Oliver Bryant was born in Sydney in 1997 and grew up in the Sutherland Shire, south of Sydney. While attending St Joseph's Primary School he discovered his passion and ability for physical crafts, and this kickstarted his desire to make things for a living.
In his final year at St Patrick's College, Oliver discovered the world of industrial design and applied to study Product Design at the Univesity of Technology, Sydney. He developed an interest in why and how people use things, and began designing products and experiences that resonate with people on a human level.
His experiences in the NEXTGEN Project resonated with his desire to learn many varying ideas, technologies and disciplines, and use these to inform his design practice.
Did you have any expectations coming into the NEXTGEN project?
Most of us didn’t even know that the project existed, so it was a big surprise when we were selected to be a part of it. Coming from a Product Design background, we’re always trying to solve problems for people or make things that have a lot of function to it. NEXTGEN has a heavy focus on visuals so I was expecting the goals of the project to be different to anything we’d done. I’d never worked with crystal glass before so it was quite exciting.
Have you worked on any other projects like this as part of your degree?
Yes, but not with such real stakes. We’ve worked with real industry partners but it was always just as an assignment. They tell us what they want out of the brief and we present back to them, but it’s more of an exercise for us to learn to design for someone, not because they’re actually taking it on. Knowing there was a further opportunity with Nachtmann NEXTGEN kept me motivated in times when I struggled or felt burnt out.
Were you looking forward to working with crystal glass?
In the very beginning, I was intrigued about how you would go about designing for that kind of production. I think I also felt a little restricted, because I was thinking more of the traditional cut crystal or blown glass products. But when we went over to Germany and toured the Nachtmann factories, I saw their production techniques and learnt about the logistics of the material. We started learning about glass and what you can actually do with it. I found it to be such a versatile medium; you can do so many things with it, and it gave me a greater sense of freedom.
How vital was the trip to Germany in your design process?
I learned how useful it is to get solid information from a good source when you are working with new mediums or new techniques. I’ve obviously never designed with glass before, so receiving information about production from those actually working in the factories, it’s the purest source of knowledge you can get. It helps you start to understand what is and isn’t possible. Find someone who is very well informed on the subject and get some good knowledge from them, so you can get to the stage where you start to really know what you’re working with.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of the Project?
The progression. As a student we have limited time to work on projects, so having such a long time to progress through ideas and iterate means you can really get a lot more out of what you’re working with. It did some times get a bit difficult, a bit obsessive going over and over the same design, but we had a great group of people and all helped each other get over roadblocks. That was one of the other benefits, working with the other students and the teachers.
And what was the hardest?
Figuring out the style was difficult. You want to have something that has your style into it, but you are designing to suit a client’s needs and match their style and goals. We are trying to push innovation, making it modern and appeal to a younger demographic, while also still staying true to the brand’s traditional look. So putting your design into it but making sure it stands as a Nachtmann design as well, that balance was critical to learn. The project brief asks us to take inspiration from one key element, and finding that core element was tough. But once I had mine – jet turbines – having a bit of restriction on the design process was good. It gives you parameters to work within.
What was one of the surprising challenges of the Project?
Learning what to expect working with glass and trying to visualise what your designs will look like in glass. You have to work at it for a long time to know simply by looking at it. For example, one of my more minimalist designs looked really nice in the models, but I realised it just wouldn’t have the refractive glitz factor we wanted to achieve. That’s what was great about doing the renders, because of how true to life they can look. It was all a learning process; I had to learn what wouldn’t work before I could understand what would.
What did you learn that you can take into your professional career?
Coming from an industrial design background, we’re often designing products with complex interactions and many functions. The NEXTGEN Project gave me an appreciation for how much goes into something with a ‘simple’ interaction like a drinking glass. If someone uses a product with multiple functions and complicated behaviours, they can be so preoccupied with using it that they don’t have time to consider their own experience in the moment. There’s room to hide small imperfections. That isn’t the case with something like a drinking glass. The simpler the experience, the purer it is, and the more important it is to get it right. If all you experience is the look and feel of a product then there’s nothing to hide behind. It has to be perfect.