is a wonderfully simple, but ingenious idea which has the potential to be a real game changer in making it easier to cycle. It also makes you wonder why no one has developed this product before. I look forward to seeing Jack’s bright future with Flare.”

Design Academy, designed by us and run by our design industry experts, delivers education and skills to develop today’s students into the design leaders and change-makers of tomorrow.

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