Sarah Keane.
Product Designer at Dolmen Design

Dolmen Design is a product design consultancy which brings a product from ideation through prototyping to final marketable consumer product.

Sarah Keane why design ireland

What exactly is a product designer?

We look at the ergonomics of the product, the look and feel. We create prototypes to figure out how the user will use the product and we iterate until it's the best product we could possibly make.

How and why did you become a product designer?

When I was younger, I was always sketching and making things, so I always knew I wanted to be a designer. Throughout secondary school, I wanted to be an architect. Then when I was in fourth year, I went to the UL graduate show and saw the product design graduate show and it blew me away. I had no awareness of product design before I went to that graduate show and then I just fell in love with it.

It was everything I was looking for: it was creative and also involved a lot of problem-solving and engineering, so it was a really good balance for me.

Did you get advice and support in school?

Not really, if anyone in secondary school said they wanted to make a living out of art and design, you'd go straight to architecture. That's what was suggested to me.

Product design wasn't really an option when I was getting advice in secondary school, I had to educate myself by going to active exhibitions.

We create prototypes to figure out how the user will use the product and we iterate until it's the best product we could possibly make.

Did you have any female role models in design?

I didn't really have any female role models, I just took influence from people around me, like my art teacher and my mother. She was always encouraging me to pursue design and what I loved. She was really happy that I got to study design.

What was your product design course?

When I first started the product design course I wasn't too happy about it. I thought I'd be designing all the time and sketching and getting my hands dirty. But at the start you have to do a lot of theory and studying. Then as time went on, I was doing more sketching and designing, prototyping that I really like.

Were there many females on your product design course?

There was a very low percentage of girls to guys on the course, there were 5 girls and 45 boys on the course.

I was used to being in courses and classes with so few females to males from doing technical graphics in school. Even now, in my career, there are two female product designers and 20 male product designers, I've become used to the imbalance.

How did you feel when you graduated?

I'd already done an internship or a co-op here at Dolmen, so I knew I was going to come back to Dolmen after I graduated. I felt like that chapter ended and I went and started my next chapter.

How did your internship go then?

I knew I wanted to come to Dolmen because it's a design consultancy. I was always really interested in sketching and Dolmen saw that as a really big strength of mine. After about two or three months of working here, they already knew that they wanted to hire me after I finished college.

Product designer irelandDolmen Product designer ireland
sarah keane Product designer ireland

How long have you been working here now?

Overall, it's been about 3 years or so. It's good, it has its ups and downs. You have to put in a lot of work, there can be a lot of overtime, but it pays off in the end when you get to see the client's reaction or have the product in your hands.

It's one thing seeing it on screen, then seeing it in real life is really fulfilling.

I've even been promoted to a mid-level product designer, just even after a year of working as a product designer a year after I graduated.

I asked for constant reviews so I can see where my progress is going. Upskilling is very important to me.

It was good to have them to listen and implement that into my work every day, so they're getting what they want and I'm getting what I want.

Are you being fulfilled creatively in your career?

I definitely feel so. I honestly couldn't imagine myself doing anything else because I really love the side of having engineering and creativity coming together. Here at Dolmen, we focus on the balance between technical and creative.

What is your day-to-day work like?

I suppose with working in a consultancy, not every day is very typical. Every day is very different. You're always at different stages of different projects.

You could be sketching for one project, being involved in an active brainstorm for an hour or two in one day, then working on CAD development on your computer, trying to get your prototype ready for the end of the week.

Do you think having that diversity in the design team is important?

Definitely. It's just nice to have that feminine touch on products that would be for females inherently. And a lot of the products I've worked on are quite feminine themselves. Coro is a breastfeeding monitor, where it actively measures the flow of milk when the mother is breastfeeding.

Where do you see yourself going?

I just love what I'm doing right now. I just want to keep working on that and keep upskilling and getting better at that every day.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to find out more about product design?

I'd recommend going to graduate shows of the different colleges they'd be interested in because they show all the different design projects

What would you say to your eighteen-year-old self?

Just keep doing what you're doing. I was really happy with what I was doing when I was 18. I was in college, studying product design, so keep pursuing product design and keep doing what you're doing.

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