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Beyond the Prototype

We’re on the lookout to really make a difference in some emerging designers’ lives. Helping get those prototypes out into production, our Launch Pad programme is really an incredible opportunity. But how has it evolved?

Beyond the Prototype

“Design feedback is critical”, says Aidan Mawhinney of Living Edge, Founding Partner of the Launch Pad programme. In more ways than one, this short but exacting assessment of the problems facing emerging design talent in our region could not be more perfect.

You see, one of the key frustrations up-and-coming talent inevitably faces emerging into the A+D world is the process of stepping beyond the prototype. For many, “design feedback is critical” but it’s also very, very hard to come by. Undeniably, there is a lack of support from experienced industry professionals – undeniably a result of the recent spike in competitiveness across this market – which time-and-again has lead to many emerging designers finding it impossible to attain feedback and support to take a product to market. As Mawhinney rightly points out, this problem is rife across the full spectrum of our creative service. Emerging talent needs both “access and support surrounding everything from manufacture, pricing, retailing, warehousing, marketing and production”.

This is something that the team at Living Edge – one of Australia’s foremost design destinations for architects, interior designers and design enthusiasts – obviously understands all too well. As one of the Founding Partners for the Launch Pad programme, Living Edge’s commitment to knowledge-sharing across A+D generations has immeasurably enriched the quality and attitude of the design community in our region. In what is yet another instance of Living Edge’s belief that authentic, considered and intelligent design is something which we need to continually foster and support, the team helped make Launch Pad a vital avenue to overcome the challenging nature of taking prototype to production – giving emerging designers the opportunity to be mentored and supported by some of the biggest names in the business.

Why not say ‘hi’ to some of those big names?! Here is our Launch Pad Asia 2017 Jury! 

Left to right: Anton Schiavello, Schiavello; Dario Reicherl, Fritz Hansen; Ken Koo, Red Dot Design Award; Priscilla Lui, Studio Juju; and Wendy Chua, Forest and Whale


So, how has Launch Pad helped support its past winners?


Let’s take a look at the past Launch Pad Asia winners! In 2014, Nigel Geh and Gloria Ngiam were victorious with their flexible torchlight SPOT. Launch Pad Asia gave Geh the inspiration he needed to set his design career on the right path. Reflecting on the experience, he says: “The most valuable take-away was the mentorship session we had with Hunn Wai (Lanzavecchia + Wai) after the competition. I still remember when we first spoke to Hunn in a cafe under the old HDB flats in Tanjong Pagar, the inspiring conversation we had with such an established and seasoned industry professional really triggered me into thinking about what design really meant to me and the designer I really wanted to be.” He is currently working as an industrial designer at the Philips Design Studio. 

Ngiam was equally inspired: “My most valuable take-away was to not let self-doubt cut you off prematurely from potential opportunities… I really realised the truth in the saying: if you don’t try, you will never know.” She recently joined the DBS Innovation Group as an innovation designer.

Aaron Lim was a winner of Launch Pad Asia 2015 with his lamp Mirage, which casts watery patterns onto surfaces. For him, the best thing about being part of Launch Pad Asia was the recognition gained from winning the competition, as well as the exposure to the design scene and its standard across Asia. He says, “I believe it is important for designers to know what and who is out there to be updated and relevant in the real world, and what better way than to participate in a friendly competition to know yourselves and the others? Launch Pad Asia is thus a good platform to engage young designers in this exchange of knowledge, thinking and skills.” He is now now a 3D Designer at Design Bridge Asia.

Seaton Mckeon’s concept for the competition was the ‘Flexi-Bollard’, which experiments with separating the traditional bollard into two halves and creating a catalogue of different possibilities. For him, Launch Pad gave him the chance to develop his prototype into something ready for production: “The project really entered the public domain for the first time with the Launch Pad competition, as it marked a new level of development in terms of a physical 1:1 prototype and a collection of smaller 1:5 scale models…. I really enjoy the prototype that came out of it.”

For others, Launch Pad allowed for a widening of their contacts. Andrew Grigor, another former Launch Pad winner noted, “The exposure introduced me to a number of contacts in the industry I would not have otherwise met. It’s a real opportunity for emerging designers to understand all of the issues involved in being a product designer and to pick the brains of those who’ve led the way.” Grigor’s lighting design ‘Glide’, first presented at Launchpad 2012, has been put into production and now supplied by the new Australian brand Anomaly.

Edward Wong was a winner in Australia’s Launch Pad programme in 2013 with the Ella Table Light. For him, the competition was priceless. “Competitions in my opinion are a good way to establish a brief for yourself, especially if you are planning on creating a product from scratch. This competition provided just the right platform to begin the process of design.” He continues, “Most of my projects that I embarked on did not reach the commercial stage, so this competition would be beneficial for me to gain insight into taking my designs and experience that extra step further.”


And the best thing about Launch Pad?


“The mentorship really helps build the commercial side of the production process,” reflects Wong, “The knowledge of the mentors and their time was valuable to the development of the product. I think what is more important is the opportunity to establish a working relationship with each of the mentors. This is perhaps one of the key advantages of the competition.”

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Launch Pad programme is this exact quality of mentorship. Where traditionally, judges of design competitions would merely review entries behind closed doors, Launch Pad finalists ‘pitch’ their pieces to the panel, imitating the process of a designer approaching the supply and manufacture space. Through this process, the designers are able to receive direct feedback, not only vital to the development of their prototype, but their knowhow and confidence in approaching the market as a business necessity.

Naturally, getting this ball rolling is, for most of the public and not solely emerging designers, an un-natural instinct. This is why, in the developing stages of this 14-year program, Launch Pad’s Founding Partner – Living Edge – saw it absolutely vital that celebrating the finalists’ creative endeavours needs to go hand-in-hand with providing valuable skills that will allow them to couple their creative talent with sound business insight.

“It was a great evolution of Launch Pad to have entrants present their concepts in person”, explains Launch Pad juror Aidan Mawhinney of Living Edge, Founding Partner of the program. “The truth is that it’s imperative for these contestants to get varied feedback. Yes, design feedback is critical. But so is also having a broad range of industry judges allowing entrants get a more holistic and much more practical degree of feedback, too”.

Such mentors are hard to find, but are without question invaluable. So, thanks to Launch Pad 2017, we’re excited to see this emerging talent work alongside prime industry heavyweights, pick their brains, and really learn what it takes to achieve that sustained success for the future of design.

Now 14 years older, the Launch Pad programme could not have helped launch the design careers of so many inspiring emerging practitioners across our region. Thanks to the forward-thinking efforts and sympathetic orientation of the programme’s founding partner Living Edge, design in our region is looking forward to a bright, exciting an diverse future.

Living Edge’s Aidan Mawhinney will be joining a stellar line-up of our region’s top talent for Launch Pad 2017 (Australia) as both juror and mentor. All of us at Indesign Media wish to express our sincerest gratitude to our Launch Pad partners – Schiavello as 2017 Official Partner, and Living Edge as Launch Pad’s Founding Partner – for nurturing the future of our industry and visionary potential. 

Join us at the inaugural INDE.Awards this June to see the finalists for the 2017 Launch Pad programme.

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