The Design Council, Batch.Works and Seymourpowell have teamed up to launch a new design competition for students across the UK with a mission to create products centred around the needs of communities and the planet.
Design can be a powerful tool for change and, in a new competition launched by the Design Council, strategic design and innovation agency Seymourpowell and future-focused manufacturing hub Batch.Works, the courage, creativity and radical thinking of emerging talent is hoping to be harnessed in a bid for a greener future. The competition, titled ‘Products for Planet’, is an initiative set up to encourage the creation of products which explore solutions to the environmental and social challenges we face across the globe. And, with the impacts of climate change and political unrest becoming more and more prevalent, the need for progressive design has never been more vital.
Split into four categories (food, materials, mobility, and energy), the brief is centred around the Design Council’s mission: Design for Planet. In line with this mission and under one of the four categories mentioned, students from GCSE to master’s level have been invited to submit product ideas of which one winner from each theme will be selected before it goes on to be produced locally by Batch.Works. Be it a gardening implement for people with limited mobility, a 3D-printed shoe, a handsfree door opening device for the immune-compromised working in public spaces or a wheel that can be wound to generate electricity, the opportunities are endless and the team behind the competition are excited to see what submissions are received.
“We expect to see user research as the first part of the design process and are looking to select winners based on the validity of the concept, not the design execution,” says Eddie Hamilton, the sustainability lead at Seymourpowell. “Applicants shouldn’t worry about creating refined, developed solutions, but rather should focus on concepts that solve real world problems.” With a passion and drive to discover thought-provoking, realistic solutions fuelling the campaign, it provides a tangible opportunity for students to showcase an idea to an internationally-acclaimed panel of judges – an opening which could lead to valuable career direction and development. The panel of leading experts are selected from the Design for Planet Festival speaker line-up, as well as representatives from Seymourpowell and Batch.Works.
The idea for the competition came about following a pilot project led by Batch.Works who are training AI-powered 3D manufacturing technology and need to test the machines throughout the coming months. “Over the past year, in collaboration with Matta.ai and PlusX innovation, we have been developing our own advanced, AI-powered Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) technology to support our mission to make distributed and circular manufacturing a reality, reducing production waste and transport emissions,” states Milo Mcloughlin-Greening, partner and head of R&D at Batch.Works. “To train the AI, we need to print approximately 10,000 parts on our pilot machines in Brighton, so this competition takes advantage of this amazing production opportunity to create objects that are designed to solve real problems and, aligning with the Design Council’s mission, are designed for planet.”
Going on to be produced in quantities of hundreds, or even thousands, the winning designs will be selected with user-impact in mind as well as their consideration towards elements of disassembly and repair. Products with a clear intended user group in mind will be preferential to ensure substantial change can occur as a result of their creation. After being co-developed by Seymourpowell and Batch.Works, the winning designs will then be exhibited at the Design for Planet Festival 2024. “So many young people have fantastic ideas for how to Design for Planet, so we’re delighted to be able to support making some of them a reality through this competition,” comments Cat Drew, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council. “And by asking students to design products with communities, we can then train the AI-enabled printing service in a really inclusive way.” As this collaborative project shows, design can be a positive force for change in many ways. While encouraging students to think and create with the future in mind, it also offers visibility and space for upcoming visionaries and change-makers through a platform which addresses current environmental and social issues in an inclusive and sensitive way.
The deadline for submissions is before midnight on 15 December 2023 and the winner will be contacted on Monday, 8 January 2024.
Imagery courtesy of Batch.Works.