Some people are naturally talented in their professions. Others have to try extremely hard in order to succeed in their respective field. The extremely talented individuals are the ones who are multifaceted; by combining their dedication and natural skills together. One student who is a perfect example of someone who embodies both of these characteristics is Benjamin Weir.
Benjamin is a twenty-year-old product designer from Bristol, United Kingdom, who is attending his sophomore year at the University of the West of England (UWE). Although he is young, his designs and innovations are as sophisticated as professionals in his field. Whether it is designing potential brand products for companies, or redesigning models to make the product more efficient and likeable, Benjamin has an eye for consumer usability in his designs.
I talked with Benjamin to learn more about his current portfolio of designs, his familiarity with SOLIDWORKS, and discuss future projects he is working on.
What made you start product designing?
Benjamin Weir (BW): “Well, I guess where it kind of started was when I went to high school. A subject we used to call DT, which is design technology, has always been my favorite subject. By the time I got to the end of high school, I realized that it was my strongest subject; so that was really the point where I decided to go to and study design at university.”
How were you introduced to SOLIDWORKS?
BW: “During my first year at university was when I was introduced to SOLIDWORKS. I had never used SOLIDWORKS. We have five modules (classes). One of them is called Design Communication, and as a part of that, we had to learn CAD, and last year we learned SOLIDWORKS. As the year progressed, I just enjoyed using it more and more, and I just found myself using it in my spare time. The thing I love the most about SOLIDWORKS is just the precision.”
Do you ever engineer your designs into actual models?
BW: “That’s something that I’ve started doing a lot more recently. My degree is one of two, Creative Product Design and Product Design Technology; I study the former. They both have elements of technicality and manufacturing but just in different levels. Moving into my second year this year, we started taking the design forward and thinking more about, not just the designs, but also the manufacturing and engineering. We just started a module on what’s called, ‘Engineering for Designers.’ It’s all the math and equations that you use for stress testing in choosing the appropriate material.”
One of your many designs are a collection of glasses that you have also rendered. Tell me what triggered the idea of creating this particular design.
BW: “One of my projects at university last year was called, ‘Design for Brand.’ So we all, as groups, we were assigned a company, and we were assigned Tiffany & Co, which is a really expensive jewelry company. We were told to design a range of products, and my group was assigned to do table wear, so cutlery, plates, dishes, drinking glasses, and so on. So, I decided to focus on the glasses, and I did some modeling using SOLIDWORKS with some additional rendering. The spirally [designed glass], I kind of came up with that during that project, but it wasn’t really appropriate for the brand and such, so I wasn’t able to take that design forward. However, when I finished the project, because I liked that design, I decided to follow up and just produce some renders.”
Have you displayed these renders, or any other renders of previous projects, to potentially interested companies, at all?
BW: “When I posted on my blog, I actually think I sent Tiffany & Co. a link. Usually with these designs, when I design for a brand as part of a university project, I usually send them my work, not because I’m hoping to sell it to them, necessarily, but just to get their opinion. I actually sent them my spirally glass design, but unfortunately did not get a reply back. I also sent other designs to Bodum, a company that makes coffee equipment.”
With one of your other designs, the wooden charging block, can you describe how you designed this model to become electrically capable as a real, physical prototypical?
BW: “So I bought a wireless charging block a long time ago, and it kind of just bugged me how it didn’t look particularly nice. I decided I’d take it apart and see how much I could strip it away and still have it function properly, and I realized that they’ve actually put a layer metal between the circuitry and the casing to limit the charging distance. When I realized that, I realized that I could basically drill a hole in the back of a block of wood and pop the circuitry in the back, basically just redesigning the housing.”
“On the purchased charging block there’s a metal plate with four holes in it. Above the copper coil, which uses induction charging, it was placed above that, but between the plastic layer, which you rest your phone on. Unless there’s another explanation for it, I can only think that it’s to reduce the charging distance. I’m not entirely sure why, but I took it out, and my phone was able to charge considerably further off the block, which basically meant that I would be able to remodel some wood to fit the existing components in. So, I kept the components from the one I bought, and I also ordered the two other of the same components from eBay.”
“I’d love to design the circuitry myself, but my degree up to this point doesn’t or hasn’t taught that, but it’s something that I’ve always been fascinated in. It was really just redesigning the housing to fit existing components.I actually went to a place called The Bristol Recycling Wood Company, and they basically just take timber that people are throwing out, and they sell it, so, I bought a block of Sapele…and had it milled and trimmed down much thinner. I’m going to take it into my campus at university and have the actual wood CNC’d.”
What other projects/designs have you been working on?
BW: “Other than the stuff on my website, I’ve just finished another project at university, which was a medical project. Our brief was to travel to the medical campus from our university and go in to some of the training sessions and make observations, and basically look for a design opportunity. The session that I went to was in midwifery training session on manual handling of patients. After doing that observation, I did a bit more research and realized that there are a ridiculous number of back injuries every year from staff pulling patients from one bed to another when they transfer them. I realized that this was just a bit flawed the way they were doing it.”
“When a patient is transferred from, let’s say, an operating stretcher just to a normal hospital bed, what they do is they put the patient onto what’s called a slide board, which is a big plastic full body length board with handles down the sides, and they reach. So, they have two nurses on the other side of the bed the patient’s about to be moved into, and those two reach all the way over the bed veneer to the other bed and grab and pull the patient towards them. What’s that doing is it’s basically just straining their lower back muscles. So, the solution I came up with was basically just a strap. I bought a roll of seatbelt and fabric from Amazon, and I designed, and 3D printed, a handle and a hook. Basically, you just hook the hooks down into the handles on the slide board, and it means that the nurses can stand upright and lean back, which means they’re not using any of their muscles, they’re just using their body weight.”
Benjamin obviously has a bright future ahead of him, as he one day aspires to work as a product designer. He is currently searching for internships during the fall of 2018 in the United States to advance his CAD designing career. He believes he is proficient in using SOLIDWORKS, even though he has never taken the certification test. Benjamin is truly an inspiration to others, as he continues to follow what he loves to do, with intense dedication.