Roger BatemanMA Design
Roger Bateman is a product and furniture designer who brings a wealth of experience in education and industry. With a natural passion for design from a young age, he has worked and taught in Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh, Barcelona and Auckland. Now heading up our MA Design programme that covers product design, packaging design, graphic design, illustration, metalwork and jewellery, interior and fashion design, he is a strong advocate of 'doing good by design'.
Why does design matter?
Designers are able to engage with and respond to the provocations thrown at us in the 21st century - like global warming, water-pollution, resource depletion, famine, the ageing population, inequity in society. There are not enough designers trained to engage with these big problems, or to understand how to collaborate or co-create rather than exist as isolated individuals. Most of the projects I set are around doing good by design, they're about socially responsible design. Like a project at the moment which looks at producing biodegradable furniture that can be recycled at the end of its lifespan; and one exploring the bathroom of the future, designed for our ageing population.
How do students become designers, how do they learn to use design to meet challenges?
We challenge students to be observant, to be 'investigative translators' - finding what needs doing and understanding what are vital starting points in the design process. Then it's about applying a well-developed design process that interrogates those starting points. Travelling is wonderful research for the designer too, seeking to understand how people live, what they need, how they communicate, celebrate, work, play. There's no better way of understanding the world we live in. We travel as part of the MA course - this year we have students heading to Germany, USA, Italy and London.
What about Sheffield as a city to design in? What does the place bring to the student experience?
Ours is a post-industrial city. The maze of small backstreet manufacturers means that the University and the city combine into something like a vast workshop. Here we have cutting edge technology and processes; out there students can sub-contract out components for making. The trick is to find these original, workable methods used across the city and weave our opportunities together.
Are there students on the course who are really excelling?
Several. One is now designing furniture for some of the biggest names in the market - his work is quirky - he's creative and entrepreneurial. A recent graduate, who's been exploring our attachment to products, exemplifies what I want to see in a young designer. He has his own voice, something important to say and is passionate about approaching design differently.
Is it important, that 'different approach'?
Yes. Creativity, research and critical enquiry are the primary tools in developing original design. My own great teachers, at Ravensbourne then at the Royal College of Art, were inspirational and helped me see the world differently.
Does your teaching at the Institute do that?
Well I think a student's time at design school is transformational anyway - besides the obvious aspect of learning how to improve and apply creativity, there are the other things such as building networks, understanding enterprise and entrepreneurship, friendship building and up-skilling. Good design schools provide a safe environment within which creative risk-taking can occur - it is rare that such a place can be found outside of a design school.