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News > Life After Yarm > Former Pupil Wins Prestigious Design Award

Former Pupil Wins Prestigious Design Award

Former pupil and Product Designer, Matthew Langford, has recently won a prestigious European Product Design Award for a kitchen appliance he designed.
Matthew Langford
Matthew Langford

Matthew started Yarm in the Prep School and left in 2012 having studied Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Design and Technology at A Level. During his time at Yarm, Matthew played the violin, was involved in a variety of musical groups and even built an electric violin for his D&T project. He enjoyed playing a variety of sports, including cricket, rugby and tennis.

Matthew left Yarm to study Engineering at Durham University and specialised in Mechanical Engineering. After spending his Third Year at the The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada he spent a ski season in Canada before starting his Product Design career.

Q. What did you design / build as part of your D&T GCSE and A Level?

For my GCSE project I designed and built an attachment for a golf trolley which measured the distance between shots by counting the rotations of the trolley wheel. This was my first experience of moving from a concept through to prototyping and testing it – I found it exhilarating! Seeing the product come to life just as I had initially imagined it was incredibly satisfying.

At A Level I designed and built an electric violin. This was particularly challenging for me as I had limited woodwork skills and the instrument involved some fairly tricky joints. Luckily I was expertly guided by the incredible DT staff, Mr Day and Mr Dunn, and still have the violin in working order today.

Looking back, the range of projects which the class attempted, and pulled off, was astounding. The atmosphere amongst the group was so positive as we had the support of the DT staff and some cutting edge facilities. The evenings spent finishing the project are some of my favourites from my time at Yarm.

Q. What steps have you taken in your career to get to where you are now?

My first job after graduating Durham was as a Product Design Intern at a small consultancy in Warrington – 4D Products. This was a great place to start my career as I was immediately thrown in at the deep end and was quickly exposed to a huge variety of engineering challenges. It was also hugely beneficial for me to learn some of the softer skills involved such as managing client relationships and sales tasks. I spent four years at 4D Products and I just recently moved to Cambridge where I have joined a larger Product Design Consultancy which specialises in the design and development of medical products. In my short time in my new post, I have found it great to work as part of a larger team, and be surrounded by experts in a variety of technical fields.

Q. What are your career highlights so far?

As a Product Designer, the greatest sense of satisfaction comes from seeing your ideas come to life whether that be as a prototype or a real commercial product. My highlight so far is designing an automatic pressure cooker which sought to reduce the amount of input required by the user without sacrificing the quality of the food being cooked. After many months of testing and tinkering with the design, sampling the first recipe being made by the product was particularly rewarding, and pretty tasty! This product received a few design awards which was great, but it was the appreciation of the client and their delight in seeing their vision come to life which was most satisfying.

Q. Have there been any challenges or tough moments in your career?

When working as a design consultant, it’s important to remember that you are designing products on behalf of someone else – namely the client. While you are given the freedom to explore ideas, and suggest concepts, it is up to the client to choose which ideas to take forward, and which directions to explore further.

It can be difficult, occasionally, when you feel particularly strongly about a particular idea but the client chooses to go for an alternative option. In these cases I have found it is important to put forward my opinions and explain my reasoning, but remember it is ultimately up to them and I respect their decision. Understanding how far to push your opinions in these cases can be tough, but ultimately I am only one perspective and one part of a much broader process.

What are your immediate career plans, and how do you see your career developing? Any long-term dreams?
Having started my career at a small consultancy, I recently moved to a slightly larger company to broaden my experience, and to work as part of a larger, multi-disciplined team. This has been challenging at times but ultimately very rewarding. It has been valuable to understand the different approaches companies take to projects within the industry. In the immediate future, I would love the opportunity to work on medical projects where design problem solving can be used to improve patient experiences and offer real tangible benefits.

I don’t have many long term goals beyond the stage I am currently at. As long as I can see value behind the products I am working on, and am still enjoying the problem solving process then I think I’ll be happy!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to go into this field?

The field of Product Design can be hugely rewarding and satisfying, and I would urge anyone with an interest in problem solving and creative thinking to consider it as a career option.

For those students already keen to pursue Product Design, I would encourage them to keep an eye out for product ideas. Always start by identifying a problem which needs solving, and scribbling down any ideas which come into your head.

When applying for jobs, it can be really useful to use personal projects as a means to show off your skills and your thought process, and you might just stumble across a game changing idea!

Q. What is your favourite memory from your time at Yarm?

Our A Level DT product presentation event was memorable and quite a proud moment getting to see the amazing things that had been produced. Also, watching Washington DC United play football on our Upper Sixth trip to America. I seem to remember the entire group holding both shoes in the air chanting “Shoes off if you love DC” led by Mr Edwards.

Q. If you had your time at Yarm again, would you do anything differently?

Not that I can think of, other than to appreciate the facilities and opportunities that were available to me! I was extremely lucky to have had the experiences that I did, and I would just encourage anyone lucky enough to go to Yarm to grab those opportunities with both hands!

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