2011 News

Read past news stories from the School of Design Innovation's 2011 news archive.

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Designing using the element of surprise

12 December 2011

designing using the element of surprise
Left: This lamp, Aurea, was designed by Dr Rodriguez Ramirez with Studio Santachiara for client and manufacturer FontanaArte in Italy. The surprise is that there is no visible light bulb and instead there is a fluorescent bulb hidden inside the lamp which glows when switched on.
Right: These Y Water bottles were designed by Fuseproject in San Francisco, one of Dr Rodriguez Ramirez‘s interviewees. The bottles exemplify one of his theories about good design evoking surprise—‘the smart doubling of things’. To encourage children to enjoy a healthy drink the bottles are designed to look like bone joints, which are not only fun to hold, but can be joined together to build structures, similar to Lego.
designing using the element of surprise
This double screen camera was designed by a team of anthropologists, engineers and designers at Samsung Electronics, including Dr Rodriguez Ramirez. The team followed some of the strategies from his PhD research findings. A surprise second screen can emerge at the front of the camera when taking photos to assist with better photography. For instance, an animated sequence on the screen can attract a baby‘s interest, creating more engaging photos, or an animated countdown means people know when to smile in self-timed photos.
designing using the element of surprise
Dr Rodriguez Ramirez and his research assistants designed 25 different mousetraps to see what effect they had on users, but found they failed to induce positive associations in those who were uncomfortable with mousetraps from the outset.

One of the elements of successful design is the ability to surprise.

This was the finding of recent Victoria University PhD graduate Dr Edgar Rodriguez Ramirez who explored the concept of surprise to pinpoint common design strategies that work.

“Surprise gives a sense of novelty that we as humans are hard-wired to find interesting and often attractive,” he says.

One of the practical outcomes of his research is a set of 25 cards that each explain a strategy for generating surprise, with helpful hints including aspects to consider when designing and how designers can know when they‘re on the right track.

Dr Rodriguez Ramirez is currently in discussion with an educational publishing house about his cards, which are ideal for practicing designers and design students.

He developed his PhD theory by interviewing 35 industrial designers from around the world, as well as analysing the effectiveness of some of his own design projects. He also conducted participatory design research with Samsung Electronics in Seoul, South Korea and widely renowned design studio Santachiara in Milan, Italy, among others.

‘In my work, I look at how people use the objects I am designing and try to surprise them by breaking their expectations,” he says.

“This approach does have some exceptions, however. For instance, when I explored designing mousetraps and tested people‘s reactions to them I found that surprise was good for people who were comfortable with mousetraps to start with, but actually made it worse for those who had been uncomfortable at the outset.”

Also a Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Research Coordinator at Victoria University‘s School of Design, Dr Rodriguez Ramirez says he has already trialled his set of cards with his students, with considerable success.

In one of his classes he assigned his students the task of designing lamps. He says he was pleased with their resulting projects, which ranged from a lamp which grows as if waking up when turned on, to a blue electroluminescent wire used to create a path of light for a child to go to the bathroom and back to their bedroom at night, taking inspiration from the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ fairytale.

Dr Rodriguez Ramirez‘s PhD was supervised by Professor Simon Fraser and Dr Anne Galloway from Victoria University and Dr Kees Overbeeke as an Honorary Research Associate from the University of Technology Eindhoven, The Netherlands. He received a Victoria University PhD Scholarship.

The following images are examples of designs, created or encountered in Dr Edgar Rodriguez Ramirez‘s research, that elicit surprise.

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Bamboo tea set wins top prize

10 October 2011

bamboo tea set
Daniel van Polanen’s winning tea set, including tea, a container, a strainer and pegs all made from different parts of bamboo.
Synergy 341's Cradle chair.
rotary mechanic
Richard Clarkson's Rotary Mechnical smartphone.

Daniel van Polanen, a student at Victoria University's School of Design, won the overall prize in The Dowse’s Student Craft/Design Awards for his Bamboo Tea Set—a full tea and utensil set made entirely of bamboo.

