Solving challenges with design
Design can solve problems and help the world move forward, according to this year’s product design graduate exhibition.
The large area at the Pilestredet 52 campus provides good lighting and a great setting for the bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates’ graduation exhibition.
We look around and quickly ascertain that the students have chosen to address current and relevant issues.
Martin Lødemel is one of the bachelor’s degree students exhibiting their work.
He has worked on littering and stray waste and has collaborated with DNT Youth (DNT Ung) on raising awareness about the problem. They wanted a product that would lower the threshold for picking up litter.
Martin has developed a practical glove that is easy to bring along and is used to pick up rubbish without getting your hands dirty.
He has various prototypes displayed at the exhibition, which he made in the workshops at the Kjeller campus.
‘We have very good workshops that we can use to produce whatever we want,’ Martin explains.
Here, he has used a laser cutter to cut out all of the patterns from a digital file and then sewed them together using a sewing machine.
He has conducted user tests along the way to develop the product based on the user’s wishes.
Martin has been on several hikes to pick up rubbish with the DNT Ung, which is also shown at the exhibition. Several members of the club tried out the prototypes on the hikes. The news was fronted in social media and has attracted much interest.
Martin wants to further develop the product together with the Children's Trekking Club.
‘In addition to being functional, it can also be a symbol of caring about the matter,’ Martin believes.
'The Children's Trekking Club and Protect Our Winters Norway have drawn up an environment code, and one of the rules is to be prepared for unexpected rubbish. This can be the symbol representing that rule – that you’re ready to pick up rubbish that you come across.'
Martin has always liked making things, and making things that people find useful. He chose product design for this reason and is very satisfied with the education he has taken, which has given him a good opportunity to express himself and show initiative.
Sustainable food packaging
Kasper Jakobsen, Lea Jayaseela and Pia Eilin Barth have developed the food packaging project Plast < Papp (Plastic < Cardboard).
The students are working on developing suitable packaging for Kiwi’s ‘Dinner for one’ series and are in contact with Unil, which is responsible for the import, development, purchase and marketing of products in the NorgesGruppen group.
They want to challenge the use of plastic in food packaging and want more sustainable options.
They have attempted to understand the complexity of the industry and have visited all parts of the value chain, from when the food is produced until the packaging ends up at a waste plant. Working with external parties has been very interesting.
Rather than plastic, the students have used a bowl made of recycled cardboard for meat dishes, thereby reducing the use of plastic packaging. There are not enough good alternatives to ditch the plastic entirely, however.
‘What we do is to limit the use of plastic as far as possible,’ explains Kasper.
The shape of the bowl is based on user feedback and it should feel good to hold. They wanted it to be as round as possible, but the industry would rather it were quadratic to make it easier to fill.
The students would like to maintain the contact with Unil on the product’s further development.
Better helmets for rehabilitation
Elin Maria Gresaker and Sondre Angard Siljehaug have developed ‘Hector’, a protective helmet for patients who have undergone a hemicraniectomy, a procedure used in cases of severe brain swelling, at Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital.
The patients undergo an operation where sections of the cranium are removed to reduce pressure.
They may need to wear a helmet for many months, which can also be an obstacle to rehabilitation. The students therefore wanted to improve the helmet and thereby also the rehabilitation process.
The students have used empathy exercises and material research, as well as conducting much research into how the head can be protected, what is important at this stage, and the patient’s life situation.
Both students want to work on universal design and health-related design. They have seen that many aids cause a lot of shame for patients, and want to use design to remedy this.
Elin shows us the helmet together with Anne Karine Dihle of the innovation unit at Sunnaas Hospital.
‘In our view, this is a very useful product that the patients need,’ Dihle states.
‘One of our doctors had an idea that won our innovation award. We didn’t have anyone to take it further, but we then got in touch with Elin and Sondre, who managed to make a product. We would like to continue working with them to develop a commercial product.’
It is also possible that, with a few modifications, the helmet can be used by others, maybe kindergarten children or patients with epilepsy.
‘The helmet has a good fit and is a bit thinner than other helmets, so it allows you to put a hat on top of it,’ Elin explains.
'The one currently in use doesn’t fit as well, looks completely different and can have a stigmatising effect. We have worked on making it thinner, better and more functional and attractive to wear. The response to the product has been very good,’ says Elin.
‘We’ve had access to staff, patients and feedback and we’ve been able to ask questions and receive lots of good help.’
Now, Sondre is going on to take a master’s degree and Elin has got a job with the furniture chain Bohus.
‘But we also hope to be able to work more on this and take it a step further. There’s still a long road ahead, but the start has been fantastic,’ says Elin, who is very happy with the product design programme.
‘We have the best workshops in the world, great teachers and a great student environment.’
The course leader for the bachelor students, Associate Professor Wenche Lyche, says the best thing about this year’s projects is that the students’ work has been at such a high level that the average grade has been raised from C to B.
‘That means that the quality of the work is better, the materials are better and that they have explored the materials in a better way. The class as a whole has showed great variation in solving the bachelor’s assignment, based on both the material and the form they have chosen.’
‘This year, we have also had many students working with industries and businesses. There are also more health-related design products, which is very interesting since they represent future design areas for our designers.
‘Many students have gone straight on to find work, often in the most sought-after design bureaus, and have landed internships. Some have even been head-hunted before they were finished.'
‘I think product design at OsloMet has become more clear as to what we stand for and what we deliver, and I think the market is picking up on that.'
More students have worked in groups this year.
‘I think that's very positive because working life is all about working together. But it's also a very ambitious class. I think they’re aware of the labour market and what they want, and it becomes clearer throughout the bachelor’s programme who they are as designers.’
However, it’s still tough out there and it can be a difficult career to pursue.
‘I think the need for better products of higher quality is what we now have in store. This could be more customised products, higher quality, better forms and better stories and more fun surrounding the products. I believe that these are our strengths as well.’
‘We drill the students in who they are, what they're good at, and where they want to be at when they have finished the work. We have become more focused on the commercial aspects. We emphasise more clearly that if you want to work with commercial products, this is what counts and you have to understand the mechanisms at play.’
Materials and objects can influence the way we experience food
The master’s degree students in product design also have their work on display, and we strike up a conversation with James Duncan Lowley.
His master’s project is a study of how different materials and objects influence our experience and the enjoyment of food.
James is making an open-ended set of five eating/kitchen utensils made of birch wood, called Lento, and he is exhibiting the prototypes of these products. They are designed to more difficult to use than traditional knife, fork and spoon, in order to challenge the user to eat more slowly and be more engaged in the meal.
He explains why this is important in the catalogue presenting his work. Eating too quickly can be linked to overeating and problems related to weight gain, health and food wasting.
‘I think that working directly and hands-on with materials is important when designing a physical object, so I’ve perhaps made close to 200 prototypes throughout the project. Many of them have been tested in groups in order to get feedback, which gave us lots of information that I tried to incorporate later. I also used different theories and approaches and collaborated with a chef.'
‘Eating is an interesting topic because it engages all the senses. The food design projects contribute to a much-needed discussion about our food system and are thereby related to sustainability and the great challenges we face.'
‘Everyday eating are also necessary and pleasurable, so new design approaches can help us to encourage new habits and establish a healthier relationship to food,’ he believes
OsloMet’s design method more used
Head of Department Gunnar H Gundersen states in the exhibition catalogue that he believes the design method used in product design at OsloMet will be used in even more contexts.
‘With an increasing focus on user orientation, designers, and therefore also design programmes, will be important in the years ahead. I strongly believe that both those involved in product design and other design programmes will develop and take even greater social responsibility.'