testing, directing, discussing,making, breaking, testing again


Graduating student, Oliver Underwood  speaks about his recent MA Design research project;

‘As a product designer what interests me is designing objects that people can interact with, that people can use, hold, explore – basically, the products I design have to be tactile objects. This is why I found designing books so appealing – a book is a personal interactive object, which is why my project revolves around their design. The project involves a number of books, each exploring through meaning and symbolism one narrative section from the story ‘Harry’s Birthday Tale’. Simultaneously each book primarily explores and engages with a single aspect of product design – allowing the project to act as a vehicle in which to deconstruct many of the themes and discipline specific practices associated with the discipline.

A key-defining feature of product design is the creation of three-dimensional objects. A book is a three-dimensional object, or four-dimensional if you include time, however the perception tends to be that the contents are usually flat images or text printed on a page, and the book usually acts simply as a container for the subject matter. My project engages with the work of book artists and graphic designers, challenging this perception.

This work aims to engage the book consumer; making them an active participant in the consumption of the work. These designs put great emphasis on the idea that the book must be more than a container for the subject matter; it must also be integral to the book consumer’s overall experience, where all aspects of the design reinforce the narrative.

One of the joys of working on this project is the way it engages with many different practices and disciplines, arguably this is because it concerns the design of books and their contents, including working with paper, which is usually associated with graphic designers, paper cutters, paper engineers and illustrators. I have therefore had the opportunity to learn from these various practices, using them to inform the work.

This project set out to deconstruct the themes and practices associated with the product design discipline; through this it has become apparent that every one of the designs explores narrative and how it can be embedded in the object; inferring meaning through the control of visual metaphor, metonym and symbolism.

Through this project I have become increasingly aware and interested in narrative and its relation to the designed object. Objects are more often than not inserted into narrative, my interest lies with the reversal of this, where narrative is inserted into the object; through the understanding and application of semantics, events can be signified and inferred, allowing objects to tell simple stories through their design. This is subsequently an area I am researching further through theory and practice.’

Oliver can be contacted at;

More of his work can be seen here;

American designer James Cameron Silva ( is a recent graduate of the MA Design programme. Whilst studying on the course he was able to explore issues of authorship, narrative and visual and sonic form by taking a little know publication by the British author J.B.Priestly and developing a series of work in print, installation and interactive DVD that responded to the contents