Practice makes perfect: product design and external collaborations

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportConference Contributionpeer-review


How should practitioners and enterprises contribute to product design education? This paper looks at the strengths and challenges of working with design practitioners and enterprises. Lecturers are employed on part-time specifically because they are current practitioners. Issues can arise between to the demands of teaching and practice. Companies who are keen to work with the University and their motivations vary, so one has to weigh up the relevance of live projects and competitions. Local organizations are approached to support students' research because of their resources, expertise and experience. The focus is on sharing business practice. These sorts of collaborations have led to Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and career opportunities for graduates. Alumni return as design practitioners themselves seeking employees. The Product Course at Northampton also works with charities and social enterprises. This type of practice gives rise to a different set of issues and skills. Understanding of social value is key for users, students and the organisations. This approach shares good practice and experience with whole cohorts. The variety of opportunities suits companies and often educates them about the value of design. The paper presents a number of experiences and projects to explore the issues of practice in education. It is not always a smooth process. Agreements are not always easy to make. There can be ethical issues. University administrations are still learning to work with outside organisations. Despite the challenges, this paper would argue that such collaboration with practitioners has proved itself invaluable and should be pursued. Practice makes perfect.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBuilding Community: Design Education for a Sustainable Future
EditorsArild Berg, Erik Bohemia, Lyndon Buck, Tore Gulden, Ahmed Kovacevic, Nenad Pavel
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherThe Design Society /Institution of Engineering Designers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781904670865, 9781904670858
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2017


  • Practice
  • local enterprise
  • collaboration
  • undergraduate product designers


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