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Posted 23.08.18

Design consultant and educator Peter Barker appointed as new Head of School, Design + Communication

By Phillip Buchan

Peter Barker - Head of School, Design and Communication at Plymouth College of Art - Photo by Katrine Worsoe

Peter Barker, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, MA in Industrial Design graduate from the Royal College of Art and former Head of Industrial & Communication Design at Design School Kolding, has been appointed as Head of School, Design + Communication, at Plymouth College of Art.

This new role sees him return to England after three years in Denmark at Design School Kolding, which is regularly ranked as one of Europe’s top 50 design schools. During his time there Peter created opportunities for students to work with global brands such as NASA and provided design consultancy for brands including LEGO Group.

With over thirty years of international experience in design practice and teaching, including working with the LEGO Foundation to create a new MA Design to Play programme, Peter joined Design School Kolding in August 2015, first as Head of Industrial Design, then as Director of Education, and finally as Head of Industrial & Communication Design.

As an educator, Peter has facilitated opportunities for students to work with international brands including Oakley, Jaguar Land Rover, Rodial Cosmetics, Flying Tiger Copenhagen, Razor USA, and Sebastian Conran.

Prior to his time in Denmark, Peter was BA (Hons) Product Design Course Leader at Central Saint Martins, UAL, Assistant Professor in Industrial Design at California State University, Long Beach, and Programme Director for Coventry University Industrial Design courses. Before switching to design education, he spent over a decade working first as a designer at the Moulton Bicycle Company, and then as a design consultant in London across a range of disciplines.

Peter Barker with the the 1987 AM ATB (Alex Moulton All Terrain Bicycle) at the Design Museum in 2015 - the 1987 AM ATB was designed by Alex Moulton with assistance by Peter Barker

Peter said of his appointment: “What attracted me most to the role is that Plymouth College of Art has a very clear moral purpose, something that’s demonstrated in the College’s commitment to the transformative power of creative education and to social justice. I also love Plymouth School of Creative Arts, both the design of the Red House building and the fact that the College went ahead and created a school in response to a national educational need."

“I’ve been employed in design education since the early 1990s and have worked in some excellent institutions that no longer seemed to know what their purpose was. Plymouth College of Art’s clarity of vision for the future was attractive to me, and speaking to the staff there felt like a meeting of minds. I can’t wait to get started.”

“A highlight of my time at Design School Kolding was creating an opportunity with NASA that led to three students winning a prestigious Danish Design Award for their work on improving habitability of a capsule designed for a one-way trip to Mars."

– Peter Barker. Head of School, Design and Communication

At Plymouth College of Art, Peter will work closely with the Academic Dean to develop the College’s new School of Design + Communication. The College is currently in the process of a comprehensive curriculum review, and the Head of School, Design + Communication will bring new ideas and expertise to bear on the consolidation, development, and innovation of the programmes that he will manage, supporting the College’s commitment to creative pedagogy, interdisciplinary exchange, collaboration, and social impact.

Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Academic Dean at Plymouth College of Art, said: "We are delighted to be welcoming Peter Barker into our academic community here at the College. Peter's deep understanding of industrial design and design thinking will help to drive forward our strategic ambitions for design education in the years to come."

With professional interests in user-centred design, empathetic studies and the design and design engineering interface, Peter also has strong research interests in the design and development of classic cars, such as the Mini.

 Mars shuttle craft interior with with sleeping pod designed to improve habitability during the 221 day journey - Winner of a Danish Design Award 2018 by Iga Slowik, Paul Lequay and Claudia Naval

Speaking of his work as a design educator in Denmark, Peter said: “A highlight of my time at Design School Kolding was creating an opportunity with NASA that led to three students, Iga Slowik, Claudia Naval and Paul Lequay, winning a prestigious 2018 national Danish Design Award for their work on improving habitability of a capsule designed for a one-way trip to Mars.

“That project came about because of a connection I have with Patrick Farrell, who was part of the team that designed the interiors for the NASA Skylab space station in the 1970s. I was proud of the way the students embraced NASA’s brief and found ways to simulate the experience of being in the capsule, so that they could anticipate problems that the astronauts would face."

“On a personal level, while I was in Denmark I also provided design consultancy for the LEGO Group, which was an incredible experience. By demonstrating traditional visualisation techniques to their engineers, I was able to show them rapid methods for visualising new products, which can help reduce the lead-time for engineers bringing new playsets to market."

"At the time I met them this was process took approximately two years, because they were building digital models in CAD. Making sketches to visualise new ideas is something that used to be taught in engineering schools but that has become a casualty of the digital age. By abandoning traditional skills, sometimes we can lose simple things of enormous value, and it was a privilege to assist the LEGO Group by reminding them of this.”

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