The University of Newcastle, Australia

Industrial Design Students Repackage ‘Big Day’ Memories

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pitching an idea is a huge part of industrial design, but it's the kind of thing that can only be learnt through experience.

Ever the problem-solver himself, University of Newcastle Industrial Design lecturer Wyn Jones saw an opportunity to not only give his students a real-world problem to tackle, but also to help out professionals in the local business community.

Newcastle-based wedding photographer Justin Spaull (of Justin Aaron Photography) was invited to brief industrial design students on a business problem of his: how to make the delivery of his digital photographs more exciting. Currently, his young, newlywed clients are given a USB stick and a CD with premium quality images on them. The ID students were asked to make this exchange of goods more meaningful and tangible.

Since initially being briefed by Justin, the students spent 2 weeks researching the target demographic as well as different materials and packaging solutions, analysing budgets, and mocking their ideas up into working prototypes. On Friday they presented their designs.

Monty Sharma and Ben Hansen with Justin Spaull

Justin, Wyn and fellow industrial design lecturer, Dr Warren A. Reilly sat in a panel, Dragons' Den style, informing each group of students about to present, "You have the room".

The students presented confidently, thoughtfully, and came up with some really innovative solutions that the judges seemed genuinely impressed by. There were cement USB photo frames, laser-etched keepsake boxes, sleek and modernist photo stands, and delectable chocolate treats. Everything was designed with the user experience in mind – how would a couple of newlyweds feel receiving it in the mail?

Of particular note were Jarrah Wells and Simon Terry who, rather than focussing on packaging, created an entirely new product. The pair dramatically flipped the lights off at the beginning of their presentation, "for reasons which we will explain to you in a moment". In an effort to create an experience that was both digital and analogue, they invented a small, hand-held, portable projector - complete with a strip of printed negatives.

Justin seemed very taken with this design, pointing the projector at walls, desktops and notebooks around the room. "I love how it makes the photos kind of crappy and blurry. It creates instant nostalgia!"

Doing an assignment at university doesn't usually compare to completing a project for an actual client. The pressure might still be there, but there's no excitement at the prospect of making something tangible and useable. There's also a safety net when you're just vying for marks, not clients.

In a quick debrief afterwards, the students admitted that they'd found the experience a rewarding, collaborative challenge, it was "a little bit intense".

"You're talking about a real person; their money and their time" Warren explained to the students.

For both Warren and Wyn, it was a valuable exercise in preparing the students for their final year major projects, all of which are produced to be leading in the marketplace.

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