Design partners Visit : Cathal Loughnane



Tuesday morning last we had a Guest speaker in UL, one Cathal Loughnane, Creative Director at Design Partners, Dublin and San Francisco. Cathal was asked to speak to us about what a career in Design might be like, and I was very pleased with the talk, as it provided some much needed and hard won insight into the world beyond the glass corridors of the PD&T centre is like. We learned about what the other Product Design courses in the country are studying, and more importantly what they think of the Designers Limerick produces. What our strengths are, our weaknesses. We have the single best model making mentor in the country, and a hands on approach that the other courses really envy. We have a chance to explore through carving, sculpting, chiselling, a skill highly prised at Design Partners.

We’re not so good at the Sketching however. As a student who is young in the lessons of sketching, I can certainly see where he is coming from. Fortunately, sketching is a skill available to anyone in possession of a pen and some form of canvas, napkins and envelopes are easier to come across to practice drawing on than lumps of blue foam to carve. 


Cathal gave a great series of examples of what potential employers are searching for in a portfolio. Having an online representation of your work is an absolute must. The presentation of that work is even more important. An employer will typically get landed with hundreds of applications for any advertised position, so the time you get to impress them is fractions of a second. You need to show your strengths immediately. You also need to have the right presentation. It needs to be visually appealing, indicative of your best work, and also be what the employer happens to be searching for right that second. You need to prostitute yourself, and that’s not entirely a negative thing.


When I was in Amsterdam after my leaving certificate, I saw the girls in the red light district. Each girl was trying to advertise the same product, but the time taken by the customers was highly competed for. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, and I’m the one selling myself, I can certainly appreciate how important it is to display your best work upfront and obviously, no puns intended!


He also talked excellently about storytelling. Adam had previously highlighted how a cohesive story can resonate with us and cause and emotional attachment. If you can get a customer to place that attachment on your product, you’re in a powerful position to command a high price. Cathal relayed that opinion, and even supported it with the evidence of the Dublin Airport electronics duty free shop: Every week the area dedicated to Sony, Phillips and Panasonic headphones is being taken over by Emotionally charged brands, notably Beats by Dr. Dre and Skull Candy, even if Skull Candy are in a slight decline since the arrivals of Beats. In a sense, what he is describing user centred design based on what the customer would choose, not what the manufacturer wants to sell them. He told an anecdote about the product development of a UE Bluetooth speaker, where the manufacturer wanted to swap polished aluminium for cheap plastic for the handle. Cathal really had a hard time explaining to the company that to do so would detract so drastically from the appeal that the pricepoint would have to be reduced markedly. The company saw an opportunity to save on their manufacturing costs, and wanted to push for it. An impasse was almost reached. Cathal then had to be quite rigid in his professional belief, and explained that the line of endearing products they were developing requires that the buyer feels like they have gotten a good deal, and that they feel like the device is really precious to them, which is almost impossible to achieve in cheap plastic. On a side note, look at your iPhone. Glass, not plastic. And that’s €899 well spent in many books. Image


Window-watching, and why its important to carry a decent camera.

I was in work almost all weekend. I work in an Irish pub on the main street in a village in Ireland, and the conversation invariably has three facets: The weather, its bad. The money, its gone. The sports team, what they’re doing wrong. I’ve worked thee since i was tall enough to see over the counter, its family run (Which is a nice way of saying you don’t have a choice in the matter), so you can appreciate that my attention may wonder to the window.

This weekend what caught my eye were two cars that pulled up outside, one Friday evening when I was fresh into work, and the other Sunday evening when I was just about weathered out of it. Interestingly, they were both red and parked directly outside, as if planned a comparison were to be made.


The first was a Citroen DS3, a car which i glancingly mistook for a pimped-out mini from the side view. I warranted me leaving my perch on the window for closer inspection. Specifically, what caught my attention was the middle column, the red swash behind the door. It gives the car a dynamic feel along an otherwise plain looking segment and really adds a twist to the traditionally boring centre pillar.


Interestingly, Ford have scrapped the middle post in in their B-MAX range, we’ve all seen the ad where the diver leaps through the huge open doors.

The other car I noticed was a Nissan Juke. I was using the side door to collect glasses after Ireland’s crushing defeat by Scotland’s rugby team, and the local experts were outside digesting the match. The Juke pulled up, and the driver strolled across the street to the newsagents. One reveller made a comment about the middle aged, but still eye-catching driver, to which the Comedian of the group said he would prefer the car. This began a discussion about the car, more a ‘jeep-lite’ or ‘super car’ in my opinion.


By the time I came full circle to collect more glassware, they had narrowed it down to the position of the back door handles. Offering my opinion, i suggested that not placing them as traditionally done on other cars but to place them in line with the window-line made the panel look less cluttered, and more dynamic. Hearing their barman make a cohesive point couldn’t be tolerated by the paying experts, so I was dismissed comprehensively and loudly while dodging losing dockets pelted in my direction, to which I retreated, saying “What would I know about it anyway, I’m only studying design in University!” Image

Design Portfolios online, a quick review.

We searched Corofloat and went straight into portfolios. We then refined using the left-hand action bar to view only product designers, our direct competition.


We first began clicking on profiles based on what caught our eyes, a nice logo in the image section (Jeabyun Yeon, ), who’s page we immediately liked because of the images of products they had designed. They had an easy to read ‘about me’ section, just the bare facts. We liked her ‘Jelly Chair’


We then clicked on the next profile up, that of Susana Garcia. ( Susana’s page opens with four or five black text images linking to projects she’s done. It looks flat and unappealing, and demands that if we really want to see her stuff, we need to navigate and click again. Asking the interviewer/customer to complete more steps seriously reduces the likelihood of them getting to the prize, the work samples they came to see. Her profile picture is more suited to social networking and does not give a professional tone.


