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New Designers 2021: Meet Aidan Johnstone

Struggling to find apt exercise equipment during the lockdowns of yesteryear, new designer Aidan Johnstone conceived of his sleek and sophisticated Multi Wheel; read more about Aidan's process, next steps and thoughts on New Designers 2021 here.

1. Congratulations on being shortlisted for The Conran Shop and The Marandi Foundation's Designer of the Future Award 2021; how do you feel, and what does this award mean for your future and practice?

I feel excited and really surprised, there is always so much good work that comes from new designers, so I knew there was some stiff competition. This shortlist means a great deal for my future, recognition from New Designers and The Conran Shop is such an honour, especially from two well-established brands.

 2. Are you familiar with the work we do at The Conran Shop and of Sir Terence's legacy? Did it have any influence on your work?

I am familiar with The Conran Shop and think it is great how it shows some iconic products from big-name designers as well as showcasing work from lesser-known designers and brands. Showing some classic designs but still forward-thinking enough leave room for the future designers

3. Please tell us more about who you are and your project.

I am a Product Design graduate at the University of Dundee who is particularly interested in fitness and sustainable design. I am a hands-on problem solver and always eager to learn new skills.

The Multi Wheel is a piece of compact home gym equipment designed to simulate lifting real weight while taking up a fraction of the space. Using a number of strong magnets, the Multi Wheel can produce an adjustable amount of resistance far heavier than the product itself allowing people of all strength levels to use it. It is versatile, with a wide range of exercises available and is paired with an app that tracks your workout and allows you to compare and compete with your friends.

4. As to your work, who inspires it and do you have a particular process that drives your craft?

My work is a combination of many different inspirations. Many of my inspiration comes from other products as opposed to people.

My design process isn’t too out of the ordinary. Before I start, I always try I get a fuller picture and the subject I'm designing for through research, be that through interviews or online. Once I fully understand the subject I move onto my favourite part, the ideation stage where I do some rough sketch of how it might look and work together. After that, I focus on each individual element and see where I can improve on it. Once I am happy with all the elements I look back to my research to make sure it still follows all the insights I gained and then go on to make more accurate CAD models.

 5. How important do you think something like New Designers is for emerging designers?

I think it’s a great opportunity for new and upcoming designers to get their work showcased at a national level. Especially when its so hard to get your work noticed through social media these, its good to enter something like New Designers which cuts through the noise.

6. Looking around, did you see any emerging trends/shared concerns/materials with your fellow designers?

With my class I did notice a lot of outdoor-based products, whether that’s because of the pandemic or not, it was really great to see so many products encouraging users to get outside which I thought was exactly what was needed after so many lockdowns.

I guess the other thing I saw a lot of was sustainable design. Although I would call it a trend but more a necessity in every design at this point.

7. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging designers? Did the pandemic impact your work in any way, and how was it working through New Designers virtually?

I think the biggest challenge facing new designers at the moment is the lack of real working world experience. As a new graduate, it is becoming clearer to me that experience in the field you are applying for boosts your chances immensely.

I was lucky enough that the pandemic did not impact my project in a practical sense. The workshops were open when I needed them and were actually quieter than usual which was nice. However, I did miss the atmosphere of the studio and bouncing ideas off my classmates. It definitely wasn’t the same work from my flat.

8. What, in your opinion, makes a design timeless?

Does not follow trends, reflects the time it was designed but still has the ability to adapt, simple yet functional

9. What are your ambitions for the next ten years?

Big question. If I think about it I would love to work for a design firm, in no particular place just somewhere where it is a joy to go to work in the morning and no day is the same. In the long run, I would love to have a product I designed fully out and available to the mass market. Always loved the thought of having work I have created shared around the world. It doesn’t have to make a lot of money but would just be smart to say.

10. Lastly, which is your favourite piece of design history and who is your best-loved designer?

Definitely the Bauhaus movement, the fact that the school was so short-lived yet still left a permanent mark on design history and history itself is so inspiring.

I don't think I could have just one best-loved designer but I have a lot of respect for Philippe Starck. He was one of the first designers I learned about when I was young and always liked his playfulness with his designs. Seeing his juicer when I was younger was one of the reasons I wanted to do product design in the first place so he will always be highly rated for me.

Click here to discover more about our involvement with New Designers and to meet the rest of the 2021 shortlist; plus, be sure to follow Aidan here, here, and here.