Baptiste Riom and Paul Houbron have come back to L’École de design after one semester of an exchange program at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. They give us the lowdown…
What made you choose this destination and establishment?
Baptiste Riom: Australia has always appealed to me, both for its geographical location and for feedback I got from friends who’d been there. It’s a country far from everything with huge cultural diversity and breathtaking scenery. I also wanted to go to an English-speaking country to perfect my English and gain professional skills, as my Master’s course is taught in English. I therefore decided to find out about Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. I chose this school for the wide variety of courses on offer, plus it’s located in a very attractive city.
Paul Houbron: For me, Australia was a dream destination for tourists with its stunning landscapes, its lively cosmopolitan cities and its friendly inhabitants. In addition, I wanted to go to an anglophone country to improve my English. Looking at the website for Swinburne University, I was won over by the presentation of the buildings, the diversity of courses on offer and the city of Melbourne.
What type of courses did you follow?
Baptiste Riom: During my trip, I took 4 different modules linked to my chosen field of product design: Furniture Design (creating a small piece of wooden furniture), Design for Manufacture (Advanced Manufacture: technical inputs on manufacturing and industrialization methods + creation of a product), Design for social responsibility (design course focusing on the social and environmental aspects of the product) and Product vizualisation (Digital Sketching & Rendering on Wacom tablets).
Paul Houbron: I took the same modules as Baptiste. Design for social responsibility was a course about socially and environmentally responsible design. We worked on improving the working conditions of farmers in India. It was a chance for us to work on the business model, life cycle and eco-design of our product while at the same time putting user needs and resources at the heart of the project. Design for manufacturing was a module for learning about the various manufacturing processes on an industrial scale which we then put into practice on a tea machine project. In the Furniture design module, I learnt how to make my own piece of furniture to professional and industrial standards. And finally, the sketching and rendering class helped me improve my drawing skills on a tablet and my 3D renderings.
Tell us about an important project you completed during the semester
Baptiste Riom: In the social design class, we worked on farmers in India, analyzing the kind of problems this community could experience. After the analysis and innovation watch phase, I developed a prototype for a solar-paneled bag which powers a light and converts into a table to enable the children of these farmers to work in appropriate conditions in the evening, as during the day they are generally expected to work in the fields with their parents. This aspect of design which analyzed local resources and the life cycle of the product struck me as being completely in line with my choice of MDes, namely the Sustainable Innovation program.
What similarities are there between the establishment and L’École de design?
Baptiste Riom: At the university of Swinburne, I found many similarities with L’École de design, like the project methodology in 3 phases, or tools being accessible in a big prototyping workshop, and also the 3D printers and digital tablets. I also enjoyed the multi-disciplinary dimension of the projects I worked on which was pretty consistent and helped me improve various skills, both in drawing and prototyping but also in my thought process.
Paul Houbron: During the various projects, I recognized the same methodology as at L’École de design. A methodology that features a monitoring phase, a creative phase and a development phase, which always puts the user at the heart of the project. In addition, the fact that we use the same 3D software at the school and the same tools (Wacom tablets) really helped us adapt quickly.
Conversely, what differences are there between Swinburne University of Technology and L’École de design?
Baptiste Riom: A significant difference between the university and the school is the structure and size of the premises. The university is geared towards technology and has huge resources for prototyping which is a big plus point for product designers. University life is also very different to life at school, with a lot of events organized on the campus and a constant flow of people which makes the place very lively and dynamic. The methodology taught at L’École de design, which puts the user at the heart of design, was a bonus when it came to developing projects and was sometimes lacking in the Australian students, which I particularly noticed during group work.
Paul Houbron: That’s right, the main difference with L’École de design is the size of the buildings. What’s more, Swinburne doesn’t just do design but also offers sciences, engineering, law, etc. The university campus is really impressive with a very active student life and much better equipped workshops.
What did you get out of this semester at Swinburne University?
Baptiste Riom: This semester abroad was really rewarding, both professionally and personally. I had the chance to find out how design is taught on the other side of the world. The semester allowed me to see things objectively and take a fresh look at what we’re learning. Being taught in English and the challenge of communicating were a great source of learning and resourcefulness. You have to understand and be understood by a group and defend your ideas. That was a really formative exercise which, despite our different culture and language, often enabled us to take a leadership role in groups.
Paul Houbron: This experience brought me new knowledge thanks to the complementary courses, but it also helped me improve my English and to gain confidence living in a country and a culture so different to my own.
What did you get out of Australia?
Baptiste Riom: I only have positive things to say about this trip to Australia. In spite of the distance from France, it’s very easy to feel at home in a city like Melbourne, which is culturally very diverse and rich. This semester abroad gave me the chance to discover an unfamiliar culture which I instantly loved. Australians are really easy to talk to and we never felt insecure in the city. Perfect conditions for settling in! To sum up, I would say that Australia helped make me more open-minded about different things, particularly other lifestyles.
Paul Houbron: I had the chance to travel and explore a fantastic country, surrounded by great people, so today I have a mountain of happy memories.
Which Master’s program have you joined?
Baptiste Riom and Paul Houbron: We’ve both joined the MDes Sustainable Innovation program. The program, taught in English, is a logical continuation of our stay in an anglophone country. This training program helps us give real meaning to the products and services that we’re going to create.