Graduates 2015


7 August 2015

Trebling of university tuition fees, coupled with government-sanctioned cuts, have left the UK's creative industries apprehensive about their futures. Yet the crop of students graduating from undergraduate and postgraduate courses across the UK in 2015 paints a more promising picture.

Below, Disegno presents a selection of some of the standout projects from this summer’s graduate shows. It is by no means a definitive list, but provides an insight into graduating students’ varied work, demonstrating the projects emerging from the UK’s art and design schools.

Our selection features a number of environmentally and socially conscious projects. Jaime Tai, a postgraduate from Central Saint Martins (CSM), has designed a range of cosmetics and clothing that uses naturally produced sugars to prevent dehydration, while a prosthetic leg designed for children in the developing world has been created by Bournemouth University graduate George Green. Edinburgh College of Art graduate Dimitri Hadjichristou’s multi-sensory device explores how children with hearing impairments are able to experience music.

New making processes also recur in the selection. Studio Ilio, two Royal College of Art (RCA) graduates, presents an innovative way of creating solid forms using wire and an electrical current, while Ming Kong, also an RCA graduate, has created a tactile tool for manipulating CAD files.

This year marks the first graduates to emerge from CSM's Material Futures MA and the RCA’s MA in Global Innovation Design. The standard, particularly in Material Futures, was high, with three projects from the course included in our selection.

Disegno commissioned photographer Alexander Christie, a 2015 photography postgraduate from the RCA and a recipient of the Burberry Design Scholarship, to photograph the graduate projects at a studio housed in the RCA’s Battersea campus.

Jaime Tai: Trehalose Artefacts
Central Saint Martins: MA Material Futures

A report published by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in 2010 predicted that by 2030 much of the world’s populous areas are likely to be affected by drought. Trehalose Artefacts is a response to this threat. Designed by CSM graduate Jaime Tai, the project explores how trehalose, a naturally-produced sugar that protects cells from dehydration by trapping moisture, could allow humans to survive on less water by reducing the 25 per cent of water loss that is typically transmitted through the skin.

The project comprises two strands: a skincare range containing varying concentrations of trehalose, and micro-encapsulated clothing (a top and a pair of tights) within which trehalose is embedded and administered directly to the skin. Whereas many initiatives that respond to problems induced by climate change focus upon adapting the environment and how humans interact with it, Tai’s project proposes how humans might adapt themselves.

Gemma Roper: Safe + Sound
Royal College of Art: MA Design Products

Safe + Sound modular headphones have been designed to eliminate the safety implications of cycling while listening to music. Rather than covering the ear like conventional headphones, a 3D-printed, plastic module clips onto the straps of a bicycle helmet and rests against the cyclists’ cheekbones. Using bone conduction technology to transmit sound, music is passed through the cheekbone to the cochlea, bypassing the eardrum to allow a user to listen to music without compromising hearing other traffic on the road. The modules can slot into over-ear pads that transform the device into conventional headphones for use when not cycling.

The headphones have been designed with other safety aspects in mind: the modules can only be attached to a helmet, meaning that the cyclist must be wearing one to use them. In order for the device to work, the helmet straps must be tightly fitted to the user's head.

Roisin Johns: Re-engineering Desire
Central Saint Martins: MA Material Futures

In her project Re-engineering Desire, Roisin Johns challenges perceptions of discarded scrap materials as lacking in value, instead re-engineering them into desirable objects. Johns’s ten-piece jewellery collection is crafted from discarded materials such as leather, foam, metal, eggshell and paper, which have been recovered from landfills, skips and factory floors. The collection features a bracelet crafted from pieces of shattered eggshell and a leather cuff. A series of tactile necklaces are formed using foam offcuts that have been coloured and hardened using redundant emulsion dregs and scrap metal tubing that has been sanded and polished.

Mark Buckley: Future of the Everyday
Plymouth University: 3D Product Design

Future of the Everyday is a concept project that explores how both businesses and societies will be forced to act differently in a resource-constrained world. Symbolised by the toothbrush – a disposable object that is used daily by billions – the project proposes potential models for making, selling, using and disposing of short-lived consumer goods in the future. During his research visiting landfills, recycling centres, and talking to industry experts, Buckley identified seven alternate strategies, designing a toothbrush to represent each: the Participator, the Innovator, the Re-user, the Conservator, the Optimiser, the Partner and Conformer.

The Innovator explores how material or product innovation can increase a product’s lifespan. The approach is symbolised by a toothbrush based on a concept akin to a mechanical pencil. When the bristles wear, instead of throwing away the whole brush, the user can turn a screw at the end of the brush to lengthen them, before trimming off the worn tips. Comparatively, the Conservator strategy proposes that businesses should opt to make short-lived goods from natural, biodegradable materials that can either be reused, recycled, or biodegraded. The accompanying toothbrush is formed from starch-based polymers and features grooves that allows the brush to be easily snapped into pieces that can be pushed directly into the soil to decompose.

Studio Ilio (Fabio Hendry and Seongil Choi): Hot Wire Extensions
Royal College of Art: MA Design Products

Challenged to make a stool, Studio Ilio developed a new making process that transforms flexible, wire line structures into solid, robust bodies. Nichrome wire structures bent into stool forms are placed in a container filled with a mixture of waste nylon powder (produced by SLS 3D printing machines) and cristobalite sand. An electric current is transmitted through the 1mm thick wire, causing it to heat to approximately 500°C. Such intense heat melts the surrounding nylon and sand mixture, which then bonds into a solid structure.

Hot Wire Extensions comprises 12 stools of varying designs. Following many stages of development and refinement, Studio Ilio was able to control the thickness of the bond; 20 minutes of heating at 500°C creates a 3cm diameter, whereas an hour at the same temperature expands this to 8cm.

