Ahead of the Curve: How our designers develop their thinking and practices

By Nouhou Basekonda, Junior Designer

Once a month, the design team gets together for our Community of Practice (COP). We use this time to share any general updates, present work, discuss topics, or engage in an activity or workshop of some sort over lunch and chat. It’s a way for us to bond as a team and also for us to continually learn from each other to grow as designers.

This year, we decided we wanted to make a conscious effort to broaden our horizons and invite guest speakers from the design industry to talk to us about what they specialise in, whether that be the metaverse, animation, illustration, CGI, industrial products… you name it.  We’re interested in learning more about it all.

As well as being a source of inspiration, we felt this could be an interesting opportunity to learn from the array of design talent out there and use their insight to support to our own creative processes.

Who was the guest speaker?

To kick this off we invited Liam Martin, Founder of Momnt Design & Visualisation, and part-time Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. We’d extended the invitation via our Junior Designer Rama, who’d been his one of his students. Rama had shown us some of Liam’s work on Instagram (which blew our minds) and right away we knew we simply had to bring him in to have as our first guest.

Liam spoke to us about how CGI is changing the design industry and also how he created a virtual degree show during the pandemic.

He started off with an engaging energiser, called Render vs Reality: Blending the lines, in which he had a set of images where we had to guess whether or not it was CGI or an actual photo. I myself failed miserably because the CGI images were incredibly convincing. Check out the energiser here: https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVOMrODLE=/ 

He then talked us through how he got to where he is as a designer and some of the challenges and learnings he experienced to get to where he is today.

Which led to the main talking point of the session: The virtual degree show. This was an idea he and his team came up with due to the pandemic, they needed a workaround to showcase students’ work. So they decided to produce a virtual, fully-interactive 3D space where people could virtually move around and explore the work that students produced in a museum-like experience.

It was fascinating stuff and just made you wonder how much work and hours it took to get it to where it was, all of which Liam gracefully answered. 

My main takeaways

One of the main takeaways I had was, considering the emergence of the Metaverse, it’d be interesting to know how we as designers could take 3D designs into account and what those projects might look like. How will 3D design manifest itself in Product Design?

Another takeaway was just how realistic CGI has become. The sheer detail is in a space where I don’t know if I can trust what I can see on movies and TV shows anymore. Simple things like water droplets or fruit can be designed to a very high level. One thing Liam mentioned, is that the fidelity of CGI is so good, that some companies opt to just 3D renderings of their products as opposed to a traditional product photoshoot as it works out cheaper.

What others said

Here are a couple of takeaways that the rest of the group had:

  • “The future of Product Design is heading towards creating digital products.”
  • “It’s wonderful to have a vision of where similar industries are going. It has definitely inspired me to look into the future of the industry”

Watch this space

We plan on having more external speakers join us and give similar talks throughout this year. We’ll be sure to share the insights.

Where to find Liam Martin

Catch Liam on his Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/ldmartin/ and visit his Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/LiamMartinTutorials