This post continues a series of interviews with past graduates from the department; catching up with what they are up to, hearing their reflections on design and their current line of work. Sam Lin is a great example of someone who used his time in product design very strategically, finding a home in one of New Zealand’s top design-led companies, Fisher and Paykel:
Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself and let us know when you graduated from product design?
SL: Hi, I’m Sam, 27 years old and I graduated from Product Design in 2010. Prior to that, I completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) in 2008. I am a huge Bball fan (Go the Rockets!) and I love making stuff.
Q: Where are you now, and what is your favourite part of your job?
SL: I am currently working at Fisher and Paykel appliances as a Product development Engineer. My favourite part of the job seeing what I have designed on paper or CAD come to life! After spending so much time detailing and iterating the design, it is a real satisfaction when you finally get the production part back, ready to test and trial.
Q: What has been your biggest learning experience transitioning from study to practicing design?
SL: My biggest learning experience would definitely be collaborating with all the different business functions that have influence with the design. Juggling trade offs and making smart decisions is definitely challenging and it still is. Everyone has a different angle and perspective on the product and you can’t please everyone.
Q: What was your most memorable project from your undergraduate degree and why?
SL: My most memorable project was in 2nd year, the NZ pine project. We were given a brief to make furniture out of NZ pine that was influenced by our upbringing. I wanted to make something that had some sort of secondary function, so I made a stool that rocked which was inspired from the old tire and rope swing outside my house which I used to play on when I was a kid.
Q: What would be your one bit of advice to final year students considering what to do after University
SL: I would advise final year students to put extra effort into managing their projects and construct effective plans . Planning may seem boring and mandane, but if you can work smart and get into the habit of planning, forecasting lead times, setting milestones, reviewing where you are at, it will make transitioning into the work place a lot easier.
Q: What aspects of your current job tap into what you learnt at design school?
SL: I definitely use a lot of the design thinking that I developed while at design school in my job. Being surrounded by engineers, it is really easy to sink into the trap of narrow thinking. Having spent time in design school, it has helped me to think laterally when designing parts and solving problems. I believe that is what can really set you apart from the crowd.
Q: In what ways are you working with Industrial designers at Fisher and Paykel?
SL: At F&P, the Industrial design team (ID) is responsible with turning what they have learnt from their research of the market and coming up with the style and features the product should have. The product development engineers (me) then take the ID concepts, figure out the ins and outs and take their designs all the way through to production. The process is a constant feedback loop as what ID wants usually has some technical limits and we need to work together to make sure we can deliver a quality design.
Q: What area do you feel you have most improved in most since you graduated from AUT?
SL: I have definitely improved a lot in my knowledge of more of the technical side of the design space. Knowing the limits of manufacturing processes, plastic injection moulded part design, extrusion design, design for assembly, tolerances and statistics in design etc. This stuff may sound pretty uninteresting and but has a huge impact on the look and feel of the product and defines what can and can’t be made.
Q: Philosophy on design? A short summary of what you think design is and why its important?
SL: Design is all about decisions. I think good design is smart, well considered decision making. Decisions founded upon knowledge and understanding. Without knowledge and understanding, your design will have no legs. Those designs with no legs will end up costing a heap of money to fix!