After receiving some good response with the Max interview, we’re back with another:
So, Alex, tell us a bit about yourself
I am an industrial designer based in Cambridge, UK. I have been a designing stuff since I graduated in 1994. I am currently the managing director of Cambridge Industrial Design Ltd. I have worked on lots of interesting projects from loudspeakers and Hi-Fi to lab robots and a motion capture suit. Living and working in Cambridge means you are close to a lot of exciting new technology and ideas.
How did you first get into industrial design?
I did a 4 year BSc (hons) Engineering Product Design course at South Bank university in London. The one year placement in Sydney, Australia with a small manufacturing company was the main highlight for me – and not just for the beaches! Getting the placement was just luck – I happen to be looking in the right place at the right time. Abberfield Technology is a small company designing and manufacturing ticketing machines and I was the design department with the MD and Production manager guiding me. It was a really great education – learning about technical drawing for the real world, dealing with suppliers and working in a team were all elements that are actually essential for a industrial designer. Looking at today’s students I feel getting some experience of manufacturing to be even more vital. There are a lot more design graduates out there now…
Could you describe your approach and philosophy to design?
Get a good design brief – try to get as much information as possible and listen to the client (something you don’t get in college)
I design from the inside out most of the time. Improving a product or coming up with a new product – you have to do that from the inside in my view. What is the target price and volumes? Therefore what manufacturing processes are available to me? What value should the product convey? The list goes on but they all affect the design from the start. We try to give clients concepts that have a wow factor but also designs that will work.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
The hardest part is also the most satisfying – go over the design detail again. And again. And again. Refining the detail can be very hard and time consuming but when you get a mechanical prototype that works – it’s a great feeling.
What’s the part that you love the most?
Seeing people use a product I’ve designed. A few weeks back I saw a busker in Cambridge use a Fender Passport. Last week an engineer at a networking event said how much he liked the Sureflap cat flap. Makes all that detail work worthwhile!
If you had any advice for young designers, what would it be?
Get some experience with a company that actually makes stuff. In my view you can’t be a good consultant with out that experience.
Don’t just focus on sketching – get up to speed with materials, tech, manufacturing process
If you have just graduated and love industrial design – stick at it.
If you could instantly change anything about our society, what would you change?
UK engineering to be prized and respected – engineering is undervalued by many in the UK and yet can solve big problems with such elegance – most of the time : )
Describe your favourite colour using only nouns.
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