Industrial Design Students Present Innovative Products for Partner Newell Rubbermaid

Some 150 industrial design students working in 34 groups came up with innovative takes on pens and organizers as part of this year’s sprint collaboration with industry partner Newell Rubbermaid.

The products, ranging from inkless writing implements that can electronically transmit information to modular storage units that can hold the items people want to put down as they enter their homes, were presented Jan. 29 in the DEC Center to a crowded room of students, faculty, administrators and Newell Rubbermaid representatives.

Lisa King, vice president of research and development strategy for the company, said, “We couldn’t be happier–the commitment the faculty brought to it, how bright and accomplished the students are.  It was wonderful.”

For the 11th annual sprint, all industrial design students—from freshmen to graduate students—worked in teams on one of two challenges: to redesign the Paper Mate InkJoy pen or design a storage solution for a home’s entryway, where people tend to drop everything from keys and cell phones to wallets and gloves.

The sprint is a fast-paced, one-week intensive project that offers students the opportunity to test their design and collaboration skills with a real-world challenge from a top consumer company.

King predicted that some of the student designs will be developed into marketable products for the company.  “What most impressed all of us was how far the students can get in such a short period of time,” she said.

: Ian Cunningham, design director for Rubbermaid Consumer, checks out a modular organizer unit.

Ian Cunningham, design director for Rubbermaid Consumer, said he was impressed with the “quality, engagement and professionalism of the students.”

The teams “pushed themselves to go in unique directions that leverage the equities of the Rubbermaid brand while satisfying the criteria and constraints that we laid out,” Cunningham said.  “I was very pleased with the range of diverse solutions that they displayed.  Some were practical, some were beautiful and some even exhibited a clever sense of humor.”

Junior Kathleen Gasper, whose team presented a curvy, modular storage solution called Up Keep, said the annual sprint teaches collaboration and time management skills, in addition to design know-how.  “Throughout the year, I try to get projects done as soon as possible in order to get feedback and have plenty of time to make changes and fix them up, and learning how to complete a project in a week helped to make it possible,” she said.

Newell Rubbermaid, a global marketer of consumer and commercial products, strives to give consumers “great performance, innovation and design,” King said, and partnering with PhilaU on the sprint offers “inspiration for us to bring new products to the marketplace.”

“This is the biggest project we’ve ever done, and it was marked by a high level of teamwork,” said Mike Leonard, academic dean of the School of Design and Engineering.  He said working on such everyday products as pens and organizers posed a particular challenge to students—“how to think past their familiarity and come up with something fresh and new.”

Industrial design students Amanda Schepers and Zachary Hawk demonstrate the InkJoy Air.

Amanda Schepers is a junior on the team that came up with InkJoy Air, a paperless writing system that would transfer information to a computer via a USB port in a stand resembling an inkwell.  “There is immense power in collaborating with my peers for this one week of chaos,” she said of the sprint.  “We share our skills to become more efficient and productive as a design team. This enhances our own abilities and those of others.”

The sprint “tears down walls between class years,” said industrial design program director Gotz Unger.  “It becomes a broader conversation between interdependent students with different skill sets,” he said, as students collaborate to come up with “designs that change the conversation.”

Cunningham, who is an industrial designer, said, as a learning experience, “The whole format of a sprint is a best practice for any kind of education setting.”

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