The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Student Design Awards are open to university students and new graduates from all disciplines, which can work individually or collaborate in teams to apply their design thinking and skills in new ways. The 2016/17 competition comprised 12 different briefs developed in partnership with a diverse range of industry and government sponsors.

Cranfield’s Thomas Wastling, Innovation & Creativity in Industry (MDes) student at the Centre for Competitive Creative Design, teamed up with Ethan Howard (Uppsala University) on their proposal Bare Technology, which won two awards.

Bare Technology was a product and service design solution to convert old computers (e-waste) into simpler, more straightforward, accessible computers for older people; it aims to address the increasing problem of e-waste and the fact that many older people are isolated by technology.

The product won awards in two different briefs; RE-WORK (sponsored by RBS), and Learning for Life (sponsored by the Government Office for Science and Policy Lab).

Two elderly people using Bare Technology on computer

Bare Technology proposal

Thomas and Ethan identified the problem that the UK is one of the worst offenders with the second highest amount of Electrical Waste in Europe. They identified that 7% of our electrical appliances are re-used with just over half being down cycled to lower value applications. Their idea is based on taking those wasted computers which have been discarded by industry, and re-using them, wiping them clean and installing a simple, straight-forward operating system on top.

Their product is designed to be accessible for elderly users, who may not have much experience or confidence with using computers; this section of the population is becoming increasingly isolated as public and private services move online. Their concepts aimed to address this issue, along with reducing electronic waste in the process.

Their user research involved hosting a number of individual interviews and focus groups, including at a local bowls club and a church coffee morning.

Following this they applied their findings, insights, and themes to design the interface and support service and developed a functioning prototype. The feedback they received from the first version of the home screen led to font, colour scheme and layout updates being made in V2.

Thomas and Ethan recognised two distinct types of potential users – ‘Bare Light: purchase outright’ and ‘Bare Support: Subscription model’, they made a four-year business plan with cash flow identifying their key partners, customer relationships and segments, revenue and costs along with a development timeline and operating process.

The RSA Student Design Awards 2016/17 – Facts and figures

• 12 briefs

• 803 entries

• 21 countries represented

• 24 winning entries

• £45,000 in cash prizes and paid placements

• Each entry is judged according to six criteria: social and environmental benefit, execution, research, design thinking, commercial awareness and magic.