Next we paid attention to the profile picture of the person we clicked on. Vlad Icobet’s black and white passport type photo looks sleek, professional and considered. ( His page shows a variety of sketching, completed product renders, developmental drawings and marketing boards. It seems well rounded with a strong sense of visual identity. His ‘transportation design’ folder contains many excellent concept drawings and beautifully rendered illustrator images. Well worth a look.Image


Another excellent find was the page belonging to Tommaso Bistacchi, who comes from Milan, Italy. Immediately the design juices begin flowing, being from Milan and a design capitol of the world gives this guy credibility and I haven’t even clicked on his page yet. The page opens and its immediately obvious what this guy does, interior/furniture/household living space design. There are Lamps, Coffee tables, Worktops, Beds. All sleek, some vivid use of colour, bold shapes, and contrasting textures. Looking at his stuff is looking in an IKEA catalogue with a pulse. (Sorry IKEA). link:


The Profile picture for Horacio M. Pace Bedetti promises much, but the fact he only has one project up either makes me think he’s new to the website of hasn’t done much that would deserve to get on here. Either way, I’d like to see more, as the shower enclosure is a nice blue-sky concept, even if I have my practicalist sceptical hat on. Have a look yourself, tell me it wouldn’t get mouldy if not properly dried and put away.


Robin Spicer had a nice layout, visually aware of the presentation space he used a Polaroid frame for his images which I liked, but Safa pointed out the text was obscure and a change of font could have done a lot for the page.


Award for nicest concept goes hands down to Mark DiLella, whose ‘Clarity, A smartphone for the blind’, incorporating smart braille into a touch screen phone was not only innovative but also unique. A quick googling led us to believe that he is alone in the marketplace with this concept, and while it may be difficult to ship the necessary unit numbers to make profit, I’d certainly be interested to see how it handles when it’s done.

Intuitive design, implied or ignored?

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an estimated 10.4 billion male condoms were used worldwide in 2005. It has been estimated that in 2015, nearly 18 billion condoms will be needed in low- and middle-income countries.

In Soviet gulags, condoms were used to smuggle alcohol into the camps by prisoners who worked outside.

Condoms can be used to hold water in emergency survival situations.

Condoms can be wrapped around a microphone to make underwater recordings.

But for all their glory, they can be tricky to use in the heat of the moment. They have a 15% failure fate with typical use. (2% with perfect use).
One problem commonly reported is placing the wrong side on the penis, and having subsequent difficult rolling the body down over the penis, because the roll is on the inside.

For even the most experienced and careful users, there can be breakages, splits, and slips.

The condom. A design classic, certainly. Functionality is testified to by billions of people each year.

But is it perfect? Not by a long way.



Last Thursday I was heading out for a social beverage with my college chums, it being Thursday and also a birthday of one social climber Shane mcHugo, so a soiree was on the cards. In preparation mode, I popped in to the off licence to see what was on offer. Remember, theme for the evening is a house party in Cedar Lawns: its going to get pretty insane.

So I’m browsing the canned larger section (thinking disposable, cheap and easy) when out of the corner of my eye I spot a boxed set in the world/craft beer section. Its a four bottle plus glass plus stand Kwak gift set. I’ve only heard about this beer from my ‘Crazzy’ ultimate frisbee friends in DCU, and by all reports its the shit.
I examine the box, making all the right noises. 8.4%. Check. Authentic glass and stand. Check. Blond beer. Check. Then I see the price. €27. I have 30 in my wallet and I have to pay for a lift home tomorrow. And I still need beer for the party.
Then I spot my laser card and remember its Thursday. Payday. Check.
Investigating the glass is almost as fun as drinking from it. It is held upright in a wooden stand; the brewery claims the glass was designed by the innkeeper Pauwel Kwak in the early 19th century for coachmen who would stop at his coaching tavern and brewery named “De Hoorn”. Travellers would often stop at an inn for refreshment, however the coachmen were required to stay with the coach and horses. Standard handled mugs were impractical for gloved coachmen sitting high up, so one enterprising innkeeper, Pauwel Kwak, had a special glass created for his beer. Its shape enabled it to be hung on the coach and be easily held in a thick glove. Drinking from the glass, the bulb at the bottom will remain filled for a relatively long time. As soon as air reaches the still-filled bulb, a large amount of beer will gush towards the drinker. This is accompanied by a characteristic sound which sounds like Kwak spoken quickly.
In most pubs that serve Kwak, its tradition to exchange your shoe for the glass, to stop you going home without giving it back. Its also said that when you forget to put it back in the stand you’ve had too much! (8.4%!)

Mouldy Coffee


So it was break time from design visualisation last week and me and Brian Lowe went for a coffee. We chatted about the milk dispenser, how the coffee cup I bring to get filled holds about twice as much coffee as the cup they give you (same price if you wink at the server), but what got out design juices flowing was the plant pot decorating / separating the floor space. Seeing it was poured concrete, I asked Brian what the mould would have to look like to be able to mould the features on the sides.


The Greek style meander (thanks to for the style name!) circles the entire opening, making a half-half mould impossible. Draft angles wouldn’t allow the mould slip away from the pot without being caught or damaging the delicate features.
We deduced it must be a four part mould, seeing that it looked like two axes of symmetry were present, each quadrant being identical. This would mean the mould would have four identical mould sections, each accounting for 90° of the circle, and allowing the draft 

A nice way to spend five while waiting for your coffee to cool.

Link to Brian’s design blog Brian’s blog

Link to belle maison’s design blog Bellemaison23 design blog