Sam Davies exhibited at New Designers in 2010, and after being noticed by Kenwood at the show was recruited shortly afterwards. He is now one of the company’s Senior Industrial Designers, and has recently worked on the newly launched kMix range.
How did you become interested in design?
I’ve been interested in design as early as I can remember, creating my own trapdoor mechanisms in Lego and learning how vehicle suspension and differentials work through Technic. My interest grew through school and college through art and DT eventually leading me to Sheffield Hallam University’s Industrial Design course. I was lucky, I was one of those students who knew exactly what I wanted to do!
Where and what did you study and what was the most useful thing you learnt from your course?
I studied at Sheffield Hallam University, transferring to the MDes course at the end of my second year which allowed me to spend a semester at L’ecole de design Nantes Atlantique which was an invaluable experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to apply a different cultural perspective and an alternative approach to my work and study with students from all different design and cultural backgrounds.
Why do you think you stood out at New Designers and how did you get the job with Kenwood?
I exhibited along with my class in New Designers in 2010. This was a strong year for Sheffield, a fellow Masters student won the Grand prize so there was a great buzz on the stand. I had a few meetings with various people who were interested in my project and a couple of weeks later I was contacted by Johan Santer, Kenwood’s Design Director to invite me to apply for a Junior Design position. I think there was an obvious link between the design language and thinking behind my project and Kenwood’s ethos which gave me an edge. I firmly believe that a good designer is able to apply their skills across any product category but I wouldn’t underestimate the effect of the choice of the subject matter of your final project to be exhibited.
What is your role and what does it involve?
As Senior Industrial Designer I develop and oversee projects from the brief through product development all the way to final manufacture. I am responsible for everything the user of a product might interact with from how the controls work and feel (user interface) through to how the product looks ensuring the product is appropriate for the target user as well as aligned to the brand. This involves working closely with many functions within the business including product market, engineering, quality, home economists as well as external suppliers.
What have you designed that you’re most proud of since joining?
I am massively proud of my work on the new kMix range which has won the prestigious international IF design award this year. With the previous success of the kMix sub-brand, the stakes were high for the replacement products.
What role did you play in the design of the kMix range?
The whole design team worked together to develop the direction for the new kMix range. One of the key objectives of the project was to unify the design language across the full range so it was important to consider all the products together. Once we had business agreement on the design direction we divided the range between us in order to focus in on the individual design concepts. I was directly responsible for taking the worktop blender and hand mixer through the development process from a concept stage to supporting implementation with the manufactures.
Give us an insight into your thought process to design your work – where does your inspiration come from?
There’s a lot of buzz around ‘user centred design’ but I don’t really agree with this term because all industrial design, at its core should be user centred. Inspiration comes from the user and the particular problem that the design is trying to solve. The designer needs to keep the user at the forefront of his mind throughout product development to ensure that the product remains relevant when faced with the commercial factors such as changing specification, cost targets/reductions, safety approvals, intellectual property restrictions, sales and market strategies.
What materials, methods and tools do you use to design with and what one technique, material or tool could you not live without?
In order to design a good product you first need to fully identify the problem and that’s not easily done from behind a computer or in the workshop. Kenwood has started a ‘consumer safari’ program where all employees (not only the designers) are invited into real users homes to witness first-hand the users experience of food preparation. This is invaluable for me as a designer because often it’s the little insights that go unmentioned that spark clever features that make the products a joy to use. Sketching is an important skill that I’m sure no designer could live without, in the first instance just for yourself, to get your ideas down on paper but then being able to quickly communicate them to others. I love the reaction of other non-designers when you’re able to quickly sketch what you’re all talking about. It gives you a lot of power in project meetings.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given? / What piece of advice would you give to this year’s graduates?
Just a piece of practical advice; make the most of your student email addresses while you still have them. Download as much free student license CAD software as you can, it may come in useful! CAD software experience can make or break a job application and so it’s worth a thought about filling any holes in your CV.