The prestigious annual Student Craft/Design award is open to all students currently enrolled in a tertiary level arts, craft or design programme; as well as to students who graduated in the previous year. The overall prize consists of $3000 and a chance to have their work displayed at The Dowse Art Museum.

Additionally Synergy 341, a team of seven School of Design students—Grace Emmanuel, Brodie Campbell, Kahlivia Russell, Richard Clarkson, Eamon Moore, Jeremy Brooker and Joya Boerrigter—was one of the ten finalists in The Dowse’s Student Craft/Design Awards for their Cradle chair. Cradle is an INDN 341 design project to create a safe, comfortable and relaxing environment especially for children with rhythmic movement disorder (RMD). The student team designed this domed wood rocking chair considering such aspects as function, safety, sustainability and aesthetics. This comfy chair is not exclusively for RMD children and can also bring relaxation, comfort and calmness to anyone who desires tranquil equilibrium.

In addition to his group contribution to Synergy 341, School of Design student Richard Clarkson also was nominated as a finalist for his smartphone concept, Rotary Mechanical, which was developed with Ross Stevens and Tim Miller (VUW Industrial Design staff), with the aim of using donor electronics to create new objects.

The Rotary Mechanical smartphone is based on the idea of incorporating more feeling and life into our everyday digital objects. It is comprised of two interchangeable brass dials, a true rotary dial and a button dial. The body is electroplated copper which is then painted and designed to improve aesthetically over time with a natural patina. The design of the phone references both steampunk and minimalistic genres to combine and contrast the different forms and surface finishes.

In addition to being recognised by the Dowse Student Craft/Design awards committee, the Rotary Mechanical since has received great attention from the online community and has been featured on such design-focused blogs as Yanko, Dezeen, Core-77, Design Buzz, as well as being featured in a full page spread in New York Magazine "Departures" section.

The Dowse’s award presentation was held on the 4th October 2011. Visit The Dowse Art Museum at 45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt, to view the winners’ work.

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Multimedia performance to premiere in Christchurch

21 September 2011

multimedia performance
Photo: Carol Brown interacting with a light projection of her sleeping body. Photo by Anne Niemetz.

An innovative multimedia performance project premiering in Christchurch next month is being led by Anne Niemetz, Victoria School of Design‘s Senior Lecturer in Media, along with choreographer/dancer Carol Brown.

REVOLVE from dusk to dawn is an intimate work inspired by sleep science which unfolds through storytelling, sound, light, video and dance, following the path of the sleeper‘s mind and body through the night.

Aided by her sensor-equipped costume, designed by Niemetz, solo dancer Carol Brown guides the audience through this immersive experience, heightening, changing or shifting the nature of the performance through interaction with the evolving sound and light environment.

“The work sheds light on the ‘stuff‘ dreams are made of, the night-stories and bodily states that shape our sleeping hours,” says Niemetz.

“I designed wearable electronic sensor technology for the show, as well as an interactive sound environment. Sensing the body, its gestures and its environment through the measurement of light, rotation and acceleration, the ‘sensor suit‘ allows Carol to intuitively control and interact with the sound environment.”

As well as Anne Niemetz (New Zealand /Germany/USA), other collaborators include choreographer/performer Carol Brown (United Kingdom/New Zealand), sound artist Russell Scoones (UK/NZ), lighting designer Margie Medlin (Australia/United Kingdom) and sleep scientist Philippa Gander (New Zealand).

REVOLVE will be premiered at the Body Festival of Dance and Physical Theatre in Christchurch on 4 and 5 October in the GeoDome, Christchurch Events Village. Tickets are available from Dash Tickets. It will be followed by a post-show discussion with Professor Phillippa Gander, chronobiologist and director of the Sleep/Wake Centre Wellington.

REVOLVE has been made possible through the support of Victoria University, NICAI, University of Auckland; Massey Sleep/Wake Research Centre; and Creative New Zealand.

For more information about REVOLVE.

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Victoria graduate gives Rugby World Cup players something to remember

james arlidge
Photo: James Arlidge of Japan poses with his man-of-the-match award during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool match between France and Japan. Credit: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images.

12 September 2011

A Victoria University design school graduate is behind the little piece of New Zealand every man-of-the-match at a Rugby World Cup game will be taking home to remind them of their success.

