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University of East London presents first showcase of sustainable product designs

UEL students get the chance to impress Victoria and Albert Museum expert at their first product design showcase

A colourful range of fashionista sunglasses, a series of classic watch straps and a tasteful collection of picture frames, key rings, and a miniature house inspired by Barnaby Barford’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ installation were just some of the impressive creations on display at the first ever University of East London (UEL) showcase held in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). 

The exhibition, held at the UEL Docklands campus, gave first and second year product design students the chance to show off their creative flair after the V&A donated a large quantity of acrylic and set the students the challenge of turning it into eye-catching products. 

Eight students took part in the challenge before presenting their designs to Dr Julia Simpson, ENGIE Energy Manager at the V&A. 

“It was striking to see the level of detail and decoration that has gone into creating these products,” she said. “It’s fascinating to see the innovation and creativity generated by the students in using these recycled materials.”

It is hoped that some of the students’ creations could be put into production.

Dr Simpson was joined by the Director of the UEL Sustainability Research Institute, Darryl Newport, who specialises in renewable energy and sustainable construction through alternative material. 

First-year BSc product design student, Casper Viriri from Penge, in south London, designed a series of modern watch straps with a classic twist.

“The V&A’s collection includes some fantastic William Morris prints, and a range of classic-looking watches and clocks,” said Casper. “It got me thinking about how I could combine the two and create modern yet functional wrist watches.”

Casper says he would really like to see his designs turned into a new line for V&A visitors, including the chance for museum visitors to customise their own strap designs.  

He said the exhibition was a good first step for him and the feedback was encouraging. 

“My passion for product design comes from a lifetime interest in how I can get science, products, and graphical art to work together,” he explained. 

Paul Lighterness, who heads the product design course at UEL, said he was proud of his students’ achievements.

“These students are still early in their product design careers and they are already making some clever and impressive things,” he said. 

“I’m confident they are going to conjure up inventive products that are useful and made in a sustainable way.”