UJ cum laude Industrial Design student’s innovative research improves lives

​​Industrial Design as a career and as a form of research, can apply to a wide variety of products. This includes helping to solve existing problems that sometimes relate to social development and community engagement. A University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, Mrs Justine Hunkin, is doing just that – she has worked with people in less privileged communities to help redesign an existing product that can be recreated to better serve the needs of low income communities.


The beauty about this research in particular is that the technology used in the design of a retained heat cooker is and has been in the public domain for more than one hundred years. Making use of this open source technology enables the community and the researcher to work together to create products that are in line with the user’s needs as opposed to simply selling a studio designed product directly into communities that have no awareness of the new product.​
Hunkin, a young UJ Industrial Design lecturer who will be graduating cum laude with a Masters in Technology in Industrial Design on 2 April 2014, co- designed a fabric retaining heat cooker from a user’s perspective during her thesis project in Orange Farm in 2012 and 2013. ​
The cooker (a round bag-like design) retains heat for around eight to twelve hours – meaning that if a person puts a boiling pot of water or food in it, the heated pot will retain a high temperature for around eight to twelve hours. To use the cooker, a user should boil food in a pot on a stove or any other cooking appliance and then after a certain specified time on the energy source, remove the pot and place it in the retained-heat cooker and ensure that the pot remains tightly closed, reducing the heat from escaping during the ‘slow’ cooking process. This design has been based on a particular retained heat cooker that had been previously introduced into the community without the potential users input into the design requirements.
Hunkin’s research was based on improving the lives of the low income communities to cope with the escalating household costs of everyday living. “I have looked at the needs of this community in particular and met with the users who have helped co-design a retained-heat cooker ‘for the community by the community’. I needed to design something that was guided by users and not something based solely on a designer’s assumptions,” says Hunkin.
According to Hunkin, Industrial Design is about creating products, these may be for people’s needs and /or wants and some of these products create beauty in the form of functional art or almost any type of mass manufactured product that has a purpose. She personally prefers to look specifically at designing products that will enhance and simplify people’s lives. Her love for designing products started from childhood curiosity. She dismantled toys and small household appliances to understand how they were assembled and why.​​
UJ encourages its employees to study further. The University developed a Staff Qualification Programme (SQP) that helps provide the means to enrich academic staff ‘skills and knowledge which in turn provide higher educational outputs for teaching and learning for both lecturers and students. Hunkin was part of this programme, “I am privileged to be a part of the University of Johannesburg. Education is a gift to yourself that no one can take away from you. I encourage other people to take the opportunities the University presents before them and use it to improve their own skills set,” said Ms Hunkin.
The University is establishing itself as a prestigious learning institution with global stature and teaching and learning excellence that is attracting a high caliber of researchers and students worldwide. According to Hunkin, this move means “UJ is creating more awareness that we are also not just an academic institution, it also means we are aware of the social needs and community development in our society. We acknowledge our part in making a difference to the under-served communities globally. We are situated in ideal location of Johannesburg, South Africa. Hunkin said her work and enthusiasm is inspired by knowing that she is making a difference and that she is working with the youth. Justine Hunkin joined the University as a staff member in March 2009.​


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