My Typical Day
What I love about my job is its variety. I begin the day by having a quick check through my emails over a coffee – quite a few of our suppliers are in places such as China and India and so emails regularly come in overnight. I then attend a team meeting where we discuss ongoing projects and delegate work. This is really useful and one of the benefits of working for a smaller design agency as you get the opportunity to get an overview of all work, rather than working in isolation on one project.
I then tend to head back to my desk and review my own projects; weighing up priorities and client deadlines. This typically informs my ‘to do’ list for the day. Quite frequently, I will be working on several projects in one go, and so I may set a prototype print going on our 3D printer so that it can be running in the background whilst I get on with other things. Most of our prints take between 11 and 24 hours and so it’s important to plan this in to a project timeline.
From here, my days can vary enormously – which is one of the things I love most about my job as a designer. Let’s take today as an example: my first real job of the day involved integrating a tactile switch into the casework of a consumer electronics product. The challenge here was in the alignment of the external button with the switch, whilst considering design for assembly and manufacture.
Towards the end of the morning, I met with one of our clients, who was viewing an aesthetic model that I had made with functioning electronics for the first time. This is another huge perk of working for a small design studio – being able to develop close relationships with clients, seeing their face light up when they see their product come to life really is priceless! Happy, my client then left with her prototype, ready to film her Kickstarter campaign.
After lunch, I then moved on to work on another project – totally different in scope from this morning. This work is mainly conceptual, working for a high-end sailing company. A few weeks ago, the team spent two days abroad visiting the client at their headquarters and, so today’s work involved building up and refining the concepts discussed during the trip. First, I began by generating a form board of images on Pinterest that fitted in with the client’s brand language. From here, I moved on to weighing up the functional requirements with the aesthetic considerations which I knew were really important to this particular client. I finished the day by spending an hour developing some sketches and quickly mocking them up in 3D CAD to get an idea of volume, scale, and fit of the mechanisms and other components ahead of a presentation to the client tomorrow morning. All in all, a busy day!
I love the variety of work. Since working for Raymont-Osman, I had had the opportunity to design a huge range of products, from drones and stylish consumer electronics, to gaming tech and even the Queen’s Baton for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games! Meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace as part the unveiling of the Baton will definitely go down as a career highlight! Working for a small design agency has also given me the chance to be involved in other aspects of the business other than design, such as; client liaison, pitching and business acquisition, sales, etc. Coming out of university, where I studied Industrial Design, I have also avoided specialising too early on in my career, which is quite rare and something I would definitely recommend.
The benefits of being a Product Design Engineer as opposed to someone who focuses on solely design is the opportunity to work on a product from the ground up – from conception through to production and launch. My designs are really put through their paces; it’s not enough that they look great, they have to function in the real world. That said, as someone from an industrial design background, the power to have a strong influence on the aesthetics is also very appealing. The challenge of juggling this with, often, very complex internal components – both mechanical and electrical – is also particularly rewarding.
Working for clients – whether big business or individuals – all of whom have invested financially and emotionally in their product can, at times, be quite stressful. Workload can also fluctuate significantly depending on projects coming in, so sometimes there can be some long hours. With any given budget, there is also a certain pressure to work within a certain timescale in order to ensure projects are completed within the time allocated within quotations, but within a small agency, we are used to all pitching in to help each other. Overall, I would say that the pros far outweigh the cons of a job in design!
Advice to aspiring Product Design Engineers
Don’t specialise too early on in your career! Working for a smaller agency will enable you to use all of the skills you learned during your university course, allowing you to remain versatile and professionally ‘sharp’. You are also more likely to get cross-overs between other disciplines such as mechanical and electronics engineering, and so you end up becoming a hybrid of several fields which is invaluable to your CV. Take any opportunity to learn about the other sides of the business – from sales and business acquisition to client liaison: if you want to progress in a career in design, then these skills are crucial.
There is no one path to becoming a Product Design Engineer, but you will need a degree in something such as industrial design, mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, or product design. When looking out for degree courses, try to select one with a strong design reputation as employers look out for this. You will also need to be able to produce a portfolio of work when applying to jobs: start building this up whilst at university. Before embarking upon this as a career, you need to appreciate the sheer amount of competition for jobs: you will need to be committed to being better than your peers, so work hard at university building up that portfolio and securing good grades.
Lewis Webber, Product Design Engineer, Raymont-Osman Product Design