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‘Dots’ is designed to encourage musical creativity
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DIP Michael Tougher
Michael Tougher (right) receives his prize
Showcasing the very best of the UK’s pool of talent in plastics design, this year’s student DIP Awards didn’t fail to deliver some of the most innovative and impressive new ideas from Universities across the country.
Stackable, flexible buttons that encourage music comprehension, creation and play have won a prestigious innovation award and praise from top plastics industry experts.
Michael Tougher, a fourth year student at Glasgow School of Art, secured first prize for his project 'Dots’, after winning the Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) 2014 award.
The competition brief was to design an educational product in plastics that stimulates divergent thinking and creativity. It had to be original, functional and innovative, and above all, provide an engaging playful experience. Consideration had also been given to the target market, including age, and likely reasons for using the product.
“I love music and myself play guitar and the brief we got at University was kind of to focus on creation and divergent thinking, so music was the first thing I went to,” Tougher explained.
“So I started looking at basic, introductory instruments and simple keyboards and how people interact with instruments if they have no musical experience. I wanted to create something simple - an instrument that would empower people to create music.”
‘Dots’ represent individual musical notes and work by each button emitting a sound when pressed. The buttons can be stacked to produce a chord and the unit can be connected to other technology such as a tablet computer.
Tougher explained that during experimental tests during research for the project, he found an issue with the linear layout of keyboards currently on the market. “When I went to do my tests, the users would always play the white notes and not the black, and they'd only play one note at a time,” he said.
“So, I started to think about the notes being separate modules, so that a user can explore and create different arrangements; encouraging people to play chords as well as more than one note. I wanted to create something that, through the act of exploring, you learn about music as you play it.”
Following on from his research and development, ‘Dots’ was born. Made from polypropylene for the top and bottom parts of the keyboard, and TPEs for the dots themselves, Tougher said that material choice was key. “I would say sustainability is the biggest thing, it’s almost ingrained in what we do,” Tougher said. “Its something you always try to achieve.”
In order to adhere to the brief, Tougher developed each of the dots with the principle of disassembly, so that they clip together with no adhesive and can be easily fixed into place.
“Polypropylene recycles, but we needed to consider sustainability as part of the project. Disassembly was a very important factor to ensure the products can be passed on from generation to generation, meaning they don’t become obsolete and create waste.”
In winning first prize, Tougher receives £1,000 as well as two prestigious industry placements; one with Bayer MaterialScience, one of the world's leading suppliers of high-performance materials such as polycarbonates and polyurethanes, at its headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, and the other in the UK with Hasbro, the multinational toy and board game company.
Other finalists included Helen Campbell, also from Glasgow School of Art, who took second place for her construction system ‘Stackpaks’ using recycled dairy product packaging and
Nikian Aghababaie, from Nottingham Trent University, who was placed third for his ‘Musical Chairs’ that encourages autistic children to relate to each other through music, light and vibration.
Looking forward, the students have aspirations to take their designs to market. Thanks to the DIP mentoring scheme, newly introduced in 2013, post-award support is offered to all the finalists with the goal of helping them take their design ideas closer to commercial realisation.
Tougher explained that he is looking to market the product at children as a positive introduction to music in schools. “It’s well suited to the curriculum as it's centred on creation, understanding and performance and lots of people can play it at the same time,” Tougher added.
The judging panel for the awards, made up from a number of plastics industry experts, said there had been a very high quality of entries for the awards this year.
“The judges are challenged every year with the excellence of the entries. It demonstrates the quality of the teaching at our universities and the design talent there is in the UK. Again this year we have six excellent finalists who have excelled in delivering a solution to the brief,” said Richard Brown, Chairman of the judging panel.