M&S Placement Sustainable Design Competition Project


With the focus on the issues of sustainability, the Enterprise and Innovation Centre (EIC) at Ravensbourne initiated a placement scheme to enable undergraduate students to gain industry experience while still enrolled in their course of study.

EIC partnered with Marks & Spencer (M&S) to help close the loop between ever-changing legislation and product design technology. Now in its sixth year, the Sustainable Design Competition Project empowers current BA (Hons) Design Products  students by giving them the opportunity of being awarded a six-month paid placement working on live projects within the M&S packaging team.


In April this year, the placement was awarded to a Level 2 student, Charlie Wood. Five different briefs were set by Marks & Spencer, which included: packaging for flowers, sausages, sandwiches, pizza and Indian ready meals. Charlie was assigned flowers and Indian ready meals.

I made it through the first round and was shortlisted to go and present at M&S. And after presenting at M&S I was the student selected to have a six-month placement at M&S working with the Plan A Packaging team.

The time-scale for the live project was 10 weeks. In this time students received an initial briefing setting out the Demands and Wishes and a midway review with the clients to make sure the criteria of the brief were being met. During this phase students visited M&S Stratford, where they spoke to staff. They also visited Nampak, blow moulding for milk cartons, and Closed Loop for material recycling.

The project concluded with a final presentation of work for Simon Oxley, Packaging Technologist – Food at Marks & Spencer. Ten students were shortlisted to go through and present at the M&S Head Office in Paddington where the big decision would be made as to who will be given the placement.

Simon Oxley commented, “We’ve had close links with Ravensbourne for a number of years and have sponsored several students to do six month placements at M&S. That collaboration has enabled us to bring products to market that would never have launched without the students’ vision, creativity and technical ability to design and mock up a multitude of packaging concepts. We’ve undoubtedly benefitted from our relationship with Ravensbourne and hope it continues in the future.”

Following his success we approached Charlie to tell us more about his achievement and also about his experience at Ravensbourne.

- Could you tell us a little bit about your path to Ravensbourne?

Before starting Ravensbourne I did an art foundation degree at Oaklands College. This is where 3D form and design became a clear interest for me. Before that I did my A levels where I also studied Art & Design, Resistant Materials and Psychology, which have all been helpful in studying Product Design.

- How did you first learn about the opportunity to secure a placement with M&S?

I heard about it from past Ravensbourne Design Products students.

- What does it mean to you to have been selected as the recipient of the M&S placement?

It’s a great honour to have been rewarded with this placement after months of hard work. I am still shocked that they chose me, as everyone that pitched to M&S that day did an amazing job. It must have been a tough decision.

- How has your experience at Ravesbourne been?

My experience at Ravensbourne has exceeded all my expectations. There is a strong sense of community which encourages students to do their best. I have learnt an incredible amount while studying here and the best part is that this is from both tutors and peers.

Part of the experience of completing a degree is for students to understand what they are really capable of. On Design Products we strive to push students to raise their expectation of themselves and see what they can achieve over a strict time-scale. The experience of working with real clients really enforces this message and helps students align their skills to the level needed to work professionally.

Nadine Bennett, Associate Senior Lecturer – Product Design