A design from Dave Hakaraia, who recently completed his Master of Design at Victoria, has been selected to create trophies which will be presented to whoever is named man-of-the-match after each 2011 Rugby World Cup fixture.

Mr Hakaraia, who is of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Pāoa descent, worked with artist Rangi Kipa to create the trophies. The base is made from heart rimu and has an acrylic backrest inserted into it, featuring a mangopare or hammerhead shark design, and supporting a pounamu or greenstone adze.

"The brief was to come up with something uniquely New Zealand," says Mr Hakaraia.

His winning idea used Google maps to work out the topography of the area surrounding each rugby ground being used during the tournament and the base of the trophies is cut in the same shape.

"So, for example, the trophy presented after the opening game in Auckland has a base shaped like the area around Eden Park. The trophies are also inscribed with the coordinates of the latitude and longitude at each venue."

The pounamu can be lifted off and worn around the neck and each trophy also comes with a presentation box.

Mr Hakaraia says using indigenous materials means each player will take a little bit of New Zealand away with them and the form of the trophy is a reminder of exactly where they played the match. The mangopare design signifies the strength of the rugby players.

Both Mr Hakaraia and Rangi Kipa are members of Nga Aho, a national network of Maori design professionals, and it was through that collective that Mr Hakaraia heard about the search for a trophy design.

The trophies were made in workshops with some initial machining although Mr Hakaraia says most of the work was done by hand.

"When I started I thought we'd be able to use machines quite a bit but we ended up doing most of it by hand to get the best finish."

Mr Hakaraia attended the opening Rugby World Cup match between the All Blacks and Tonga and was on the pitch at the end of the game to present the first trophy, something he describes as a "huge honour".

Mr Hakaraia's idea for the trophies was a natural extension of his focus area in his studies at Victoria which was looking at contemporary ways to express Maori narratives.

The 34-year-old joined the navy after leaving high school and says he never expected to attend university. He was intimidated at first, but then discovered Te Rōpū Āwhina, Victoria's on-campus whanau for Maori and Pacific students.

"I wouldn't have completed my undergraduate degree without their support. I didn't really have the right background for attending university and I struggled at first but got on top of it with help from Āwhina."

Mr Hakaraia has been involved with Te Rōpū Āwhina for 11 years and acts as a mentor for other students, going out to schools and communities to encourage Maori and Pacific students to succeed in whatever they do.

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Mind control design

mind control design
Elucidating Feedback

5 September 2011

An interactive design installation that triggers patterns by connecting to a user's brain waves has recently returned from the 2011 Electronic Language International Festival (known as FILE) Festival in Brazil.

Victoria University graduate and tutor Ben Jack's exhibit "Elucidating Feedback", was listed as one of the highlights of the interactive installations at the festival by Wired.com.

To activate the installation, a person is seated in front of a large projection screen wearing a special brain-computer interface (BCI) headset which captures brain wave data. Audio as well as the patterns on screen adjust to reflect the user's current state of mind.

"The more attention that is paid to the installation, the more pattern, order and detail is reflected in the video and audio-and a lapse in attention makes the pattern break back into static," says Mr Jack.

Mr Jack says he was inspired by his experiences with meditation.

"The idea is that we create the finer details of our experience through the act of being attentive. The more we observe our environment, the more we discover, and the result of this active process is the creation of the rich details of our experience."

"My installation enables people to explore a set of infinitely complex and ever-changing landscapes by focusing their minds."

Ben Jack is an artist and designer who works mainly in the area of generative and interactive media. Having recently finished his undergraduate degree in Media Design at Victoria University, he is now working as a teaching fellow at Victoria for a first year Creative Coding course.

To view a video about "Elucidating Feedback" visit http://vimeo.com/16329472

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Hidden messages in artwork acknowledge Iraqi deaths

doug easterly
Doug Easterly

29 August 2011

An artwork protesting against the deaths of Iraqi civilian casualties, devised by a Victoria University academic and his US collaborator, is currently showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The work consists of a large stack of seemingly innocuous yellow notepads. However, the lines of each page, when magnified, reveal micro-printed text detailing personal information about all Iraqi civilian casualties since 2003.

