With significant international experience, including running his own design consultancy in his home country of the Netherlands, Industrial Product Design Lecturer Barro De Gast takes a very tangible, eclectic approach to design.
I believe in experimenting and hands-on creating all the time, especially when it comes to materials and trying different mechanisms to develop a project,” says Barro.
“As most product design developments nowadays unfortunately consist in small increments, it is essential to have a thorough yet lateral approach in your research to stimulate concept creation, without trying to force the solution.
Over the years, Barro has amassed a comprehensive collection of samples, acting as a source of inspiration for design projects and as a valuable teaching and demonstration tool.
His interest in production, technology and materials was evident right from the very start of his career. In fact, it was during Barro’s B.A. in Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven that he designed one of the projects he is most proud of.
My approach is to use design to serve people,” says Barro. “For my undergraduate degree, I designed a modular showcase system, distilled down to quite simple elements. It was completely flat-pack and tools-free, using rubber and material flexibility to achieve a portable display cabinet for use in trade shows and similar.
The showcase system went on to win several international design awards and was patented through government subsidies for recognising and stimulating student innovations. It would be the first of over a dozen Utility Patents and Design Registrations under Barro’s name for clients such as WMF, Alfi, Silit, Tupperware, Fozzils, Chicco, and Unilever.
In 1993, Barro was awarded a scholarship from the Dutch government to complete a one-year Master course in conceptual industrial design (M.A. Design) at the Domus Academy in Milano, Italy.
Their approach to design was orientated to how products need to adapt to changes in society and to think about new evolving social trends and attitudes. At the time, that really opened up a new way of thinking for me.
Decades later this attitude still pushes him to re-evaluate products and their reasons for existing. A self-initiated research and development project resulted in Yo’Play Blox – an award-winning packaging concept designed to have a second life as a modular construction toy for children.
After graduating he spent several years in various design roles, eventually landing a lecturer role at the prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design in Milano in 2004 where he would teach materials and technology, and also provide project guidance for almost ten years.
Barro also ran his own industrial design consultancy, deGast deSIGN in Milan, from 1995 onwards, with a specialisation in folding, collapsible, transformable and modular products.
However, with a keen interest to return to teaching, and a desire to explore Aotearoa New Zealand, Barro accepted a lecturing role with the School of Product Design | Te Kura Hanga Otinga in early 2019.
As well as encouraging students to take a more practical approach to design, Barro is also looking forward to possible collaborations with other lecturers within the school, such as creating a virtual reality sample library alongside a physical one. “This could be a game-changer in design education,” says Barro.