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AUT Design Honours Student Joel Ross couldn’t have designed a better sounding board than that of Blender Design and Integ International if he’d tried. Throughout his Honours year at university, Joel has been working under the mentorship of Oliver McDermott and the team at Blender, learning tricks of the trade and discovering that there is more to the industry than what he has learnt at university.

Following a brief from Integ international, Joel has explored the area of Sit/Stand furniture for his final year project, and spent much of the year conducting research into how to create a piece of office furniture that promotes standing while working. He has designed a modular desk, “Tier One,” which allows office workers to change the height of the desk to sit or stand, and add extra items such as privacy walls, clip on drawers or computer mounts.

Blender has been instrumental in helping him create this innovative modular piece, with Joel saying “the opportunity to learn from Ollie and Blender was fantastic, and it gave me a chance to learn about the industry.” Blender met with Joel several times throughout the year, with him visiting the office on a regular basis, and Ollie visiting AUT to tutor and discuss the project with Joel.

Unlike many university projects, which only award groundbreaking design, the emphasis for this project was on a feasible product that could actually sell in the marketplace, something that Joel says was incredibly helpful. “I have a much better grasp on the commercial side of things,” says Joel. “It was always good to come back to Ollie and understand the costs and commercial potential, as well as the design.”

“When we were at uni, we didn’t have a lot of support for working in the industry – we went out there and did it ourselves, something that gave us a lot of value. Now we want to give students the opportunities we wanted to access the design industry,” says Oliver McDermott, Managing Director and Co-founder of Blender Design.

Blender’s mentoring programme has proven to be a real winner, with all parties involved gaining huge benefits – Integ has received insights and research that would normally be “quite difficult to facilitate in house,” according to Bruce Davies, Managing Director of Modtec Group Ltd, the university received free mentoring and tutoring for its’ students, and Joel gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience within the industry, even discovering which aspect of the industry he wants to work in.

Blender also mentors groups of Year 3 AUT students, of which Joel was one in 2012. For Blender, mentoring is about supporting and harnessing young kiwi design talent, to help New Zealand become a hub for great design. If Blender and Joel are any indicators, that shouldn’t be a difficult goal.

Oliver McDermott

Co-founder and Managing Director of Blender Design. He lives and breathes innovation and is passionate about using design to create products that make the world a better place.