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Student & Alumni Stories

NCAD’s Alumni Network
NCAD graduates are an enterprising, innovative and creative group, many of whom have gone on to forge successful careers across a range of disciplines and with world famous organisations. Graduates of NCAD automatically become a member of the NCAD Alumni network. As part of the Alumni you will be able to keep in touch with fellow graduates and initiatives they are involved in, as well as with developments and initiatives in the College.


Sabhín O’Sullivan, BA Product Design (2020)
Semi-finalist in Accenture’s Leaders of Tomorrow Competition 2018, BA Product Design (2020) Graduate Sabhín O'Sullivan is the overall winner of the Design for Social Good category in the ARTSTHREAD i-D Global Graduate Awards 2020.

'Say yes to every opportunity and really make the most of every new relationship you build along the way.'
Sabhín O’Sullivan

Design Competition Awards

  • Overall winner of the Design for Social Good category in the ARTSTHREAD i-D Global Graduate Awards 2020.
  • Shortlisted for Royal Society of Arts Student Design Awards 2020 with ‘Ardú’
  • Winner of the NCAD Staff Choice Award 2020
  • Finalist in the Engineers Without Borders Challenge 2018 with ‘Culture Kits’
  • Shortlisted for the design of ESB’s Free Electrons Trophy 2018 with ‘Path’

What career path did you want to follow as a child?
I wanted to be anything and everything as a child; I wanted to be a singer, a nurse, a ballerina, a teacher, an artist… but never a product designer. I had never even heard of product design until I was in my first year at NCAD, and I am so glad I found it. Now I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
I visited the campus at one of the open days and instantly felt at home - this was the kind of environment I belonged in. I didn’t even know what I wanted to study, but I knew I would enjoy it as long as I was here. My art teachers, at Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan, also had a huge influence on my decision to study at NCAD and I would never have ended up here without them, particularly Ms White and Mr Kilgariff.

Tell us a bit about your award-winning design projects.
I worked on Ardú, with my classmate Jack Canavan. It is an online platform that tackles the issue of unemployment among asylum seekers by providing free courses and mentorship programmes to women living in direct provision centres. Approximately 85% of asylum seekers in Ireland are unemployed; 63% of those who do have employment have unrecognised third-level qualifications and are forced to work in low-paying jobs below their skills level. Ardú aims to change this by matching asylum seekers to professionals working in Irish industry who mentor them through an online course. At the end of the course, the professionals become a reference on the asylum seeker’s CV, proving that they are capable to work in this field. The project has caught the attention of the Department of Justice who is now considering funding the project and want Ardú to represent Ireland in a European-wide competition.

If you were chatting with current NCAD students today about entering design competitions, what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
Do a project you are passionate about. It’s cheesy but the work really is cut in half if you’re doing something you care about. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and really make the most of every new relationship you build along the way. It can be extremely tough at times because putting yourself out there opens the door to rejections and criticism. But there’s no better feeling than opening the email that says you’ve won something, so it’s all worth it in the end!

Portfolio Links: sabhinosullivan.com


Linas Staniukynas , BA Interaction Design 2020
BA Interaction Design Graduate (2020) Linas Staniukynas is the winner of the Interaction Design/Game Design Judges vote at the ARTSTHREAD i-D Global Graduate Awards 2020.

'Even as students, we are producing work that competes with people in the creative industry and we should be a lot more confident about it.'
Linas Staniukynas

Design Competition Awards

  • Winner of the Interaction Design / Game Design Judges vote at the ARTSTHREAD i-D Global Graduate Awards 2020 Project: Grace ‘Life is better with friends’
  • Highly Commended at RSA Awards
  • Finalist at Design and Art Direction Awards

What career path did you want to follow as a child?
I can’t remember, I know I could never decide what I was going to do as I was finishing up secondary school. Maybe a game designer? Maybe a chef? I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea since I barely cook. Maybe an artist?

Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
I enjoyed art in school, so I applied for NCAD. Disappointingly, I didn’t get in first time round. So, I did a portfolio PLC course and got in the following year. Being able to try out different types of art and design in first year helped me decide what I wanted to do. I thought I had zoned in on product design, but then we were told about a brand-new course called interaction design. It sounded like it combined a few of my interests.

