Profile: Leeds

Time for the first of my University Profiles. As it is getting to the time of year where students are choosing where they want to study for the next three or more years I thought it might be helpful to sum up Leeds University and it’s Product Design course in one blog post.

Leeds University's Parkinson Building

Leeds University's Parkinson Building

The first thing you will see when approaching the university from any direction will be the stunning Parkinson Building, it sits high on a hill and can be seen when approaching the city from almost any direction. This stunningly beautiful grey/white stone tower was completed in 1951 and has Grade II listed building status. These days it is home to the Parkinson Court, a space for exhibitions, meetings, ceremonies and for students looking for a place to study as well as a gateway facade to the Brotherton Library.

As for the rest of the campus it is a mish mash of various architectural styles from both the 20th and 21st Century ranging from the grandeur of the Great Hall to the insanity of the Roger Stevens Lecture Building to the curious modern architecture of the Ziff Building. (more to come on this in the next few weeks)

The University has a population of around 35,000 students making it one of the largest in the UK. Add to this the student populations of Leeds Metropolitan University, Trinity and All Saints and the various other colleges and places of higher education you reach a student total of over 110,000 with this total rising every year. So, if you are going to be new to Leeds don’t worry there will be plenty of people who will be in the same situation!

Leeds University’s Product Design course is one of the newer programs on campus having begun in 2003/2004 so we do not have the prominent alumni to help boost the image of the course as of yet. However Leeds does not offer a traditional product or industrial design course. The program is set in the heart of the Engineering department and draws upon the experience and knowledge of Civil, Mechanical, Electronic and Materials engineering departments with significant time across your three or four year span devoted to each discipline. In addition to this there are key modules in Business and Marketing as well as Psychology and Quantification Techniques.

One of the Team Marketing/Branding Design projects in 2nd Year

One of the Team Marketing/Branding Design projects in 2nd Year

Initially it may seem that these are a bit of a waste of time and most students just want to get down and start designing with no distractions, however as you mature as a student and as a designer all the pieces of the course and the theory behind it will fall into place. As for the core design aspects such as sketching skills, CAD and training your thought process these are areas that are obviously all present in a modern design school and you can expect to be well versed in many 3D programs including Solidworks and Studiotools.

There is a strong student democracy across PDES Leeds, the years are small (no more than 55 students per year) therefore it is common for students and tutors to know each other quite well. As students we were often consulted on the direction of the course and how we felt things could be done better. Over the duration of my 4 years you could tell our ideas and concerns had been taken on board and acted upon.

The quality and standard of teaching is high with a constant evolution of the aspects course as it goes through its first few years and I hope this will continue. Product design is not a constant in the 21st century, it is always changing as new technology and new designers set the benchmark for quality, sustainability and form and function so much higher.

As for opportunities and prospects at the University, should you go looking for them there are great links with companies of all walks of life, however the Product Design course is still developing its links with industrial partners and its projected routes for graduating students. This is bound to improve over the next few years as the course establishes itself in Yorkshire and the United Kingdom. There is also a Study Abroad Exchange Program at Leeds with contacts in Australia, Canada, Singapore and France which is well worth investigating, it is an incredible experience and looks amazing on a CV. (I will review my own Study Abroad adventures very soon).

Obviously this is a personal reflection on my time at Leeds University and will be somewhat biased. However I hope to have given you a rough idea of where I have come from as a designer or some idea of what to look for if you want to get into design! I loved my time at Leeds University and I am still living in the city and enjoying what it has to offer.

About Peter Woodthorpe

I am a Research Design Engineer living in Leeds, West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom as well as a Childrens Worker for Kidz Klub Leeds. I hold a International Master of Design degree from the University of Leeds.
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