It is often hard to define product design and often the word feels like an oxymoron because it can mean a physical good or item, a service or a concept. This then means that product design is the development or creation of a physical good, a service or concept that solves an existing problem.
Tuesday 11th June 2019, saw the convergence of inter-disciplinary product designers at the Cheche Gallery at the Kenya Cultural Center in the first of many dialogues to share insights, experience and hopes about the industry and growth of the same.
The robust discussions identified that inadequate access to materials, technology and business acumen as the greatest barriers in product design education. This often leads to ill-prepared designers who will struggle to function and prosper in the work world. Thankfully, this is not a permanent situation and can be remedied by increased practice through job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships and industry visits that will allow them to understand and experience more than they would otherwise have.
It became clear that though many product designers are struggling to find and maintain work, Beatrice Mwasi countered saying that ‘there are as many opportunities as there are people and the needs of the community must guide the designer.’ For instance, there are 35 million shoes sold in Kenya annually. Of these, 11million are leather and 3.3 million are made locally and 7.7 million are imported. The opportunity here is in understanding what makes the 7.7 million buy imported shoes and meet that need. There are opportunities all over.
As the community needs guide, the designer needs to determine what their work represents and this determines if they focus on profit, social impact, sustainability or anything else. This then determines how far one goes that is enhanced by a few key actions:
At the end of the day, product design is critical to the growth of the economy and we must be careful to pay our part and contribute to the growth of our communities.
Kyesubire is a visual scribe and storyteller using words and images to connect all aspects of life. She powers from faith to food to health to nature to fiction in ways that encourage viewers and readers to find joy and balance in life through its connectivity. She is telling HIStory of faith, hope, love and family.