Jason Nicholson

Jason Nicholson profileBA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design Course Director

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your course?

From an early age I’ve had a passion for designing and making. From jewellery and metalsmithing to furniture and lighting design, my interest in hand and machine production processes has always been an important part of my time at BCU. The course benefits from great workshops and technical support alongside well equipped studio spaces and there’s nothing more pleasurable than spending a morning in the studio and an afternoon in the workshop cutting, filing, welding and brazing!

The Product and Furniture Design course encourages students to explore materials, techniques and processes and there is a strong emphasis on making in a range of materials.

What is the philosophy of your course?

Our BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design course focuses on the design and development of creative, contemporary and innovative products and furniture considering, user centred design, sustainability, social context and commercial understanding. Students are encouraged to explore materials, techniques and processes in relation to scales of manufacture, from one-off bespoke design to standardised mass production.

Students learn a range of research and design methods alongside continual practical skills development. Live student projects take place throughout the course to enhance employability, communication skills and professional practice. Students examine the process of designing and developing functional and desirable products and furniture, examining how social and cultural factors influence design decisions.

If you had to name one thing about your course that makes it distinct, what would it be?

Right from the first year students have the opportunity to explore the ‘design spectrum’ through diverse projects ranging from ceramic growing vessels, ply-formed furniture and bee homes to speakers to lighting and boat design. With no school style, the course helps students develop their own design philosophy and direction, to support a chosen specialism within Product and Furniture Design. As a designer, it is vitally important to consider and respond to current global issues in order to create products and furniture pieces that are necessary, desirable and commercially viable.

Why is Birmingham a good place to study?

Birmingham is perfect to take advantage of local industry and we can always find great places for factory visits from sand casters and paint finishers to injection moulders and metal spinners. This knowledge really helps students to develop a good understanding of real world manufacturing processes in relation to individual designs and practical output. Studying in the ‘manufacturing Midlands’ provides a valuable opportunity to discover and develop an individual design identity in the heart of one of the UK’s most creative regions. Birmingham is also a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with great transport connections (we are in the city centre!), restaurants, cafes and is a cultural hub for galleries, museums, entertainment and of course shopping!

Why do you believe it’s important to study a degree and why might students want to study your course?

The degree exposes students to new ways of thinking, lots of transferable skills and obviously a whole new social scene. Studying BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design can make students highly employable in a subject they enjoy. We have graduates working in many connected fields as varied as product engineering and development, research, furniture design, exhibition design, design management and CAD visualisation.

Where will the students be based in their time here and what will their learning environment be?

Our students are based at the City Centre Campus in the multi-million pound Parkside building. Students spend time in studio spaces for design, research, lectures and seminars but also use dedicated CAD rooms, lecture theatres and an excellent well stocked library in the Curzon building situated right next to our own building. With a heavy emphasis on making, students spend a great deal of time in the workshops using a wide range of materials and processes working with plaster, ceramics, metals, wood, glass and plastics. Product and Furniture Design students study in a fantastic learning environment and benefit from the support of specialist staff and practising visiting tutors.

What can students do to help prepare them for the course?

The best advice is to practise! This can be lots of drawing which can include direct observation of various scales of objects such as chairs, doorways, household objects, people, hands, mechanical forms etc. It’s important to follow contemporary design and if you can get to any art and design exhibitions, it really can be an inspirational experience! Keep looking at ‘things’ and try to work out how they are made, what sort of materials are used etc. This could be anything from speakers and headphones to cricket bats and skateboards! There are many online videos to help with drawing techniques and it would be useful to start developing your mark making techniques in preparation for the course.

What’s your favourite element about working at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design?

It’s a real pleasure working in the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design alongside a team of incredibly talented academics and technicians. Teaching our students is of course a real joy, from skills building sessions in the first year, to complex design projects in the third year, it’s incredibly rewarding to see all of the creative work produced. Following the course, many of our graduates come back to talk to current students about their move into employment and their successes. Our graduates are doing great things, from designing ground breaking safety features for ambulance trolleys to an award winning design for an HIV self-testing device, it’s fantastic to know that our graduates are making a real difference in the world of design!

Find out more about your Course Director if you're studying a School of Architecture and Design course with a Foundation Year.