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Ben Crundwell of Cambridge Design Partnership tells us about his admiration for Amazon, his software weapons of choice and his hopes for wearable technology

Why did you become a designer?
I’m always had an entrepreneurial streak and enjoyed puzzles and problem solving when I was younger. Product Design allows me to get paid doing what I love, which is fantastic!

Which designer or company do you most admire and why?
Perhaps a bit of an odd choice, but I really admire amazon. I remember when they first started up when the internet was in its infancy and they really paved the way for the modern internet. They have grown and evolved over the years with the right attitude of putting user needs first and developing a business around that, and nowadays they even design and build first-rate products like the fire and echo alongside their cloud based services.

What product couldn’t you live without?
My Media Centre PC. It automatically records and categories TV shows, along with our music and film libraries. I’ve been running it for years and I’d be devastated if I had to go back to watching TV live again!

What design would you have loved to have designed and why?
The Raspberry Pi project is close to my heart, and I would have loved to have been part of it. As a STEM ambassador it’s important to me to encourage and develop the love of Design and Engineering in the next generation and the Raspberry Pi range has achieved this magnificently.

Play-Doh, Meccano or Lego?
Lego of course! In fact I was bought the Classic Mini and the Batman Tumbler kits for Christmas and they are sat on my desk right now

What are your weapons of choice?
Altium Designer, Solidworks, Illustrator and Android Studio are the main tools on my laptop, but every new electronic device needs a new software suite, so you never stop learning new tools

What is missing from your toolset?
You can never have too many monitors, or too powerful a PC…

Is there anything that would make your design and development process run smoother?
Presenting concepts to colleagues and clients is always a bit clunky with a projector and single laptop. Better ways of immersing people in a new design would really help. There have been fantastic developments in Holographic displays and VR goggles (e.g. Oculus Rift) that are starting to crack this open, but we still have a way to go.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing designers at the moment?
User expectation. Most people have a £600 smartphone in their pocket and expect any user interface they interact with to be as smooth and snappy as their iPhone is. The days of physical buttons and simple LED displays are numbered, but products can’t afford to cost any more money to build.  Many designers have solved this by offloading the UI onto the user’s smartphone to give a better experience at zero BOM cost. But many applications don’t have the luxury of doing this and it’s becoming a struggle to keep up with expectations.

Can you predict any future trends?
Wearables and VR are going to hit their peak this year and it will be really interesting to see how they all converge to create novel solutions and niche products

If you were hosting a dinner party who would you invite and why?
Mel and Sue from the Bake off, they’d be a great laugh and hopefully bring along some awesome cakes! And why not bring Richard Ayoade and Stephen Fry along too, to make it an evening to remember!  I try not to take anything too seriously.

View the PDF of Develop3D, February edition - Ben's interview is on p18

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