In this extended interview Stephen Mayall, Business Development Manager of Tiller Design, based in Australia and the UK, will outline some of the feature projects of Tiller as well as give an insight into the current state and future of the Australian Design Industry. Tiller is both a design and manufacturing business with a wide portfolio of products including specialist design skills in scientific and military projects. For more information please check out: www.tillerdesign.com!
Article by Embody 3D – Twitter – 12.03.2010
Hi Stephen, welcome to Embody 3D and thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. To get started could you please give me a quick introduction to yourself and Tiller Design?
I am an Industrial Designer and have Over 15 years experience working for leading Industrial Design Consultancies within Australia and the UK.
Tiller Design is one of 3 Industrial Design Consultancies that specializes in providing successful design innovation to clients across many market sectors, Tiller Scientific+Medical is another which focuses on Product Development with the Scientific Military and Medical Device markets. Tiller Manufacturing is a Specialist Manufacturing Management company.
What college/university did you attend for your Industrial Design degree and what was your experience there like? How do you feel some of the classes prepared you or didn’t prepare you for working in the design industry?
I attended Birmingham City University and studied 3 Dimensional Design specializing in Industrial Design. The experience was good, although probably different to how design courses are run now and certainly to how they’re run in Australia, there was a strong focus still on creativity, developing key skills such as sketching, model making and presentation techniques mostly everything we did then was 2D and all by hand, very little work was done on the computer so designers skills in those areas and in my opinion were much at higher level than they are now. There was a strong emphasis on problem solving and the design process, innovation, form, function and whilst there was some focus on design for manufacture there was certainly more focus on developing strengths in other areas.
We had very few classes, work was project based and projects were given to us to work in specific areas to develop those core strengths designers having in problem solving, developing ideas, ideation and implementation.
When a student submits their portfolio/CV at Tiller Design, what do you look for in an applicant? Alternatively do you have any pet hates or information students should avoid in their portfolios?
It depends on the role, Industrial Design is different here to Europe and the US designers are required to generally be more rounded and get involved with everything from research through to sketch development and CAD detailing and project management, I look for a creative mind with a good appreciation of both form, function good methodology and thinking to his work and though process and someone who is good at problem solving and whilst excellent sketching skills don’t essentially make a good designer it is a great skill to have to be able to communicate your ideas quickly and effectively to clients and colleagues.
I see a lot of CV’s emailed to a host of design firms STD [email protected]… email address’s with very or not little thought to an individual or even an individual company, I look for someone that has spent some time researching the company they’re approaching, spent time finding out who to contact and maybe approaching them in a unique way, we work in a creative industry, be creative when you approach someone that way you’ll stand out, don’t go to far but a little creativity can go a long way.
Do you have any general advice for students who are studying industrial design? What skills should they develop and learn?
Problem solving skills, demonstrating though process, creative thinking and presentation skills, technical skills are great but we almost expect students to be fairly competent on photoshop, illustrator and have a basic level of CAD skills so good sketching, ability to show innovative thinking, a TRUE passion for design are more important we can teach the rest.
What would you consider to be the best and worst aspects of being a product designer/manager of a design business?
Demonstrating the true value design can have on a business many companies hold little value to the role of good industrial design, the facts can speak for themselves though look at the likes of Apple, Samsung, Philips, good design sells not good enough design doesn’t.
I could talk for hours on this but I would certainly be interested in writing a separate article about this if your interested?
Haha be my guest, we are always looking for people to contribute articles on Embody 3D. Are there any iconic designers that you use as inspiration or mentors that have guided your design philosophy?
Many from Charles and Ray Eames, Dieter Rams to Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson
Tiller design is known to be a very innovative design business with countless awards including Australian International Design Awards. What is the typical design process you go through to create such innovative products?
Our process is based on not only our past experiences and experience within the team but on ISO process’s we have our own Quality Management System that’s used across both companies due to the regulatory and quality requirements governing the medical device industry our QMS is based on ISO 9001 our designers all also trained in ISO 13485.
Tiller Design uses a Quality essentials process which takes key essential but not all elements from Tiller Sceintific+Medicals full QMS such as design reviews, document managements, customer requirement specifications. This is done to ensure all projects risks are managed and reduced, projects budgets are met, product requirements are met and products meet both client, users, patient and consumer needs.
Our projects start with documenting all customer requirements and their commercial objectives, generating and presenting ideas and then developing one of those ideas or design into a product that can be manufactured appropriately for its intended market and process.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the design industry in Australia? Has it changed? Where is it heading?
Industrial Design in Australia is very focused on its Design for Manufacture capability designers work through all project phases this is different to the US and Europe where Industrial Designers work more in creative roles with engineering team managing projects through engineering and development phases, its hard for me to comment on how it has changed as I’ve only been here for the past 4 years, I think the next few years will be interesting for the industry a lot of it depends largely on manufacturing companies we work with, I’d like to see it move in the way it has in the US where designers get more involved with other aspects of business, where brainstorming and design thinking which are common Industrial Design practices are used to help find solutions to other problems within business and not just physical product design but to help find solutions to improve experiences, and services, to look at process’s which can be improved with creative thinking.
Could you tell me about some of your latest projects and focus at Tiller Design?
Projects vary vastly we work with anyone from an individual through to start up companies spin offs from Universities or government organizations and establish multi nationals, we have recently had tremendous success work for iCinema a project done in collaboration with the University of NSW which has recently won a gold IDSA award and Otto a stove top coffee maker won the Australian Design Mark at 2008 Australian International Design Awards and is currently a finalist in the International Design Excellence Awards in America (IDEA).
A large component of your business is the scientific and medical field. Are there any different processes or considerations need to be made when designing these types of specialist products compared to the more consumer industrial products you also design?
Yes there are quality is paramount throughout design, manufacture and product supply , understanding of not only the technical and functional aspects but also regulatory requirements and process’s within different markets.
Tiller Design takes sustainability very seriously by gaining a variety of environmental standards and even talking at international sustainability conferences. What is the core motivation behind these steps towards environmental sustainability?
We have responsibility as a designer and specific of manufactured products to consider the holistic impact products make on the environment in manufacture, in use and after the life of the product, this is a design practice we consider within every project. The motivation is simple really and is to reduce the impact of global warming through considered design for manufacture.
In Australia there seems to be a growing trend of outsourcing manufacturing to China and Southeast Asia because of lower labor/manufacturing costs. What are your experiences/thoughts on this growing market trend?
It’s a way of the world at the moment the important thing is managing your supplier, communication and ensuring quality in manufacturing set up and long term production
Stephen thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Embody 3D. To find out more information about Tiller Design’s products and services where should people go?
I would recommend checking out our website at http://tillerdesign.com/
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