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How Product Designers Will Shape the World

UC Connect Public Lecture: How Product Designers Will Shape the World

Environmental sustainability is a global challenge for many sectors, including product design. An upcoming, free UC Connect public lecture will explore how future product designers working on electric autonomous cars; devices that incorporate artificial intelligence; the gamification of education, training and rehabilitation; and personal care and health products have the potential to both increase our wealth and help to shape our world.

If New Zealand is to become a wealthier country, able to lift wages and improve healthcare, social welfare and education, we must increase our export earnings, says the head of the University of Canterbury’s new School of Product Design, Professor Conan Fee. However, we cannot do this simply by doubling the intensity of our farming or our tourist numbers, without placing an unsustainable burden on our environment.

“How product designers will shape the world might be considered to be a rather grandiose title but placing this into perspective requires two things: an understanding of what product designers do and some idea of what we mean by ‘shaping the world’,” says Professor Fee.

“It is important to understand that product designers do not simply add the window dressing, the artistic surface coating to make a functional product look attractive but rather engage in the entire process of problem solving,” he says.

“For example, eliminating the difficulties of manoeuvring a wheelchair while holding a cup of coffee or a mobile phone requires the designer to develop a deep understanding of the problem and current solutions, before creating new ideas and figuring out how the best of these might be realised in a way that truly adds value to the end-user. Who could argue a successful product design would not help to shape the world for some of the millions of people worldwide who are wheelchair-bound?”

Conan Fee is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and former Dean of Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He now heads the new School of Product Design, which offers majors in Industrial Product Design, Applied Immersive Game Design, and Chemical, Natural & Healthcare Product Formulation.

With a research background in the purification of therapeutic proteins, Professor Fee has developed a large research group focusing on the use of 3D printing to improve the efficiency of a wide variety of industrial processes. He recently returned from a three-month Erskine Fellowship based at Cambridge University, exploring a range of design schools throughout the United Kingdom and Europe to bring best practice back to the new UC School of Product Design.

UC Connect public lecture: How product designers will shape the world, Professor Conan Fee, School of Product Design, University of Canterbury, 7pm – 8pm, on Wednesday 11 October at the University of Canterbury, Ilam campus.

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