The 7 best British graduate designers of 2014

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The seven best graduate designers that we found on our journeys this year

As the graduate shows across the country finally close their doors, we took the chance to visit as many as possible, including the now standard New Designers show in London.

Like with most years, there was great variety in the projects, making it hard work to pick out individuals as the majority of the projects were so incomparable.

Yet, as always we persevered, from Northumbria in the north to Plymouth in the south, arriving with our magnificent 7 from the graduate year of 2014. Take a look and let us know your thoughts:

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Stephen Douch, Central St Martins (MA)

Funeral planning kit


It is becoming too expensive for the poor to die and it’s a real problem. The average cost of dying has risen by 80 per cent since 2004 to £7,622 and almost one-in-five people intend to leave their funeral cost to family and friends or the State.

Last Orders brings families together to help plan for the future and prepares them for the eventual passing of a loved one. There’s a level of thought put into how this process will take place, and more than a hint of Douch’s previous work in board game design, that helps detract from the standard unapproachable nature of an inevitable topic.

Should also get a mention for the crowd funding campaign to raise £2,000 to have the year’s graduate show guide professionally printed.

Elizabeth White, Brunel

A child’s summer shoe that can grow

The ‘grow’ sandal creates a clever solution within children’s summer shoes. This shoe is able to grow as the child grows, appealing to parents and children while providing a durable and easy to wear solution for the child.

The shoe can grow in width and length by adding new ‘loops’ to the soles, while also having detachable straps offering personalisation and adjustability.

A brand identity for the sandal was also created with ‘growing’ being a core feature, which also lets the child develop their own brand character through a range of stickers provided when a purchase is made, adding a level of interactivity and customisation.

Jamie Samman, Northumbria

Flutter: Butterfly conservation kit

With 2012 the worst year on record for butterfly numbers in the UK Flutter aims to engage the public in their conservation.

Gardeners, farmers and even children can use it to conserve an endangered species in their back garden, with a range of kit to make the process more enjoyable.

A caterpillar viewing kit, a conservation walkway system, and a mobile device app make this an engaging design for all ages, and it works through the sheer amount of thought and research put into it.

Mark Golab, Nottingham Trent

Optical testing equipment for children’s eye examinations

The Opti Junior brings a new experience to children’s eye tests using a lightweight, ergonomic, easily adjustable frame with soft soothing colours to give reassurance to children.

Its designed to be a much cheaper piece of kit when compared to the current expensive alternatives rarely available in most standard opticians, or the imposing equipment designed for adult use, while maintaining the same lens kits as are already standard

Its sliding frame, and silicone nose bridge make it quick to use, comfortable for the wearer, and a world away from the scary medical equipment currently in use.

Matthew McMorran, Sheffield Hallam

A functional and stylish ski boot

A two-part design, the Alpine ski boot consists of a rigid moulded outer chassis, and a flexible, leather-wrapped inner boot that wouldn’t look out of place in everyday use.

A phonebook sized amount of research and development of ideas, coupled with learning the vastly different manual manufacturing methods, tied in with fashion, user experience and sports design make this a great piece of work.

Seeing how McMorran constructed the prototype is interesting in itself – CNC machining the clasps, sewing the leather, casting the chassis.

Matthew Thompson, Derby

Myo, a low cost, motorised prosthetic hand

There’s a lot of demand for prosthetic limbs in poorer countries, and while there’s been an increase in lower limb prosthesis, upper limbs haven’t really evolved as they’re more complicated and expensive to build.

The project set out to design and build a moving prosthesis within financial reach of most people living in those countries. The fully working prototype cost around £200 in materials to build, made of a tough nylon resin Zytel with non-slip grips for the articulated fingers. The design reduces the number of costly inner electrics down to just two motors working a rotating disc in the Myo’s wrist.

The arm would be controlled through the use of electromyography, a system used for many artificial limbs, with three electrodes running from the Myo hand to the real upper arm of the amputee, who would be taught to control the prosthetic hand using the upper arm’s individual muscle movements.

Nicholas Harrisson, Sheffield Hallam

A blender made from glass and concrete, that becomes portable

A solid base unit, designed around an available existing motor, to which a glass bell jar attaches. A lid can then be attached to the bell jar, which can be then used for transporting your healthy smoothy to work.

A simple design, but done with a knowledge for form and materials, and like the majority of Sheffield Hallam’s students, with a grasp of mechanical workings, drawings and real world costings, while not forgetting fresh ideas and user experiences.

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Highly commended

– John Kariuki, Coventry – Interchangeable sole football boot
– Rob Phillips, UWE – Kettle for life
– Kostas Georgiou, Northumbria – ATV with generator fixture
– Mark Austwicke, Northumbria – Safe Keeping system for banks to provide data storage
– Nik Hannay, Brighton – Smart American Football helmet
– Miguel Ricciolini, London South Bank – 3D printing filament recycler
– Edward Haddrell, Plymouth – Bank card with inbuilt e-ink balance screen
– Joshua Keogh, Central St Martins – Herb planter
– Rhian Bache, Brunel – Syringe adapter for oral application
– Alex Cushen, Sheffield Hallam – Adjustable height and fixture toilet

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