Titled "Notepad", the work, on display in an exhibition called Talk to Me, is produced by SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmospheres and Mass Production), a collaboration between Douglas Easterly, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Media Design Programme at Victoria University and Matthew Kenyon from the University of Michigan.

The duo says their work is an act of protest and commemoration. "Our work looks like everyday yellow legal pads of paper, but in reality the lines on the notepads reveal many of the lives that have been lost, and largely ignored, since the US led invasion of 2003," says Mr Easterly.

"Each notepad contains approximately 10,000 full names, dates, and locations of each Iraqi civilian death on record over the first three years of the Iraq War, and when you realise that these details (collected from www.iraqbodycount.org) printed in micro-text can lend such volume to pages and stacks of paper, our display becomes quite a sobering sight."

SWAMP is now working on a new edition of notepads documenting the loss of life from the American incursion into Afghanistan, drawing on the disclosure of confidential information by WikiLeaks.


Douglas Easterly and Matthew Kenyon have been collaborating on various art projects under the moniker SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmospheres and Mass Production) since 1999. Their work focuses on critical themes addressing the effects of global corporate operations, mass media and communication, military-industrial complexes, and general meditations on the space between human and artificial life. SWAMP has been making work in this vein for the last 10 years using a wide range of media, including custom software, electronics, mechanical devices, and even living organisms.

Mr Easterly is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Media Design Programme at Victoria University and Mr Kenyon is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan's School of Art and Design.

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Victoria initiative supports growth in screen and digital industries

22 August 2011

john hine
Professor John Hine.

Victoria University has unveiled plans for a leading-edge study programme that will support innovation and growth in Wellington's internationally recognised entertainment and digital technologies industries.

From 2012, Victoria will offer a Computer Graphics programme that is unique in Australasia in the way it blends computer science and design. Other courses available at tertiary level focus on one or other of the two disciplines.

Victoria's Computer Graphics subject will be a course option for Master's level students in both the School of Design and the School of Engineering and Computer Science, with the computer science and design components weighted differently for the two degrees.

Professor John Hine (pictured), Dean of Victoria's School of Engineering, says the cross-disciplinary nature of the programme is one aspect of what makes it unique.

"The other is the involvement of local industry. We have worked very closely with leading companies in the digital industries sectors, particularly Weta Digital, Sidhe Interactive and Unlimited Realities, to develop a course that is relevant and will produce graduates with the skills the sector needs."

Professor Hine says the relationship with local industry will be continued through sponsored scholarships with Weta already having confirmed one PhD scholarship consultation, guest lectures and internship opportunities.

"Weta in particular has a lot of experts visiting its research and development facility in Wellington and we hope to get some of them along to teach our students."

The long term goal is to build in-depth capability at Victoria to support New Zealands digital industries. That will include specialist programmes at Master's level, supervision for PhD study and a research programme that can deliver new technologies and skills to industry.

"The initiative will lead to a range of new career opportunities in the region's internationally acknowledged digital creative sector, making Wellington and Victoria University a logical location to study this exciting specialisation."

As part of its support for growing New Zealands high tech creative sector, the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) has contributed $500,000 towards the cost of establishing the programme. Murray Bain, Chief Executive of the MSI, says the Ministry is keen to support and encourage industry engagement with universities.

"This initiative is a textbook example of the importance of business-research links for our economic future. It will add to the impressive strength of Wellington's digital media industry, providing more jobs for New Zealanders and export earnings."

Grow Wellington is also contributing to the programme. Sven Pannell, who manages the organisations screen and digital centre of excellence, says in addition to building the capability of individuals the industry, the research programme will create intellectual property that will help keep existing companies at the cutting edge and lead to the emergence of exciting new commercial opportunities.

Professor Hine says the launch of the Computer Graphics programme is an important milestone for Victoria.

"We are 100 per cent behind the current push to improve technology transfer between universities and industry. This programme is an excellent example of how the two can work together to develop study options that are both academically challenging and relevant."

