Blender Design has proudly had a long association with AUT for many years, sponsoring projects and offering mentorship to New Zealand’s upcoming design talent. Earlier this year AUT third year students were offered the opportunity to work on a brief with Blender, targeting an industry we have had recent experience in with one of our latest products, Micropod.
We’ve seen humans are now more technically advanced and connected than ever. Yet the general desire for healthy living and sustainable relationships with nature is trending, and becoming increasingly important to people. This presents an opportunity for a new wave of product design, at the intersection of technology and nature.
The brief was to “design a physical product that addresses one or more obstacles small scale gardeners/cultivators face in growing their own self sustaining food sources”.
Over 12 weeks, the Blender Team mentored the students and their projects on a weekly basis. Our goal was to pass on our industry knowledge to the students through a “real life” project, wherein the physical products had to be designed suitably with manufacture and production in mind. The students were also given tours of Blender Design and Navico in Albany, to depict what an industry workplace looks like. By the conclusion of the project, it was great to see the students understanding the constraints of designing in the industry, but also emerging with new skills, methodologies and approaches to navigate their own design process.
“Working with Ollie and Haydn has been a great experience as they have pushed me outside of my comfort zone in many aspects and have helped me to constantly further my design knowledge and work ethic”
– Levon Hutchinson
“Throughout the time I have been working with Blender, I have hugely developed my skills and exceeded my own expectations of what I thought I was capable of as a third-year design student”
– Martin Baxalle
The group produced some very promising work, and while each project was recognized for its individual highlights – there could only be one winner of the coveted “Blender Prize” awarded each year in our student projects. Although a close debate amongst the Blender team, Levon Hutchinson’s “Playtime Garden” was recognized as the standout product from the group. Levon recognized our youth need to be learning where their food comes from, and understand how horticulture works. “Playtime Garden” addressed this opportunity with a thoughtful product kit that allows children to grow Microgreens in a shape of their own design – enhancing the experience with key “kid-ify” features such as a timekeeping scale and a water feed sponge shaped like a cloud.
Check out the seven other great student projects below:
Shah aimed to enhance and simply home cultivation for new and experienced users. “Sow and Grow” is a pod-based growing device that doubles as a functional lighting product to enhance contemporary home environments.
Nick addressed an unsolved opportunity to create an intuitive and convenient system to cut and store Microgreens with “Microp”, combining a KeepCup approach with an innovative guillotine cutting system to harvest your Microgreens easier.
Martin focussed on the difficulties growing your own food in apartment living scenarios. His solution “Grove” aims to “bring the food to your plate” with a modular hydroponic wall mount system that you can build with your needs and budget.
Holly wanted to reconnect time-poor individuals with growing food in an office environment, hoping to provide a greater sense of overall wellbeing and reduced stress levels. She took inspiration from Japanese Zen gardens to merge a unique water feature system with traditional soil-based growing to create a unique contemporary office garden.
Alice also saw the opportunity to target the office environment – her project “Kiera” is a small scale garden incorporated with a desk organiser and divider. It is aimed to be non-intrusive, easy maintenance, integrating into the daily routine of a young adult with a high-intensity lifestyle.
James’ solution HVS (Home Vermicomposting System) uses the process of transforming food waste into nutrient-rich plant food as a means to reconnect families with the life cycle of food. His modular system provides an adaptable and attractive solution for families wanting to integrate this process into their lives.
Adam looked at reconnecting the process of traditional gardening to inexperienced students with low incomes living in typical flatting situations. His project Hanging Ed’s offers a low-cost kit set of parts and instructions that students can easily assemble and produce their own food from, yet maintains a charm and quality aesthetic that anyone would be proud to have in their homes.