Design and technology play a pivotal role in shaping the world around us. In fact virtually everything we use on a daily basis – from our cars, houses and roads to our clothes, furniture and coffee cups – is a product of design.
It’s this limitless scope and awe-inspiring impact that gets Natasha Townshend out of bed each morning. As a design & technology teacher at ACG Sunderland she can’t wait to inspire and empower her students to quite literally create the future.
Design is everything, and everywhere
“We live in a man-made environment so essentially everything we encounter exists by design,” says Natasha. “Every product we use is the latest in a long line of iterations of that product, and each time it’s made, we make improvements on it. We think about what’s working, what’s not working, and what new advancements in technologies can be applied. A good designer will be able to find the sweet spot between form and function, to make something that works well but that is also beautiful.”
No stranger to this “sweet spot” herself, Natasha’s mother is a painter and her father is a potter. She grew up exposed to all facets of design and is proficient across a range of materials, from food, fabric and graphics, right through to wood and metal. Prior to launching her career as an educator Natasha trained in fashion design (she’s also got a degree in performing arts!) and worked as a costumier for the ‘Lord of the Rings’. Her love of fashion remains a constant source of impetus and inspiration.
“I’m particularly inspired by Dior Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman ever to lead the brand. The Dior 2023 pre-fall collection uses traditional Indian methods of embellishment and embroidery but elevated and styled in a way to suit the collection. It’s so extraordinary to see the skill and beauty of traditional methods from around the world being honoured and celebrated in Dior’s collections.”
Design and technology offer opportunities to make a difference in the world
Whether it’s fashion or furniture making, engineering or architecture, the opportunities design and technology offer to blaze a trail and enhance our world is nothing short of mind blowing.
“For anyone who enjoys puzzles, design and technology can be exciting, because it’s all about solving problems! It is a vital part of our economy and society - we need to keep improving on what has come before us, and we can make people’s lives better by bringing harmony and balance through design into our homes and lives. There are so many amazing careers that can stem from studying design & technology – it lays strong foundations for studying graphic design, product design, urban planning, software design, food technology, interior design and more.”
Students are in expert hands
Natasha’s enthusiasm for her subject is contagious, and the results her students achieve are nothing short of outstanding. In fact one of her students achieved Top in the World for IGCSE Design & Technology in their 2021 examinations, and the entire cohort did exceptionally well.
“I’m very proud of all the students I’ve taught, they’ve all shown great dedication and commitment to their projects, particularly as they had to complete their projects during lockdown which added to the difficulty.”
As part of the Cambridge design & technology programme, students are tasked with developing products to suit a particular purpose – and the materials, products, and tools required to create these are as diverse as the students themselves (although the laser cutter is always in hot demand!).
Despite the variety and unbridled creativity, there is one aspect of design that Natasha ensures always shines through in her classes.
“I am extremely passionate about sustainability in design. Designers have a responsibility to ensure that new developments do not impact negatively on the planet. Through responsible design and use of technology we can create products and a built environment that is better for the world than what we currently have.”