Master's level papers in Computer Graphics will be offered at Victoria from next year although Professor Hine says it is likely to be 2013 before there is a full class of students who have completed the pre requisite courseswhich are 300 level papers in both Computer Science and Media Design.

He says the new subject will appeal to students with ability in mathematics, computer programming and design.

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Design work on show

'Auti' by design graduate Helen Andreae is designed to teach autistic children about appropriate social behaviour. The soft, mechanised creature responds positively to being talked to softly and stroked, but will shut down if hit or shouted at.
backyard resistance
In the very Kiwi game 'Backyard Resistance' designed by Andrew Miller, Ben Dudson, Damian Kaye, Sean Arnold, Stephen Holdaway and Vecheslav Novikov, a family must protect their barbeque from the neighbours. Resistance can include throwing jandals at the attackers.
tekila dress
'Tekila Dress' by Shiping Toohey was inspired by the geometric patterning of tequila under the microscope. Consisting of 122 super bright LED lights, the lights move as the wearer moves.
promiscuous teapot and grow your own table
(left) Inspired by the Victorian era and 21st century avant garde fashion, 'The Promiscuous Teapot' by Gina van Berlo and Lulin Ding responds electronically to movement, in particular the actions of flirting.
(right) 'Grow: Your Own Table' by Edgar Rodriguez-Ramirez and Rachel MacDonald enables the user to literally grow their own table. Users watch their table legs (made of bamboo) grow over time, cutting them to the desired length when ready.

20 June 2011

Exciting new work from students and staff at the School of Design was showcased at a design forum organised by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) last week.

UX11 was a User Experience forum which aimed to showcase and build capability across New Zealand's innovative digital content community.

"MSI is looking at ways organisations can work together to be more competitive internationally," says Edgar Rodriguez-Ramirez, who was the School of Design's main coordinator and curator for the exhibition, alongside Professor Simon Fraser and lecturer Kah Chan.

"Victoria was the only university to exhibit, which was an invaluable opportunity to highlight some of the work we are doing and make important connections."

The day featured a line-up of internationally renowned key note presenters including Tim Train (Studio General Manager, Zynga); Jeff Okun (Chair, Visual Effects Society USA) and Alex McDowell (Production Designer, Co-director 5D/Building Worlds), and included panel and participant discussions.

The work exhibited by Victoria University highlighted work produced in three papers-Advanced Game Design, taught by Kah Chan; Wearable Technology, taught by Anne Niemetz; and Industrial Design, taught by Tim Miller and Edgar Rodriguez-Ramirez. Some examples are below.

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Merino wool story brought to life

merino wool story board
A still image from one of the videos Samantha Carew worked on.

9 May 2011

Samantha Carew started seeing sheep everywhere over the Christmas break while working on Dr Anne Galloway's 'Counting Sheep' project as a Summer Scholar.

The third-year Design student was awarded the scholarship to produce two short videos called 'The Story of NZ Merino Wool'.

Drawing on historical and industrial perspectives, the first video tells the story of how New Zealand merino wool made the shift from commodity to brand, and the second one tells the story of the New Zealand 'ethical wool' brand.

"After a while everywhere I went I started noticing sheep images or people wearing merino!" laughs Ms Carew.

Pitched at a school-age audience, the videos are designed in a quirky, humorous style that is clear and easy to understand. Dr Galloway is working on distributing the videos as an educational resource and is also looking for video artists to remix or mash-up the content in order to re-tell the story from different perspectives and in different styles.

Ms Carew says working on the videos gave her an insight into working in the design world. "I'd never worked with a client before so it was interesting to work together to share ideas and find a middle ground. Anne was really keen to hear what I wanted to do."

"At the beginning I drew a sheep in various different styles and I put it to her to see what style she liked and that was the basis of the whole video."

The videos were storyboarded by Dr Galloway, but Ms Carew worked on much of the production process, including all the drawing and animation. She even ended up doing the voiceover for the video.

Ms Carew recently won 'Most Entertaining Poster' in the inaugural Summer Gold Poster Competition, open to students who held a Summer Research Scholarship during the period December 2010 to March 2011.

