2023 Hot New Things: Izzy Robb, Victoria University Wellington – Te Herenga Waka
Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.
Today we speak with Izzy Robb, who recently finished the Master of Design Innovation program at Victoria University Wellington – Te Herenga Waka. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve always been drawn to creative processes and working hands on, but I always thought I was much better than I actually was. I wanted to travel, I wanted to make things, I wanted to work in the healthcare sector without studying medicine, I wanted to experience anything and everything all at once. I always knew I wanted to help change things, big or small, I just wasn’t quite sure how. I now work in a job where everyday I get to create and help change peoples lives, I live 10 minutes from the beach and 10 minutes from the port hills, and I’m exactly where I want to be.
If you were a pantone colour what would you be?
If I were a Pantone colour, I’d be PMS 554 C. It’s a forest green that makes me feel calm every time I look at it, I guess because it reminds me of being in the bush. It’s my favourite colour so it was an easy choice.
What did your graduating project focus on?
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to go on to complete my masters in the form of a thesis. My thesis was called ‘Body of Matter. Physical representations of anatomical data.’ which explored how emerging technologies can transform medical data from 2-dimensional visualisations, into highly intricate and tactile 3D-printed objects. Body matter was transformed into forms exploring visualisation methods, aesthetic objects, and personalised products. The resulting physical outcomes examine how hidden anatomical qualities within the human body are represented in a design context.
Why did you choose to study at Victoria University Wellington – Te Herenga Waka?
I knew the first year design course at Victoria was quite broad and allowed you to experience a range of design avenues, so I didn’t feel pressured to make my specialisation decision without experiencing what it entailed. I could add courses from other schools within the University to my degree, and I now have a minor in management to go with my degree. Wellington city itself definitely influenced my decision making, it’s a fun city, there’s always something on and nothing is ever too much which is especially great as a design student.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
I was fortunate that while in halls accommodation during my first year, our entire floor was made up of architecture and design students. This meant that I was completely immersed in a creative environment both at university and at ‘home’. Working alongside my peers, no matter the time of day or night, meant that I was completely immersed in design and ideas were always being developed. I’m someone who very much loves to bounce ideas off other people for development so this situation was great for me. A lot of the briefs at Victoria were open to interpretation, allowing you to put your own spin on things. Looking back on all my projects, I seemed to unknowingly take a lot of them in a medical direction, so it’s no surprise that I’ve ended up in the industry I’m now in. Victoria’s connections within the design industry enabled me to work alongside anaesthetists and doctors from Wellington DHB at the end of my undergraduate degree. This experience was an incredible growth experience and I gained knowledge that I would otherwise not have been exposed to.
Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
One of the main things that became clear to me while I was working on this project is the importance of confidence in ideas. When I started my thesis, I would never have expected it to go in the direction it went in, however I could not be more proud of what was created. Originally I thought it would solely focus on replicating anatomical densities through 3D and 4D printing, yet the discoveries in both anatomy and technology enabled me to embed anatomical data in 3 dimensional products. The process from anatomical to abstracted resulted in a new digitally generated bio-based aesthetic, bringing an innovation to the world of design where matter is an enabler of change
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
I always found it difficult to switch off from my work and spend time doing other things guilt free. I discovered that part of what I loved about design was allowing myself to be inspired by unexpected things that didn’t necessarily relate to my project. I realised the value of these experiences and how thinking about my work in situations unrelated to design often helped me to create some of the ideas that I’m proud of the most.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick industrial design as a career path?
While at high school I was really into fashion design, I’d skip most of my other classes so I could spend as much time as possible drawing and physically creating work that reflected me. My teacher at the time, Amy Jansen Leen, was incredibly encouraging of everything I set out to achieve, there was no idea which was too complicated in her class. I left school knowing I wanted to continue doing something creative, but I wasn’t sure which field in particular. The first year design course at Victoria is very broad and I kind of just fell into the industrial design path but it allowed me to continue to create work that reflected me and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of specialisation.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
For a section of my thesis I used person specific data supplied by 3 participants. My focus was on increasing an individual’s understanding of their diagnosis, and how they viewed their personal anatomy. One of my participants had previously worked for Porsche Design and designed the Porsche Design sunglasses Model 5660 for CARRERA (1986). I was able to take their original glasses design, along with their personal anatomical data, and merge the two together. The outcome is a pair of glasses which had 3D printed lenses that fit onto the original Model 5660 metal frame, allowing lenses to be redesigned and switched rather than needing to buy an entire new pair of glasses when a new design is desired or a prescription is changed. The migration of anatomical data into defined forms influences the future of products and body data can now be viewed as both an aesthetic and assistive medium. Design is a catalyst for innovation and my research only brushes the surface.
What’s next for you?
I am now working at OSSIS in Christchurch as an Orthopaedic Engineer, designing patient specific orthopaedic implants. It’s a small company doing big things and I absolutely love it. I can see myself being here for a couple of years and then I’ll explore moving overseas, but for now I’m very content where I am.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
Get in contact with me through my email; firstname.lastname@example.org