Like a number of her colleagues at the School of Product Design | Te Kura Hanga Otinga, Industrial Design Lecturer Bahareh Shahri’s interests combine the scientific with the creative. However, she takes this one step further, adding human-centred design to the mix.
“Design is a very broad subject and at the School of Product Design, we have very unique disciplines,” says Bahareh. “Students can either start from a very artistic perspective or from a very industry-focused engineering perspective – there is such a huge scope of potential research work”.
“My role in this whole spectrum is to remind people about the social and cultural aspects of design, with most of my lectures based around design in the context of aesthetics – how people approach and understand beauty in products. I also tend to take a qualitative approach to much of my research.”
Bahareh studied industrial product design at the University of Tehran, after being ranked an impressive sixth out of 500,000 students in her secondary school art entrance exam.
“Industrial design provides a bridge between art, engineering and science, so it was made for me. It suited my background in engineering and science, as well as my passion for art and drawing.”
Bahareh’s Master’s dissertation was about the social aspects of design, and the social and aesthetic value of products. At that time it was a relatively new field of study, with the majority of national and global research focused on manufacturing and industry.
After completing her study, she was involved in a number of national projects sponsored by international children’s charity UNICEF.
“The projects looked at design for the society and community around the issue of child abuse and were focused on developing a series of media to raise awareness,” says Bahareh.
“We started with qualitative research and then proceeded to the design of a multi-media package. This experience gave me a new world view of seeing things and implementing design.”
To further her education, Bahareh moved to Scotland to complete her PhD at the Edinburgh College of Art. “This looked at what people understand from playful engagements in product design. My idea was to see if we could transfer cooking skills through playful products in the kitchen, focusing on cultural over functional or technological functions in the field.”
After returning to the University of Tehran as a lecturer in product design, Bahareh moved to Aotearoa New Zealand with her family in 2017, starting her role at University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha in early 2018. One of the big drawcards was the emphasis on collaboration at the School of Product Design.
“There are a lot of open avenues for doing inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research. For example, students take projects in health sciences, the toy industry and gardening. We are also working with UC’s HIT Lab [Human Interface Technology Lab New Zealand] on immersive technologies to support food-based education.
“Teamwork is a really important part of this discipline, which is why working efficiently in a team is a key element of our teaching. Even as a school, we are all about teamwork. There is also a real celebration of diversity, which makes it a great place to be able to share my design experience and knowledge with people.”