The 'Counting Sheep' project is funded by a Marsden Fast Grant. It aims to develop innovative multi-disciplinary methodologies for exploring the future of New Zealand merino wool production and consumption.

More information on the project and videos can be found at www.designculturelab.org

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Summer Gold Poster Competition winners

Examining the posters on display

A function was held last week to celebrate the winners of the Victoria's very first Summer Gold Poster Competition. The competition was open to students who held a Summer Research Scholarship during the period December 2010 to March 2011. The students were required to design a poster about their research, in collaboration with their supervisor.

"We were really pleased with the turnout and wide disciplinary spread of the winners, and look forward to building on this event in the future," says Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Charles Daugherty.

Prizes were awarded in the following categories: Best overall poster - $2000; best poster in each Faculty or academic grouping - $500; best visual presentation - $500; most entertaining poster - $500.

The winner of Best Overall Poster was Blaine Abraham from the School of Psychology for his poster entitled MDMA Sensitizes the 5-HT1A Receptor in Experimentally Administered Rats. His supervisor was Professor Susan Schenk.

Other winners were:

  • Group 1 Best Poster: Terry Miller, School of Information Management (Supervisor: Professor Tiong Goh)
  • Group 2 Best Poster: Vincent Olson-Reeder, School of Linguistics & Applied Languages (Supervisors: Professor Janet Holmes, Dr Meredith Marra and Bernadette Vine)
  • Group 3 Best Poster: Tessa Prior, Faculty of Education (Supervisors: Dr Judith Loveridge and Kayte Edwards)
  • Group 4 Best Poster: Henry Williams, School of Engineering & Computer Systems (Supervisor: Dr Will Browne)
  • Group 5 Best Poster: Blaine Abraham, School of Psychology
  • Group 6 Best Poster: Kirsty Herbert, School of Geography, Environment & Earth Sciences (Supervisors: Professor Colin Wilson (Victoria), Dr Richard Wysoczanski (NIWA) and Dr Helen Neil (NIWA))
  • Poster with Best Visual Presentation: Perrine Gilkison, Wai-te-ata press (Supervisor: Dr Sydney Shep)
  • Most Entertaining Poster: Samantha Carew, School of Design (Supervisor: Dr Anne Galloway)
  • Poster with Most Impact: Kane O'Donnell, School of Mathematics, Statistics & Operations Research (Supervisor: Professor Matt Visser)

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Design students envision Wellington in the future

design students envision wellington in the future
Photo (courtesy of Matt Paterson): Ross Stevens, Senior Lecturer and Course coordinator for Design Led Futures shows Mayor Celia Wade-Brown the School of Design's Start of Year exhibition, as Michael Okkerse, Principal Advisor City Strategy at Wellington City Council looks on.

29 March 2011

What will Wellington be like in the year 2040?

Victoria's School of Design has launched a project called 'Design Led Futures - City 2040', which involves 50 final year industrial Design and Digital Media Design students working collaboratively to come up with design propositions for Wellington's future, focussing specifically on digital culture.

Last week Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown launched the project, which is being sponsored by the Wellington City Council as part of its 'Wellington 2040' project. She said that cities need to consider future generations and are responding by developing city-wide strategies that go beyond traditional city planning.

"We need to adopt a holistic view of the future and of city growth and development, and recognise that things are connected-for example, transport strategies can no longer be developed in isolation from an understanding of a city's environmental goals."

'Wellington 2040' will set out a long-term vision and strategic directions for Wellington that will shape the development of the city over the next 30 years. It will provide for a continuing conversation between the Council and all Wellingtonians, residents, businesses and the Government about that vision and how it can be achieved.

Mayor Wade-Brown commented that it was an excellent fit to have students contributing to the project.

"Design Led Futures is aimed at uncovering futures that are positive and desirable. Its intention is to develop innovative and unexpected outcomes that people both need and use but which they also value and enjoy. It is not so much about designing things that will be made, more about creating a broader public debate about what could and should be."

The students' work will be presented to the Council and interested members of the public on 20 June. The student work will then be added to the online designledfutures.com archive. This archive currently holds work from over 200 students undertaken for national and international companies since 2004.