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By Melanie Andrews

Jonathan Ive RDI - the British designer responsible for Apple's iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad was knighted at Buckingham Palace this week. Listening to an interview with him on the Today programme Sir Jonathan said that he knew at the age of seven that "what I love to do is draw and make stuff". The goal of Apple was not to make money, he said, but to design the best possible products. "There is beauty when something works and it works intuitively," he said.

I couldn’t help but think of the RSA’s Student Design Awards as we are proud to have Jonathan among our talented alumni. The RSA has been aware of Jonathan’s special design talent since he was a student at Newcastle Polytechnic. We also had a hand in steering him to his future career in California. He won two Student Design Awards consecutively in 1988 for, rather tellingly, a telephone brief for both ‘household and office use’ and in 1989 for ‘the intelligent ATM’. In both these projects he displayed an interest in both the hardware and software design of each which has been the winning formula for Apple products. Winning an RSA internship at Pitney Bowes design studio in Connecticut and a travel award, Jonathan had the experience of working and travelling in the USA for the first time. “I immediately fell in love with San Francisco and desperately hope that I can return there sometime in the future – it far exceeded my expectations” he auspiciously noted in his RSA travel report.

Design has always been central to the work of the RSA. In 1924, as part of its advocacy of good design, the RSA established our student award scheme with the goal of linking education and industry in beneficial partnerships; in a contemporary form, this scheme continues today. I have had the privilege of working on the Student Design Awards for many years. The reason that it continues to thrive and remain relevant is that, during the course of its 88 year history, the scheme has been consistently reviewed, adapted and re-focused to respond to the prevailing demands and concerns of education, industry and society.

We continue to challenge emerging young designers to consider their future professional role and responsibilities more broadly in ways that can have meaningful effects on business, public services and wider societal concerns. The range of thought provoking and challenging student projects we set each year directly address the goals of the RSA while commenting on the changing role of the designer in relation to society, technology and culture. Through this competition the RSA aims to enthuse and motivate young designers to explore the new ground design is now occupying and to provide ever more exciting opportunities to reward the most innovative and creative responses. Today marks the final day of judging this years shortlisted entries and we will be announcing our winners for 2012 in the coming weeks.

Watch this space!


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