Ikea leads the way to good design

An unusual partnership between the world's largest furniture retailer and one of Scotland's smaller local authorities has produced an interactive DVD for craft and design technology classes.

The programme shows how Ikea has developed its designs from drawing board to shop floor, and will be available to every school in the UK. A team of workers from Ikea's store on the outskirts of Edinburgh and a group of Midlothian teachers collaborated on the production after travelling to Sweden to film the designer DVD, which provides a "walk" through the company's museum charting 50 years of furniture design.

"The partnership has allowed pupils and teachers to share in the insights of a real-world designer and product developer," explains Susan McLaren, a lecturer in design and technology at Strathclyde University and adviser to the project.

"It means they share in examples of communication, thought processes, where ideas come from, systems and people involved in the process as a whole, and can tap into the feedback at various stages from initial brief to final market place.

"This is difficult to get over to novice designers in classroom studios. It demystifies the process and raises teacher morale too, because they feel that what they are doing is authentic and up to date," she says.

The DVD is part of a collection developed by the partnership over the past five years. Other programmes include Product Processes (CD and DVD), My Design Folio (DVD and interactive CD) and Talking Products (CD, DVD plus 40 design cards).

Midlothian's director of education, Donald McKay, says: "The Product Design Collection has done so much to stimulate young people and help them to understand creativity, invention, design, innovation and production which together, in my book, add up to enterprise education."

The Ikea-Midlothian partnership has also created a design competition involving 400 Standard grade CDT pupils annually and an S5-S6 "design day", which help to make CDT a popular and strong subject in Midlothian secondaries.

The project co-ordinator and principal teacher of CDT at Lasswade High, Ross Angus, says: "There is very little in the way of CDT resources, which is why we believe the partnership with Ikea and what it is producing is not only unique in Scotland but of potential benefit to every school in the UK.

There have even been enquiries from Hungary about the design collection.

"All credit must go to Ikea. It was their initial approaches and their steadfast commitment since, that is making so much possible."

The Ikea connection began with a recycling project in 1999-2000, when the store offered both primary and secondary schools surplus wood materials.

The company's policy is to support the local community, including schools, and to let the community use the local store as a resource.

Samples from the Product Design Collection can be viewed at www.smallprint.plus.com

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