Freddie Howe

Why did you decide to study Product Design?

I grew up surrounded by my father's antiques and furniture design business. My parents met at Art school and as children we always did a lot of 'cutting and sticking' activities. When I began Design Technology in senior school I found the problem-solving side of making and creating things completely engaging.

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

After making a shortlist of design courses and attending open days at various universities, the product design course at the University of Leeds really excited me because of the variety of skills and opportunities on offer. Although this was a relatively new course, the reputation of Leeds was well established and respected. In my opinion, the structure of the course seemed more relevant to today's design direction than any other I encountered. The core design modules are complemented perfectly alongside technical modules; such as electronics and materials science. The course encompasses the ethical, emotional and business side of design and I believe these combinations produce competent, employable designers, highly sought after by the industry. In addition to this, the current students I met on the open day were brimming with enthusiasm; everyone had a smile on their face and had only good things to say about the course and university.

What has been the best aspect of the course and why?

There have been so many great things about the course. In particular, the staff are fantastic. During my three years I felt a genuine sense of care and support from all the staff who strive towards the success of their students. Extra help and advice was always provided and even the little things, such as emails being replied to within seconds, assured me that I was very much a priority and important in the lecturers' mind.
The field of design is constantly evolving and developing and this is reflected in the course as it remains relevant. As a student, you feel important and every opinion is heard. Student representatives also relay messages, acting as the collective student voice. The lecturers' on the course and the School of Engineering react quickly to any feedback given to ensure that every student's experience is the best it possibly can be.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed so far.

The competitive nature of the course really pushes people to achieve exceptional results; the bar is always being raised. The course covers a vast range of design categories. Projects include: packaging design, emotional design and electronics. We were set a live brief to solve the problems associated with head-loading in Sub-Saharan Africa; inclusive design, where I designed an oven to cater for limitations in movement, dexterity and strength of the elderly. We were also set the challenge of redesigning the drinking vessel to a specific market brand with no cylindrical cross sections. I enjoyed this brief as it really tested my design skills. The challenge was to solve a specific problem whilst rejecting convention. We were also given a number of relatively open briefs allowing us to explore more personal areas/aspects of design.

What has been the best aspect of studying at the University of Leeds and why?

Every aspect of the University of Leeds comes together to create the perfect university experience. I have met people from all walks of life and from around the world, this is a place where you will make lifelong friends. In my time at Leeds I did not meet one person who wasn't having the time of their lives.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

The University of Leeds has around 70,000 staff and students; there are many other universities and colleges including Leeds Metropolitan University, giving the city an unrivalled student experience. As well as having a fantastic choice of bars and clubs, the city also has numerous restaurants, cocktail bars, fantastic shopping centres, great music venues and a smart waterfront.

Have you undertaken a placement, internship or other form of work experience?

In my spare time during my second year I undertook a variety of freelance work with a couple of fellow course mates. We gained great briefs from some reputable companies. These live briefs gave me valuable real-life experience. The School of Engineering offered me a team place on a robotics engineering research project over the summer of 2012, which really helped mature my design work. I have also completed work experience at Heatherwick Studios, whose recent work includes the London Olympic cauldron and London bus; this was a hugely inspirational experience.

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans?

The University of Leeds takes a design stand at New Designers in the Business Design Centre, London. I was lucky enough to be part of the 2013 exhibition. Our stand drew much attention, with a number of job offers and product investments coming from the show. Dyson were particularly interested in the Leeds students inviting many of them to interviews. I managed to secure a job at Dyson, a company and designer I have followed since the age of 14.

What experiences at Leeds do you think will particularly help you with your future career?

The Product Design course at Leeds not only taught me a tremendous amount about design but also a vast array of transferable and employable skills including the ability to communicate and present clearly with confidence. Being set such a range of challenging assignments has required me to practice a broad range of technical and conceptual skills. Whereas previously, I may have seen a task as daunting and overwhelming, I now see them as achievable and exciting. I have finished my degree with huge belief and ambition.

What other activities outside your studies were you involved in?

There are a plethora of activities and societies at the university, ranging from the more niche Quidditch and Harry Potter society to the more main stream Ski society. I spent my first year heavily involved in the Hockey club. During my second year I joined a number of other societies including the Real Ale society and Snow riders (university ski society). I went to Val Thorens over Easter on the university ski trip, an unmissable event for the calendar. In my third year I started up the Product Design Society which has been a huge success with over 100 members in the first year, hosting socials, workshops, gaining sponsorship, providing essential course materials and support. As well as enjoying a fantastic course, the university has provided me with an unforgettable social environment that you will be sad to leave.

Finally, what would you say to students thinking about coming to do the same course?

The Product Design course here is fantastic. The thoughtful and exceptional teaching, coupled with the competitive working environment produces, I believe, brilliant designers oozing with ambition. This is a place where you will flourish and mature.