An interview with Robert Malkin.

In the second instalment of our interview series we hear from Robert Malkin, New Product Design Manager for Martech UK ltd. Robert has worked in the field of Luminaire design now for over 9 years and runs the internal design team.

Thanks Robert for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part!

Why did you become a designer?

I’ve always been creative from a young age, as a child I spent most of my time drawing and entering art competitions. Constructing Lego and meccano (I was always the kid that built it and displayed it with pride rather than played with it!) Excelling in Art and Graphic design through school and college leading on nicely to a degree in product design at the University of Huddersfield. A couple of years into my career I ended up in the lighting industry where I’ve been ever since! (The industry chose me!)

What is your best achievement or product?

In the first couple of years working for my current company Martech Uk Ltd we were just seeing the dawn of LED’s for use in general lighting and I was tasked with working on projects for our first major LED product ranges. One of these product ranges would be a 130mm diameter spotlight to eventually replace a compact fluorescent product which had been popular for several years. There were lots of challenges in this project, A Die cast heatsink, a number of injection moulded parts and I even had to design a custom screw fixing which had to be specially made on a lathe. Eight years later this is our top selling fitting month on month, year on year with over 180’000 of them leaving our factory doors.
A recent visit to China to see a Die Casting facility we work with opened my eyes when I saw how many jobs this one part alone had created. A complete facility and production line set up just to make this one part. This was quite a touching and humbling moment of realisation for me and is my best achievement.

What is your favourite brand and why?

A difficult question and hard to tie it down to one as there are so many different market sectors all with great examples of product design. Obviously, Apple products are a stand out and surely a popular answer, I also love the classic Braun products designed by Dieter Rams. I also enjoy following the trends in men’s fashion and graphic t-shirt design centred around typography by brands like P&Co based in London. I recently stumbled upon a motorcycle company from Birmingham called Mutt Motorcycles which inspired me to work towards earning a motorbike licence when I saw their modern classic designs. I think it’s great to see some really strong brands emerging in the Uk that have found a niche and become masters within it. Made in Britain still means something!

Are there any upcoming trends in your particular field?

Trends in lighting tend to follow new technologies, at the moment it’s all about connectivity and ‘the internet of things’ …Light fittings that are smart and can connect to other devices. Luminaires can now collect data on things like footfall in certain areas allowing retailers to better place advertisements, they can even send an advertisement direct to your phone to pop up with offers while in a store. As designers, it is our job to build light fittings that are a platform, future-proofed and able to make use of all these new technologies as they come out allowing us to launch products in shorter timescales.

Do you have any advice for up and coming designers?

We have quite a good relationship with the university’s close to us and bring graduate product designers in quite often. I remember being in their position, I see the frustrations when upcoming projects aren’t always as exciting as they may have expected. I think it’s easy to get disheartened when the reality is you might end up designing right angled brackets every day for the first year! It’s important to be patient, the real learning starts after the education. Find someone more experienced to learn off, listen and question everything! Get the experience, work hard and your time will come.

What’s your favourite part of the design process and why?

It has to be the early stages where you are investigating an idea, making models and doing some early bits of CAD work. Basically, the most creative part before it all gets serious about numbers, figures, costs and quantities.

Where is the best place you have worked and why?

Although I’ve worked at some great places I’ve now been in my current organisation for nine years so I’d have to say Martech, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here! Starting at the bottom and working my way up through a senior role to being the design manager, designing lots of products along the way. I now manage a team and concentrate my efforts into streamlining the design process and constantly improving the way we do things. There is nothing more important than the opportunity to progress, to learn and to constantly improve yourself, which is why I’m still here doing what I do.

Whats your favourite design tool?

We have a lot of tools at our disposal to help us do our job, I’m very tempted to say my ‘favourite’ is our new Eden260V 3D printer which I eventually convinced our directors to buy us (It’s pretty awesome) But it all starts with a pencil, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away in CAD and 3D design and become confined within its capabilities. I always encourage my team to start on paper with an open mind.

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