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An Interview with a Product Design Student; Matthew Thompson

Updated on October 25, 2017

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Learning how other creative people go about their work and overcome issues such as the dreaded artistic block can be extremely useful and inspirational. In this hub is an interview with Matthew Thompson, a Product Design student at the University of Derby who has just completed an industrial placement year with the design company, 'Diversey'.

Luxury Speaker Concept
Luxury Speaker Concept

What first drew you to Product Design as a subject?

It took me a long time to realise what I wanted to do with my life. As a child I was always trying to build and create things. I think my love of design came from doing this as a child. I realised that I could do this as a career. Admittedly, the job of a designer isn’t as fun as building things out of Lego, but at times it’s just as enjoyable.

What products do you design?

Throughout my time as a designer I have had to opportunity to design many different products. I have yet to find a speciality, my most specialised area at the moment is dispensing and dosing equipment due to my placement at Diversey. It’s an interesting area as it requires a large amount of creativity to solve most problems.

What inspires your work?

Inspiration is difficult to come by as it can come in many different forms. I find inspiration within art, science, music and anything in between. I believe that all creative mediums have the potential to inspire.

Do you ever get a creative block and if so, how do you get past it?

I have found no solution to the dreaded creative block. Occasionally I can spend hours staring at a blank piece of paper waiting for ideas to pop into my head. My only advice is to take a break and clear your head, it’s amazing how much this can help sometimes.

Portable chemical dispensing concept sketches
Portable chemical dispensing concept sketches

Do you intend to go into a design-related job after your degree?

Yes. It’s the only thing I can imagine myself doing. I still haven’t decided what area of product design I want to go into, but I’m hoping I will know by the time I finish University.

What jobs are available to a product design graduate?

Admittedly, jobs in the field of pure product design are hard to come by. One silver lining for product designers is the variety of subjects you study. During my time at university I have studied everything from engineering science to graphical art. If your skill set is versatile enough to study those vastly different subjects then finding a job should not be too difficult if you look hard enough.

What advice would you give to anyone starting a design course at university?

Take criticism on board and use it to better your work. It’s easy to get disheartened by comments from your peers and lecturers, but remember, design is a subjective practice and often there is no right or wrong. It’s also important to improve your skills and challenge yourself regularly, I tried to learn something new for each piece of work I completed, whether this was learning how to use a new piece of software or trying a different technique of sketching, it all builds up to a wider skill set.

You did a placement year at university, have you found it useful for furthering your study?

My experience at this placement has been extremely valuable. I’ve learnt more working for Diversey than I have in my whole University experience so far. University is great at preparing you for real work, but it can only take you so far as it is no substitute for real industry experience. I would really recommend taking a placement year to anyone as it teaches you so many valuable skills and is something relevant to add to your CV.

What did your placement entail?

My job required many things of me. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific area as the job is so varied but below is a list of things I 'd been asked to do:

· Create hand drawn concept renderings for presentations

· Create vast amounts of sketches for idea generation

· Build 3d models of my designs using CAD software

· 3d print and test many of my designs

Chronos Watch Concept
Chronos Watch Concept

How do you go about turning your initial idea into a finished prototype or design?

The process generally starts with sketching. Sketching any and every idea that seems feasible, it’s a great way to record your ideas. It’s a common misconception that all of a product designers sketches should be beautiful and artistic, this is completely unnecessary unless you are trying to impress a lecturer. As long as a sketch portrays the idea quickly and accurately it’s all that matters at this stage.

The next step I take is to try to create a 3D model of my idea as this will help you better understand the dimensions and form of the design. Depending on the type of product it is often useful to create a prototype, this can be done in many ways. My personal preference is to 3D print a prototype as it can be printed directly off a 3D model which I’ve already created on a computer. The process is quick and accurate to fractions of a millimetre.

The design is finished when the 3D model is finished. All further work that goes into the production of a product is based around the 3D files so it’s important that these are correct as mistakes in the files can cost thousands of pounds.

Geo Earphones concept
Geo Earphones concept

How do you promote yourself and your work?

I have a website that I use as a portfolio for my work. is in its infancy at the moment but I plan to expand upon it greatly before the end of my University experience.

Do you have any future plans for furthering your self-promotion?

No plans at the moment. I may push my website in the future when it is better developed.

Which design is your favourite?

Which of Matthew's designs do you prefer?

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