Product Design competition winner secures design job

Issue date: 09 June 2010

Penny Blurton with Bisley Design Director, John Fogarty A competition winning product design student from the University of the West of England has won permanent employment at Bisley,the international office furniture company, after making a positive impression during a recent work placement.

UWE's Product Design degree programme has worked in partnership with Bisley for three years, the highlight of the collaboration being an annual competition where Bisley sets a design challenge project for the students.

Penny Blurton won the annual UWE/Bisley Design competition last year for her portable workstation design that she named 'Porto'. Her prize was a work placement at Bisley which has since become a permanent position as a Design Engineer. Penny has not yet completed her Degree at UWE and has decided to study part-time towards her qualification as the opportunity at Bisley was too good to miss.

“I'm really enjoying the work at Bisley,” said Penny, “It's quite a challenge juggling work with study but I'm already involved in a range of projects. My Porto idea is currently being refined and we are getting the prototype ready to show at the Orgatec Show in Germany this autumn. I'm also working on a new product for Bisley to add to the locker range. A team of us are working on a Tote Box designed for hot deskers so they can transfer essential office kit between locker and work station.

“This week I paid my first visit to Bisley's showroom in Great Portland Street. Clients visit the showrooms to see the product range, discuss bespoke requirements and to place orders. We provide many blue chip companies throughout the UK with storage solutions including the BBC, Clifford Chance and KPMG to name a few, so this was an interesting insight into the way Bisley does business.

“The course at UWE has been very relevant – as well as teaching me practical aspects of design it has improved my confidence in my abilities immeasurably. I am a mature student and I had previous experience working for a sheet metal engineering company and I'm sure this also helped me get the job at Bisley. I would recommend the course as it gives a broad based introduction to product design principles as well as the valuable placement experience.”

John Fogarty, Bisley Design Director, said, “We have been working with UWE for the past three years. Our relationship stems from the fact that I was at college with Product Design lecturer David Ames. At Bisley we are keen to put something back and the partnership with the Product Design course at UWE has worked well. Students get to work on a real design brief and their work is put under genuine scrutiny. The idea is that the students are stretched and get to grips with real design issues that prepare them for work.

“If students come up with designs that we think we can use we reward this with opportunities to work on placement. If a design goes into production we negotiate royalty payments.

“The office furniture market is a regulation-strewn minefield. There are work standard directives relating to ergonomic requirements. Penny's design for a portable workstation is suitable for use as a product we can market for occasional short term working. We are showing the prototype in Cologne at Europe's biggest office furniture show 'Orgatec', this coming October.

“Two years ago UWE student Alex Forsyth designed an item of office furniture called 'Bite' – which has now been put into production. We are serious about taking on design ideas but the original concepts will always need refinement to be matched to our manufacturing processes and to meet standards and working directives. Our relationship with the UWE Product Design course is proving fruitful and we hope that we are helping to inspire the students to go on to better and greater things.”

Doug Barber, UWE Product Design Lecturer, said, “Bisley is a great company and we are thrilled at the outcome for Penny Blurton and Alex Forsyth. It's so important that students get the chance to put theory into practice. The course is very practical and students get plenty of opportunity to put their ideas into practice but working to a brief and selling an idea are skills that need to be honed and we place equal weight on these criteria.”

Final Year students will be showing their work at the Bristol Institute of Technology Design Show on 11 June – to find out more see

To find out more about the UWE Product Design Course go to

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