Alumni Stories - Alan Harrison STAYHOLD® Products
"What drew me to the industrial design course was the creative environment at NCAD. I felt that I could study industrial design while being immersed in a variety of art and design disciplines. NCAD is unique in Ireland as it offers the course in this kind of atmosphere."
Name: Alan Harrison
Current Career: Co-founder and Director at STAYHOLD® Products.
Graduation Year: 2011
Discipline: Industrial Design
We caught up with Alan Harrison, NCAD graduate and co-founder and director at STAYHOLD® Products, a successful consumer cargo management company that develops innovative products to hold items in place in car boots and other spaces.
What career path did you want to follow as a child?
To be an inventor! Pulling things apart describes my childhood, to the detriment of my parents. I was always curious as to how things worked and how things were made. I wanted to be able to make my own creations and was eager to learn the process behind everyday objects. It was only while in my last few years of secondary school that I learned of the role of an industrial designer.
Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
What drew me to the industrial design course was the creative environment at NCAD. I felt that I could study industrial design while being immersed in a variety of art and design disciplines. NCAD is unique in Ireland as it offers the course in this kind of atmosphere.
How did you develop your career towards your current job / practice?
At the root of the industrial design course was design thinking skills that would allow me to critically analyse and solve problems creatively. This would be instrumental in the work of a designer and my role as an entrepreneur. As co-founder of Stayhold with Ben Millet, I use my design skills to solve a range of daily challenges quickly and innovatively. From business strategy, through to logistics and manufacturing.
What is the one experience – during your time at NCAD – that has informed you most in your career / work to date?
Industry collaborations were a substantial part of the course material; and working on real world projects allowed me to get an insight on design problems affecting companies in today’s market. This was in contrast to the briefs set by my tutors and lecturers. However, it was my tutors and lecturers who helped separate my ideas from concepts and to turn them into real tangible products that could be sold on shelves around the world. There is a difference in what looks well on paper and a product that is commercially viable. The contrast between both these experiences helped round my design education.
If you were chatting with current NCAD students today, what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
One of the biggest regrets I have is not spending time developing projects that mattered most to me. In a college environment there is more room for experimenting without having the boundaries that would be present in a commercial design studio. Budgets and timelines can stunt creative freedom. As a student you spend a lot of time trying to think and be like a ‘real’ designer that you forget that you have more creative liberties than they do.
Given the global turmoil and change, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what – in your opinion – are the opportunities for those in creative industries?
One of the positives from the current pandemic has been the renewed focus on the importance of manufacturing in Ireland. Relying too much on foreign production can leave us exposed whenever a crisis arises. There has been a collective realisation to the benefit of a local supply chain. Unfortunately, not all products can be made here. But hopefully new businesses will emerge, which centre around the design and development of home-grown products which are essential to the medical fields. Irish industrial designers should be here leading the way in design innovation.
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