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Garden delight for UCLan designer

05 November 2013

Rachel Atkinson

Student wins pitch to help create outdoor furniture of the future

While most students spent their summer break relaxing outdoors, five University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) undergraduates devoted their holiday to researching garden furniture in the hope of winning a money can’t buy opportunity.

The BA(Hons) Product Design students spent time exploring the competitive market and used that knowledge in their pitch to win the chance to help design Trans-Continental’s SunTime brand’s 2015 collection.

The Preston-based company offered the final year students a live project to generate an idea for the future of garden furniture.

To help with their research and creativity the Trans-Continental team opened its doors and allowed the students to visit the SunTime showroom to find out more about garden furniture industry. They also learned about big market shares and SunTime’s ethos and goals in a highly competitive industry. Attendance at SOLEX (Summer Outdoor Living Exhibition) earlier this year provided the students an opportunity to see the industry’s latest trends and innovations.

Each student gave a five minute pitch to a panel of experts comprising of Trans- Continental’s Managing Director Mike Withers, Head of Buying Sara Murray, UCLan product design course tutor Andi Armitage and Fiona Langan, from Preston-based sofa manufacturer, Tetrad.

“We’ve been impressed by the calibre of presentations, the research that went into them and the ideas that came out. We are looking forward to working with our winner to develop the ideas further.”

Mike commented: “We wanted to work with UCLan and get students to look where we are now, what our competitors are doing and what the future trends could be. By working with a university we could tap into the latest knowledge and the skills of the next generation of designers to help us gain that advantage in the marketplace.

“We’ve been impressed by the calibre of presentations, the research that went into them and the ideas that came out. We are looking forward to working with our winner to develop the ideas further.”

Matt Houghton was chosen as the winner and is taking his concept forward. The panel was impressed and intrigued by his idea of taking the inside outdoors.

“I am delighted to have won this project and am looking forward to working my idea and concept up further with the team at Trans-Continental.”

Matt said: “I am delighted to have won this project and am looking forward to working my idea and concept up further with the team at Trans-Continental. I wanted my pitch to be relevant and current but also appeal to a wider audience. You’ll have to watch this space to see the idea take shape.”

He will be supported both by his course tutor and by the team at Trans-Continental to develop his idea. The rest of the course will also benefit from a manufacturing and commercial viability workshop, giving the students a real insight into what it costs to develop products for market.

Matt will present his initial designs to Mike and Sara in February 2014 ready for prototyping and gaining feedback from customers and a sample for launch at Solex’s 2014 exhibition next July.