Why I chose to study Product Design - BA (Hons)
I remember being taken on school trips to visit the ECA Degree Show every year from the age of 15 for art class. The main goal then was to cover as many rooms as possible in one afternoon, find the wackiest piece to show your friends and struggle to handle the mountain of business cards taken (some of which I still have today). It was one of the highlights of the year, but along with the fun, those trips instilled in me a sense of respect for the work produced at ECA.
When it came to deciding on a University, I was keen to return to Edinburgh as a city after some time spent away after school. I attended an open day and was very taken with what the course had to offer - at this point ECA had joined the University of Edinburgh, so I was excited by the wider opportunities that came with it.
My time at ECA
One of the things that I really loved during my time at ECA was that in four years of studying Product Design, no two projects were alike. I covered everything from making glassware to creating furniture for animals to exploring digital fabrication to speculative design. From each of these projects I learned something new, and they forced me to think and change my perspective on design and the process.
One of the projects that had the biggest impact on me was done in partnership with the NHS, to tackle the trend of higher levels of obesity found amongst nurses compared to the population average. There was a huge amount of research and investigating that went into this project, in particular with a focus on the value chains that emerge, in order to design a solution. Not only was the project very insightful, but it’s also given me a different perspective through which I now view my work and has enabled me to frame problems to create solutions which have value and really get to the heart of an issue.
This project ended up being a key asset in gaining an internship with a medical/life-sciences company which has led to my current career in the sector. It also helped me establish connections which offered invaluable help for my final year project - designing a piece of first aid equipment.
Besides my academic experience, one of the things I’ll cherish most about my time at ECA are the friends I made along the way, especially in my course. Being a class of only 8, I had an incredible time working together in our studio and have made some firm friends for life.
If I could do it all again, probably the only thing I would change is making more use of the facilities available. You don’t realise just how wonderful the workshops are until you no longer have access to them!
My experiences since graduating
By the end of 4th year, it definitely felt like the right time for me to move on to new things and I was excited to do so. That’s not to say it wasn’t a bittersweet moment - I really enjoyed my time at university, exploring new projects and themes all the time and working so closely with my course mates.
I was very fortunate and found a job towards the end of my last year, so I started my new role as a User Experience (UX) Designer in London a few weeks after handing in my final project. Making the most of the freedom given to us to pursue different areas of design, I created an app for one of my projects and discovered I really enjoyed the process. That led to me finding an internship in UX in the summer of my third year, cementing the path I wanted to take after graduation.
I’ve been working in the industry for 2 years now and still enjoying all the challenges that come with it! My biggest achievement since leaving ECA was being given the responsibility of managing the full design process by myself for a large project, creating a market leading product in my sector. It was incredibly daunting to begin with, but I’ve loved growing with the project and working so closely with other people who are all passionate to create something great.
My advice to new and current students
University is the best place to try new things and pursue crazy ideas, don’t be scared of potentially failing at them. It’s harder to do once you leave, especially if you’re not normally much of a risk taker.
I was very career-driven in my final year and worked hard to ensure I’d have something waiting for me after, but that isn’t right for everyone. A big part of me wishes I’d taken some time off to enjoy life and have some creative fun between my final project and starting work. Even though I’m designing every day, it’s no longer with the freedom I had as a student, so really make the most of it!