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Interview Product Designer Lee Grieve

Product Design graduate Lee Grieve shares with us his experiences on university life at Sheffield, his work on project ‘Smoka’ and his plans for life after university.

“My main priority at the moment is finding work where I can not only expand my knowledge, but expand my network of creative professionals as I believe working with other people leads to a richer design process.”Lee Grieve

Why did you choose to study product design? What do love about your work?

I’ve always had a creative streak running through me, but I was always keen to know how things worked as well. That probably came from spending endless weekends in my dad’s workshop helping him fix anything with an engine.

Product design gave me the opportunity to develop and create concepts that may one day assist millions of people on a daily basis. My back up route of architecture just didn’t come close.

Product design is so broad, but I love designs that bring real benefit to the user, on not just a physical level, but an emotional one too. I love that product design as an industry is going through an image change. No longer are we seen as ‘the people who make it look good’, but one of the driving forces behind market transformation through good design tackling societies actual issues.

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What has been your favourite project to complete to date?

In my personal work, my favourite project was my recent graduation project, -SMOKA-. The contemporary bee smoker recently helped me gain the ‘Brightest Spark’ award, judged by Marcus Hirst of Ron Arad Associates. The reason it’s my personal favourite is the design was directly informed by keeping honey bees for a year, specifically for that project.

It’s transformed my opinion on design research tremendously, and I’m now a strong believer that good ideas are everywhere, designers just need to get involved in new things to identify them.

The design is aimed at a very stagnant market too, and the beekeeping community is definitely split on the verdict. I believe controversy is something every design student should aim for, its always a shame to see a graduation project that is ‘safe’. University is the only time budget and clients aren’t an inhibiting factor in the design.

Which designers and creative inspire your work today? Where dod you gain inspiration from online?

I don’t have a particular icon I look up to, but I do love nordic design. There is a certain amount of truth and honesty in a lot of the stuff created by our northern neighbours. I’m also a fan of creatives/ designers who are trying to rekindle craft and heritage and implement it into modern day life. My favourite example of this, is the handmade cycles from a sheffield based company called Field Cycles.

Online I have an endless list of blogs I gain inspiration from, Good.com is always worth a look but sometimes a little too ‘americanised’. Other then the obvious ones, I like to look at a mix of student portfolios, photography and generally inspirational people. I am driven by the success of others, being based in a city like Sheffield means there no shortage of local heroes to look up to.

How have you found your time at Sheffield Hallam? Is it a place you would recommend?

It’s safe to say Sheffield Hallam University has one of the better product design courses in the country, with facilities exceeding most and tutors that really care. While here, I’ve been involved in workshops running along side the RSA and the world renowned C3Ri based in the university. It’s a course that teaches you to live and breath design, something that forms and shapes the ambition we all leave university with. I chose to do the Masters course and have left University with not only 9 months more experience in consultancy then most other graduates, but a growing network of creatives that spun off that experience.

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What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have defined career goals for the next 12 months and beyond?

In the short term, I’ll be presenting my work at new designers. My main priority at the moment is finding work where I can not only expand my knowledge, but expand my network of creative professionals as I believe working with other people leads to a richer design process. On a side line, I may pursue further with my SMOKA concept, trying to get it to a stage where it could be manufactured and sold.

In the longer term, I want to develop my business skills so I can then set up my own design consultancy in north England, which emphasises multidisciplinary research and honest design. Something which is impossible without prior experience and a solid network.

Could you recommend any colleagues or classmates who you think are destined to make an impact on the industry?

In terms of potential, I believe my class mate Chris Redford will go on to do special things. Having already bagged first place in the RSA student design awards for his Tinker project. His illustration skills directly feeding into his design process.

Who are your favourite people to follow on twitter?

My three top people to follow on twitter are; (other then @designjuices of course) @CreativeBloq for there inspiring daily updates, @MADENORTH for their dedication to bringing good design to the north and finally our favourite places, which highlights all the things good about sheffield.

Away from working how do you enjoy your time to relax?

When I’m not working in design, I work for an artisan coffee van (@motorecafe) where I expand my creativity in a more liquid form. Creativity seems to seep into everything I do, whether it’s my photography or just walking around the post industrial sites in Sheffield dreaming of what once was.

What are your top 5 favourite films and albums?

In terms of music I tend to float between genres depending on my mood, when I’m writing some blog post it’s generally some mellow electronic like Bonobo. Whereas a fast approaching deadline usually calls for something a lot heavier. At this very moment my favourite album is Magic Potion by The Black Keys.

I break the mould when it comes to film, I refuse to go to the cinema. Sitting down in silence for 2-3 hours just isn’t my thing. I much prefer watching the entire box set of River cottage, dreaming of self sufficiency.

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Follow Lee Grieve on his Website | @Lgrieve91