Talking design with The Walt Disney Company

Greg Lilley

Ravensbourne Pre-Foundation Diploma students met representatives from The Walt Disney Company’s strategic philanthropy department to tell them of their design ideas for a new project that merges art with science.


The students, who study Ravensbourne’s Pre-Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, are competing in the UK ArtScience Prize, a national competition funded through The Walt Disney Company, that brings new creative thinking into contact with science.

The visitors from The Walt Disney Company, Gregg Sherkin, Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Strategic Philanthropy, and Jeff Archambault, Vice President of Strategic Philanthropy, were able to see the range of courses and facilities available to Ravensbourne students and meet the talented young creatives. As part of their commitment to helping young people thrive in education, The Walt Disney Company supports projects such as the ArtScience Prize worldwide, contributing more than $198 million to organisations across the globe in 2010. 

The competition sees eight teams from Ravensbourne’s cohort of 26 Pre-Foundation Diploma students come with up a new idea over six weeks based around the theme of synthetic biology. A winning team will then be selected to travel to Paris, where they will have the opportunity to further develop their ideas and turn them into reality at the annual Idea Translation Workshop at the ArtScience centre Le Laboratoire.

With such a wide-ranging brief, the students are able to come up with design ideas as diverse as coffee cups grown from E. coli bacteria, or trees integrated with streetlamps.

18 year-old Paige Carroll presented her team’s idea to create an inkless pen from water laced with bacteria: “We wanted to make a pen that could take colours, textures and patterns from nature and replicate them on paper. We initially thought of using squid ink, however, after speaking to scientists at UCL, we learnt that with different bacteria we could create all sorts of effects. For example glow worms or eels make glow-in-the-dark ink, and we’re even looking to recreate animal markings, like those of a zebra, in an ink. It’s really exciting.”

The ArtScience Prize originally began in Boston but has rapidly expanded to include cities across the US and overseas, and this is the first time the ArtScience Prize is being piloted in the UK. The competition runs alongside the students’ final project, helping to broaden their ideas and to think outside of the box. In partnership with the Derby Silk Mill, students at Landau Forte College in Derby are also taking part in this year’s UK ArtScience Prize pilot year.

Ravensbourne student Shannon Cox, 16, said of the prize: “The ArtScience Prize has really helped me to come up with ideas that I would never have dreamed of on a more traditional project. I’m helping to design accessories that attach to the body to give the wearer a healthy, natural boost, in place of nicotine or caffeine for example”.

The visitors were captivated with the breadth of innovative ideas on show. Gregg Sherkin, Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Strategic Philanthropy, said to the students: “Thanks so much for inviting us to Ravensbourne. It’s been so great to see your projects and I think you’ve all got such great ideas.”

The final designs will be exhibited at a prize-winners event in central London in June.

Ravensbourne’s Pre-Foundation Diploma in Art and Design offers college-level students the opportunity to try their hand at every major subject area in art and design, from product and graphic design to fashion, photography and lens-based media.

Click here to find out more about Pre-Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Ravensbourne.

Click here to find out more about the ArtScience Prize.