Emerging Kiwi designers in contention for top design award honour

Emerging Kiwi designers in contention for top design award honour

In just over a week, one lucky up and coming Kiwi designer will rise to prominence when the winner of the tenth annual James Dyson Award is announced. Selection is based on product design ideas that are innovative and inspire solutions to everyday problems. And judging by the three finalists announced today, the competition is stiff.

A seat for the elderly designed to attach to a lamppost, an improved version of the moon boot for rehabilitating leg injuries, and a safe wakeboard binding make up the three finalists.

Head judge of the awards and member of the Designers Institute of NZ David Lovegrove, says all entries must reflect the Dyson philosophy; demonstrating a commitment to intelligent design thinking.

“It’s encouraging to see New Zealand designers developing products to improve quality of life, with all three of the finalists designing concepts to keep Kiwis active, reflecting our love of the outdoor lifestyle. 

“The finalists have shown great skill at demonstrating their ideas with functional and realistic prototypes,” he says.

The Wanderest seat, designed by 22-year-old Massey University design student Nichola Trudgen, has been invented as a portable resting place for the elderly. 

Trudgen’s came up with the concept as a way to keep seniors active through walking, and recognising they would walk in the community more often, if there were more accessible rest stops on their walking route.

“Walking can improve and even extend a person’s life.  I often walk with my Grandma, who lives in a rest home, and have seen her struggle out of public seats and benches because they are low, and awkward to get out of,” says the Auckland student.

“I designed the seat as a university project, so at this stage it’s only a prototype made from wood plastic composite, but it could have applications for many public spaces such as circular or octagonal lamp posts or against flat walls in banks, retirement villages and waiting rooms.  If the seats were installed in these places, elderly people may feel more confident about having somewhere to stop for a rest when they are out and about.”

The second finalist entry, Tri Cast, is an alternative to the traditional moon boot - a splint worn to aid recovery from leg injuries, by immobilising parts of the leg.  Tri-Cast differs from a one-piece moon boot as it’s worn on the leg in three parts, and as the wearer progresses through their rehabilitation, they discard each part.

In designing Tri-Cast, final year AUT Bachelor of Design students, Mark Wu and Reid Douglas, were inspired by Russian dolls.

“The concept of the dolls is about shedding layers, which is exactly what we applied to our version of the moon boot,” says Douglas. “As well as being a practical design that will promote the wearer’s recovery, it works on a psychological level; as the wearer heals, they will physically shed layers and feel motivated by seeing the progress they are making,” he adds. 

The boot is designed with recycled plastic and uses no adhesive, which bodes well considering the judges are seeking an ecologically sound concept, and called for designers to consider sustainability in their designs. 

Lucid, is the James Dyson Award’s third finalist product in New Zealand, and was conceived by Christchurch industrial designer, Julian Schloemer.

“I’ve experienced a knee injury from wakeboarding, which is common when a wakeboard hits the water at full force, with one foot coming out of the binding while the other is still attached to the board.  Current wakeboard bindings are designed to hold feet onto a board, even after a fall. This increases the chance of injuries when one or both feet cannot be freed.  Lucid’s main difference is its release mechanism guaranteed to let go of the rider’s feet when certain pressure is applied.

“The release system is also designed to make getting in and out of wet bindings much easier than current wakeboard bindings.  It can differentiate between tricks and falls by the rider’s angles, and by programming an adjuster that opens the bindings easier for novices,” says the 23 year old Massey University design graduate.

Fellow judge, Gareth Farry, from British Council New Zealand, says of almost 20 entries judged, the short listed three are examples of Kiwi ingenuity at its best.

“All three products are essentially simple designs, well executed.  Potentially, they have a wider application and we hope this will be recognised by industry and investors who may be willing to support these designers in bringing these original products to market.”

The winning entry will be unveiled at a ceremony to be held in Auckland on Thursday, 22 July.

The James Dyson Award is open to final year tertiary students studying in the areas of design, technology or engineering, and to graduates in these areas who are in their first three years of work.

Six New Zealand entries, including the three national finalists, will progress to online judging in the international James Dyson Award competition.The global James Dyson Award winner will be announced in October 2010 and together with their university, they will win a total prize fund of £20,000 or local currency equivalent.

All entries can be viewed on

Left: Wanderest seat, middle: Lucid, left: Tri Cast

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