Business & Economy

Monday, 23 June 2008 13:41

Product design interns get practical

{pp}Pulling things apart to find out how they work, and then putting them back together again, might seem a destructive activity to most parents, but for budding product designers it’s the perfect childhood, as it was for young Turkish designer Esin Isik who started fiddling about in the innards of domestic appliances when she was 11.

Esin (21), a graduate in industrial design from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, is the most recent offshore intern to work with Dot Dot Dot Ex Why Zed Design, an award-winning Cape Town product design company.

At any time of the year there will be fledgling product designers serving varying terms of internship at …XYZ Design where they get crucial hands-on experience of the commercial side of product design.

Some of these interns are from local technical universities or vocational schools, others are international industrial design graduates seeking practical experience at well-know studios around the world.

During her month’s internship at …XYZ Design Esin helped prepare a presentation for potential investors on the studio’s ideas on how best to apply traditional techniques to home wares.

This is part of the design studio’s strategy of having interns help designers research  whether – and how – materials from sustainable resources can be used for new products. Sometimes bringing technology into the mix opens up a myriad of possibilities.

These new ideas, if feasible, then become part of the armoury at the disposal of the main designers to propose to clients for their commercial product development.

Esin said it was “fascinating for me to get to understand traditional African craft methods and then see how their combination with technology could produce viable products. It was an enriching experience for me. I became sensitised to the colours and graphics all around me. Cape Town is like a fruit bowl with its variety and colour.”

Some of what she learned at …XYZ Design will go back to Europe and the Middle East where Esin plans to study towards her masters degree in industrial design.

When she was 11 Esin’s fascination with household products prompted many drawings of kettles and furniture. “I started to think about how people wanted to live and how we could provide the things they needed for their lifestyles.”

When she heard she could make a career as a product designer, she never wavered in her decision. She competed with 2,5-million other Turkish youngsters to win one of 30 places to study industrial design at university. Her graduation project was a baby’s cot that converts to a bed for an eight year old.

A South African student who recently did a brief job-shadow stint at …XYZ Design, Marcellino Jonas (30), has his sights set on producing furniture. Currently a student at the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development, he had the opportunity to witness how product design companies operate.

While at the studio he became involved with the studio’s development of an integrated computer-desk using wood off cuts. His task was to draft the product specifications and research the desk’s ergonomics and sources of materials.

“The product innovation that goes on at …XYZ Design has been an inspiration and convinced me that I want to be a furniture designer.”

His group at the academy is discussing forming a small company to design and produce furniture after graduation.

Thabo Mboneni (25) is an intern who opted to stay on at …ZYZ Design to get further practical experience rather than continue his industrial design studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. His dream is to design sports cars – and he hopes to have gathered enough experience by next year to go to Britain to study automotive design.

“By then, I will have gathered a good portfolio of product design experience. Having worked at …XYZ Design, which has a good international reputation, will help open doors for me.”

 Byron Qually, …XYZ Design’s design director, says that being exposed to the practical side of converting good ideas into great innovations and then into commercially viable products, is essential for young product designers.

“What we often find refreshing is the fresh approach they bring to the creative process – sometimes bringing ideas from different parts of the world – and what we give them in return is a feet-on-the-ground approach to producing products.

“With us they are exposed to how to manage client expectations of the product development process and how not to get carried away by a great idea that has little chance of commercial success. They also contribute to the development of some potentially award-winning products, which is valuable for their portfolios.” 



Dot Dot Dot Ex Why Zed Design (Pty) Ltd is the leading product design company that put South African design talent on the world map with its wind-up radio for the Freeplay Foundation. This product is on permanent display in the London Design Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The company, formed in 2000, is a frequent winner of awards for design excellence, among them SABS DISA awards for domestic, commercial, industrial, ICT and engineering products.

Operating internationally and locally …XYZ Design is an integrated product design studio that offers end-to-end management from product design and prototype development to manufacture. Its unique approach to solving problems can be applied to industries including medical, telecommunications, high-tech and FMCG products, homeware, furniture, packaging and industrial goods.

Contact Information:
Dot Dot Dot Ex Why Zed Design (Pty) Ltd
Roelf Mulder
Managing Director Tel: 021-421-7236
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Marian Shinn
WebWords Tel: 021-788-5011/082-831-2429
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