Whilst Hot Wire Extensions presents a new method of making, the project is noteworthy for its recycling of otherwise redundant waste materials. Studio Ilio found that 44 per cent of all nylon powder used within the SLS 3D printing process becomes waste. From one London-based company alone, Studio Ilio collected more than 1,000kg of waste nylon powder, which had been generated in the course of three months.

Rebecca Louise Cooper: Systemised Obsolescence
Central Saint Martins: MA Material Futures

Rebecca Louise Cooper’s collection of biodegradable garments seeks to address the environmental effects of fast fashion – the rapid consumption of inexpensive garments fuelled by the desire to follow ever-changing trends. The ephemeral nature of fast fashion encourages a culture of consumption that leads to an abundance of garments becoming obsolete in a short period of time. Cooper’s project offers a potential solution.

The collection comprises three two-piece outfits including a ruffled skirt and cropped trousers made from biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester (PLA) – a material derived from corn starch, tapioca (a starch extracted from cassava root) and sugarcane fibre. The biodegradable materials have been embellished using natural dyes such as turmeric, madder, woad and logwood to create brightly-coloured geometric patterns. Crucially, the garments can by composted alongside household food and garden waste, returning nutrients to the soil within 90 days.

Louie Rigano: Flat
Royal Collage of Art: MA Design Products

“How can a product’s inherent flatness be exploited to add function and value to an otherwise hollow experience?” This question formed the basis of RCA graduate Louie Rigano’s project Flat, a collection of five objects designed for the home. The volume of products produced by Rigano for the series is extensive, Flat comprises a table, a series of tactile rugs woven from sponge cord, a curtain that simulates shadows of foliage, a line of ceramic tableware, and a colourful scroll light that explores how the digitalisation of colour can manifest in a physical form.

While the light, the table, the rug and the curtain all explore more conventional ideas of flatness, Rigano’s series of tableware, Template Tableware, is more three-dimensional. The tableware explores flatness through its making process and is formed from a flat, industrially-produced sheet of porcelain. The ceramic sheet is digitally laser cut into nine identical tabs that are then assembled by hand to create a three-dimensional form.

George Green: Stance
Bournemouth University: Product Design

According to the estimates of the World Health Organisation, only one in twenty amputees in the developing world has access to prosthetics. It is this statistic that inspired Bournemouth University graduate George Green’s project Stance. An adjustable prosthetic leg designed for seven to twelve year-old amputees, Stance offers a robust and cost-efficient solution to the expense of current models. Whilst prosthetic legs distributed by charity organisations can cost between £75 and £100 per unit, Stance’s total build cost amounts to £15. Frugality is achieved through Green’s use of basic yet hard-wearing materials such as PVC plumbing pipe for the leg’s pylon and modified car tyre for its foot.

The prosthetic leg comprises eight components, including a two-part pylon that allows users to adjust the leg as they grow, giving the product greater longevity than current single pylon models. The project has been designed with pragmatic expectations of its maintenance in mind. With access to health services often limited in the developing world, Stance is accompanied by a manual showing users how to modify and maintain the prosthetic themselves.

Ming Kong: Interface Singularity
Royal College of Art: MA Innovation Design Engineering

Interface Singularity, a project designed by RCA graduate Ming Kong, challenges the homogenous nature of two-dimensional interfaces used to navigate CAD software. Created using a malleable, elastic material, Kong’s series of three-dimensional tools are mounted on two connected desktop panels and let users manipulate digital designs by means of touch.

The device is formed from a conductive, silicon-like material that has been developed by Kong. Rather than being embedded with multiple sensors and wires, the device acts as a single, sensory material that responds to both where and how the user is touching the device.

Dimitri Hadjichristou: Vi
Edinburgh College of Art: Product Design

Vi, a project designed by Edinburgh College of Art graduate Dimitri Hadjichristou, rejects the common misconception that people with hearing impairments are unable to experience music. The interactive device, which comprises a glass dome filled with small metal balls mounted on a cylindrical, wooden structure, allows deaf children to experience music through touch and sight rather than sound.

Vi is an interactive device that has been designed to encourage play. By connecting magnetic, lego-like structures together, the child is able to create custom sound waves within the glass dome that cause it to vibrate and the balls to move. The child is encouraged to feel the vibrations of the music by placing their hands on the sides of the device.

Adam Blencowe and Yu-Lin Chen: Thaw
Royal College of Art: MA Design Products

Thaw, a series of three archetypal stools designed by RCA graduates Adam Blencowe and Yu-Lin Chen, investigates how the short-lived process of ice thawing can be documented to form permanent structures. The process begins with the submergence of an ice stool in dehydrated plaster, where it is left to gradually melt over a period of eight hours. During this time, the melted ice is drawn into the plaster which rehydrates, causing it to harden and form a hollow shell. The resulting stool reveals the transition from solid form to melted ice.

Due to the unpredictable nature of thawing ice, each stool differs from the last in spite of the repetition of the making process. Chen and Blencowe however devised a method to manipulate the appearance of the stools by using different compositions of plaster. While one stool features a perfectly rounded, bubble-like surface, another is more rugged in its crater-like appearance.

Allison Rowe: Simi
Royal College of Art/Imperial College London: Global Innovation Design

Simi is a personalised health management system for women. The system is based on a saliva monitoring device that is used to analyse hormones. Data collected from this device is digitally compared to a database of medical knowledge to provide personalised medical and lifestyle predictions to its users though an app. The system has been designed to address the breadth and continuously evolving nature of women’s health concerns, such as nutrition, fertility and ovulation, and productivity levels. Through its calendar interface, the app provides information on how hormones are likely to affect a woman’s day-to-day life, as well as correlations with longer-term health issues.