When people collaborate amazing things happen. For the last couple of years, Vermont Sales and the University of Johannesburg have collaborated with HOMEMAKERS for the inventive Young Designers Challenge.

This year the ideas generated behind the theme was to design products that change and improve people’s lifestyles. Top products will be on display at the Expo where the winning design will be chosen. Visitors can expect to see innovations around smart water tanks, tech-savvy kitchen sinks and taps, home organisers and AI assistants, smart kitchenware and smart tools. 

Choosing the winner is a difficult task because all the designs are in essence ground-breaking. To understand the process a little better we asked Martin Bolton, senior lecturer at the Department of Industrial Design at the University of Johannesburg and Greg de Villiers head of sales at Vermont Sales a few questions.

Martin Bolton

What is the 2020 UJ Young Designers Challenge all about?  

The challenge is an opportunity for students to link with industry partners to develop smart products which illustrate how they see these future products may be able to better peoples lives. 

What can visitors expect to see from the students’ work for 2020?

A collection of novel and interesting concept products which illustrate local South African Industrial Design talent. Kitchen appliances that think for you, workshop tools that are safer to use, and garden products saving water for you!

It seems as if this project has become a regular project, not just for HOMEMAKERS, but also for Vermont Sales and UJ. Why is this a valuable collab for UJ?  

As the UJ Department of Industrial Design is preparing students to enter our local industry, the more we are aligned and participate with industry partners the better. This partnership with HOMEMAKERS and Vermont Sales has allowed our students to learn about the value of marketing and exhibitions from the HOMEMAKERS team, while at the same time understand more about the South African landscape of tools and appliances.

What was the brief to the students and how was Vermont Sales part of this brief?

This was undertaken as the third-year BA Industrial Design students exam project, as the final project of their 3 years Bachelor’s course. The brief for the project was the researching and designing of a smart appliance/tool system which incorporates digital technology in order to improve the user experience/increase safety. 

Vermont invited the students to visit their warehouse and tool demonstration room and took us through a large amount of novel, different, useful and smart tools. This sparked a lot of interest and students used this at the starting point for their industrial design process of product development.

What design trends can we look out for in 2020?

Every year the focus of our work steers more and more in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In particular the areas of environmental, social and economic sustainability. We hope to see it not only being a trend but practically more evident in the local landscape.

Young Designers Challenge

Greg de Villiers

Why has Vermont Sales played such a fundamental role in the Young Designers Challenge? 

Vermont Sales as a South African business is keenly interested in our people. At our core,, our business is driven by innovation. By supporting this initiative we are reminded of this and are presented an opportunity to give back so that we can demonstrate our commitment to this.

Why is young designer projects so important to Vermont?  

It is important to expose our brands to us. The design challenge affords us a unique way to do so while at the same time providing a platform to young designers.

Have you ever taken any of the designer’s designs further into production? 

The design brief is often very wide and futuristic. While we have not developed any product yet, the door to this is very much open. We have employed former students to work in our own design department. This has provided enormous value to us as well as gainful employment.

What can visitors expect from the Vermont Sales demonstrations at the Inhabit Workshop this year? 

This year at the workshop visitors can see the latest in tools demonstrated in making projects that they will love. The skilled demonstrators will guide visitors in answering some of there DIY and trade professional questions.

What is one tool every DIYer needs in their toolbox? 

This is such a difficult question. There are so many tools available to help you make and create your projects. In our own stable, we have more than 60 brands and over 20 000 products. If I had to choose one, I would definitely say a Kreg K5 Pocket Hole Jig and an OLFA Knife. Love those tools.

Don’t miss the highly anticipated Young Designers Challenge at the 2020 Johannesburg HOMEMAKERS Expo.

Get your ticket here.