The James Dyson Award (JDA) is an international design award that runs in 27 countries and regions. Current and recent design engineering students are invited to participate and pitch their best innovative designs.
National winners will be chosen from each country, who will go on to compete in an international round. This year, Malaysia’s national winner for the award is 24-year old Sarah Moi Shi Li, a native of Penang Island.
She’ll be graduating at the end of this September from Universiti Sains Malaysia, where she pursued a degree major in Product Design. She got her start in design upon entering university when she realised that she was attracted to the subject of design more than business.
“I slowly realised that it’s satisfying and it’s kind of achievement when you could design something to make a difference in people’s lives,” Sarah said.
Designing The Plate Defender
Previously, she designed household furniture and won the Platinum Award and RM8,000 at the Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) this March.
For JDA, she designed a plate defender called Eat. Easy for people who have the use of only one hand like hand amputees or people with a broken arm. Mothers carrying babies can also make use of the tool.
To get started, she interviewed several people who underwent hand amputations to understand their struggles and did in-depth research on how they would achieve their daily tasks using only a single hand.
“I had to make sure the product is easy and safe to use, and for most works for the single-handed user and let them feel more comfortable when eating with one hand,” Sarah said.
Her design process for Eat. Easy began with sketching the curved shape of the tool, and she made several mock-ups to try out how well the defender worked. She tried out several different designs before settling on the one she has now and built a pre-prototype with food-grade silicone.
How Eat. Easy works is by acting as a barrier on the edge of a flat plate so users can scoop up their food against it, rather than have the food just fall off the edge. This is especially useful for single-handed users who consume rice in their daily meals.
Eat. Easy is made with food-grade silicone to prevent any slippage while in use. Sarah said that a tool with a similar purpose already exists, but the difference between it and Eat. Easy is the fact that the latter doesn’t require its user to clip it on and unclip it from the plate.
Her design is portable, flexible and easy to use and clean, but getting this stage of her design was no easy feat. “The most challenging part was to be passionate because it requires a lot of tries and error on the design of a product in terms of shape, material and usage,” she said.
Her Future In Design
On how she felt about becoming Malaysia’s national winner for JDA, Sarah said, “It motivates me to move further as well as it’s a confirmation on what I had done. Besides, it made me more definite about what I should do, and I should keep being passionate about doing design.”
She believes Eat. Easy can be first manufactured on a small scale for people in need, especially for patients in hospitals who may only have the use of one hand.
On 17 October, the top 20 international entries will be announced and the International Winner of JDA 2019 will be announced on 14 November.
Regardless of whether she’ll become the international winner of JDA, Sarah would like to fully develop Eat. Easy into a commercial product. “It couldn’t happen anytime soon but future to market, where for me this product could have more space to develop for a better and different experience,” she said.
Sarah loves designing furniture and other products so she finds it hard to decide which design path she’ll continue on.
“Both of this had a different value in design because creating a piece of furniture related more on people lifestyle and culture, developing a product related more on solving people’s problems and making people’s lives more comfortable,” she said.
“In the future, I think it could be either on both sides as long as I could design a product to solve people’s problems or furniture for a better living lifestyle.”
- You can learn more about Eat. Easy here.
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Featured Image Credit: Dyson