Daniel Marshall - BA in Product Design


A final year design project to help children with autism has led to industry-wide recognition for Cardiff School of Art and Design graduate Daniel Marshall.

Daniel, who graduated from the BA (Hons) Product Design course at the Cardiff School of Art and Design​ with a 2:1 in 2014, was named as 'Rising Star New Engineer of the Year 2014' ​at the prestigious Elektra European Electronics Industry Awards, which recognises technical innovative and business success in the electronics industry across Europe.

The judges were impressed with Daniel's design and creation of an educational toy 'Empathy'; made to help children on the autistic spectrum develop their communication skills and relationships through sensory and interactive play. The thoughtfully designed, textured, cylindrical toy can be divided into two units and children learn that when a parent or friend presses a button, their half of the toy receives music, vibration or light via a Bluetooth connection.

Empathy's design also deliberately features calming colours, soothing sound and mild lighting as many children on the autistic spectrum can find the combination of lights and sounds in traditional toys distressing.

Daniel developed Empathy as his final year project with support from CARIAD – the Centre for Applied Research in Art and Design, based at Cardiff Met. The CARIAD team are a multidisciplinary group of researchers, lecturers and research students whose principal objective is to address, through their applied research, some of the complex challenges faced by diverse communities and vulnerable individuals in society.

Collaboration and research represented a large part of Empathy's design and development, and saw Daniel visiting a special school in Cardiff with pupils with autism, a muscle therapist, a paediatrician and other medical experts as well as consultation and detailed research through a variety of academic journals and papers studying children with autism.

Speaking about his decision to study Product Design at Cardiff Met, Daniel, who is originally from Devon, said: "The product design course was recommended to me by my A-Level teacher, who studied the same course at Cardiff Met. When I looked into it, I saw that the course is one of the best in the country and I decided to apply.

"To be honest, at first, I felt that I was quite a weak candidate, but I was accepted to the course and my tutor said that my passion for design really shone through during the interview.

"Throughout the course I had some great experiences working with others on various projects, but it was the final year project which really stood out for me. I enjoyed the opportunity to invent and develop a product purely from my own concepts and research.

Daniel added: "I have always felt passionate about the power of communication and I also enjoy designing products which simplify difficult tasks, and products which aid people with disorders and disabilities, which is how Empathy came about. It's satisfying to express my creativity through design while providing products which can help improve the quality of life of others."

"When doing my initial research I was staggered by the recorded increase in cases of autism over the last 30 years and further research demonstrated there was a definite need and​ gap in the market for this kind of product.

"It has been hugely rewarding to look at the challenges faced by children with autism and their parents and carers and to research, invent and design a product which goes some way towards solving some of the everyday problems they face with communication in particular."

Speaking about his success at the national awards ceremony, Daniel said: "To be nominated as an undergraduate alongside other finalists with PhDs in design was a fantastic recognition and I made some really interesting and useful industry contacts. I think it proves that hard work and particularly passion for your subject goes a long way."

Since graduating, Daniel has secured a role with a high-end kitchen manufacturer, based on another of his university designs – a space saving kitchen for first time buyers.

Daniel said: "I'm really pleased that my 'Feng Shui' kitchen design stood out and helped me to get a design job immediately after graduating. Ultimately, I would like to develop my career in medical design and I think the accolade for my university 'Empathy' project will also help me to do that."  ​

Under the spotlight:
​2010: A-Levels in Product Design and English Language and a BTEC in ICT
2010: Enrolled on BA (hons) Product Design at the Cardiff School of Art and Design
2014: Graduated with a 2:1 and named Rising Star New Engineer of the Year 2014'
2014: Began working as a product developer at Sigma 3 Kitchens Ltd.

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