Between the second and third year of her Sustainable Product Design degree, student Emma Lacey found herself in the real-world, facing new challenges and taking on an amazing opportunity; to design the first collection of luggage for the Merlin Partnership, a motorbike apparel company.
The brief was to design two ranges appealing to their leisure moto and heritage audience. We talked to Emma about her experience...
How did you get involved with Merlin bike gear?
Towards the end of my second year I started phoning many of the company's local to university and to my parents' house for an internship or design job. After sending the Merlin Partnership a second year project, a bag for Stand-up paddle boarding, I was invited to pitch myself, what my design expertise was etc. in a board meeting for their new luggage range. After this I was asked to lead the project.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
To begin with it was the time pressure, six weeks to design a full collection including prototypes and sorting out manufacturers is not a lot of time in the eyes of a student. I started off working with James, Merlin's product designer, but after the first couple of days it was clear that I would be leading the project. This was super exciting, but a lot to learn and deliver.
The biggest struggle for me at the time and still today, is designing without using Human Centred Design (HCD), a methodology which includes the end user throughout the process of designing. When designing I would be questioning whether what I was designing was actually right for the end users, as I am not a motorbike rider, how was I to know? To overcome this I did as much research as possible, this varied from visiting trading shops, speaking to co-workers who have motorbikes, and just generally informing myself of what someone with a motorbike would need and want.
What where the key things you learnt?
I was lucky to see the full transition of how a product can come about from idea to reality, this has aided me in a holistic understanding of design. Other than product design decisions, I learnt what other valuable considerations are needed. Often at university your ideas will just stay an idea, so seeing the transition of sketches develop into a finished product was a great experience and privilege.
Being on the Sustainable Product Design course at Falmouth, you are constantly surrounded by lecturers and peers who have similar sustainability values and principles behind what they are designing. However, I now have a much better understanding of the additional challenges faced in the commercial world when time pressures and price points need to be met.
How was doing it for real with a live client brief different from university projects?
When designing at Falmouth the ability for freedom of choice is a lot greater, this is a blessing but also a curse. Having the set design brief, and designing for a user group pre-identified was great, I taught myself as much as I could about the typical leisure moto and heritage user groups. This was a user group I may not ever have designed for otherwise.
What was the outcome?
The outcome was a collection of twelve bags that I am very proud of. They include rucksacks, panniers, briefcases and tool-rolls all for the Leisure Moto and Heritage range.
Feedback from Merlin showed they too were happy with the outcome: "Emma was a fantastic addition to the team, bringing great product ideas to the development process, as well as an understanding of the commercial aspects that are also required to bring a new project to market. The technical work produced by Emma was of a very good standard too and this in turn meant that we could confidently let Emma work independently."
For further information on Emma Lacey's work follow her @inseimy on Instagram.