Tell us a bit about your award-winning design project.
The brief, which my classmate and co-designer Kipras Pasakinskas and I chose from the Royal Society of Art Awards competition, was to design a way to enable people to live longer and have a better life when they get older. Speaking to older people and health professionals was instrumental in the formation and development of our design, Grace. Social isolation is a huge problem for older people; there are plenty of services and activities to help but are hard to find. Social prescribing is a relatively new service. It aims to help people by connecting them to different activities and groups. We were inspired by L.A.M.P, the Liberties Asset Management Project, a community focused initiative investigated and developed by NCAD product design students, a number of years ago, with information about the local community, business, services and activities in the Liberties district.

From our experience of using the L.A.M.P database, much was out of date or irrelevant. Kipras and I saw an area for innovation. An AI can handle the tedious task of keeping everything up to date by using a natural language processing technology to communicate with service providers. Design for ageing can be a heavy topic. If anyone wishes to learn more about it, you can find out more in my portfolio. Even better, reach out to me. I would be happy to tell you about our project.

What is the one experience – during all the time you have invested in competition entries – that has informed you most in your career preparation and work to date?
One experience stands out during the D&AD competition. Our design class was in a Zoom meeting with seven professionals, in either the start-up or scale-up categories. We shared our concept and design presentations, and they shared theirs. We saw that our work wasn’t too far off the standard of the professionals. In some cases, we thought ours was better. It demonstrated that, even as students, we are producing work that competes with people in the creative industry and we should be a lot more confident about it.

If you were chatting with current NCAD students today about entering design competitions, what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
Before you enter a competition, ensure your project is solid. Speak to the people you are designing for and who know more about the field than you. If you can, bring ideas or concepts to discuss. If you have permission, record the conversations. You have got to put in the work. Come in early. Stay in late.
When you do submit your entry (which has been reviewed by yourself and your peers), and if you do happen to get shortlisted, then practice your presentation, until you are completely comfortable. Ask friends and tutors if you can present to them and ask for feedback. If you have a complex project, keep it simple and easy to understand, and most of all, try to tell a story. That’s what people like to hear.

Portfolio Links: www.staniukynas.com


Lucy van Lonkhuyzen, BDes Metals (Jewellery & Objects) 1996
Current Career - Production Designer, Normal People
We caught up with Lucy van Lonkhuyzen, National College of Art & Design graduate and production designer, to chat about her career, and work on internationally acclaimed television drama Normal People.

How did you come to be in your current job?
After graduating I wanted to travel and work overseas; at first, I worked for a jewellery studio in San Francisco, and then in similar jobs in Australia. After returning to Ireland, I took up a place on an RTE trainee program for production designers. The three-year programme proved to be an incredible on-the-job learning experience. Working mainly on drama and light entertainment shows, I was part of a multidisciplinary team of specialists. I already had some Photoshop and Illustrator experience from college and began learning hard skills like AutoCad in order to work with teams of carpenters, metal fabricators and lighting designers. These specialists require accurate technical drawings to create the sets and build the furniture, as well as ensuring that the lighting creates the appropriate backdrop for filming. I quickly realised I was good at production design; my personality and soft skills helped me get things done efficiently. I’m always working with suppliers, hustling to strike a deal to stretch budgets; it’s a high-pressure environment. Then, in the early noughties, I left RTE and went freelance.

What did you learn - during your time at NCAD - that helped prepare you for your career?
A design degree teaches you the process of design and that, in order to do the job professionally, you should be prepared to put the time in. From the initial research, to the development of mood boards, creating detailed specification drawings and 3D models for the team, there’s a sequence of steps you must take. All this work requires a process but importantly, it also requires a high level of grit and determination too. My work can be relentless. So, I fall back on my college experience and the endless hours of studio practice that are required.

What sort of research and preparation is required for production design in a TV series like Normal People?
I was invited to pitch for the job with Director Lenny Abrahamson and created several production design mood-boards. My research mainly involved focusing on Irish life; I draw a lot of inspiration from researching Irish photography; the use of lighting and composition in photography is always a significant source of reference in my work. Thankfully, my research was well-received. I was invited back for a second interview, before being offered the job. My experience working in the industry has heightened my intuition and I’m closer to knowing instinctively what will work and what won’t.

How did the idea of filming a scene for Normal People at NCAD happen?
My husband, film location manager Eoin Holohan, was struggling to find a perfect location in Dublin for the Swedish Apartment scene. I remembered my days in the old Granary Building as a foundation art student and felt it might make a great location for the shoot. So, we approached NCAD Buildings Manager Nick Andrews. After an initial site visit, I developed an apartment design and specification list not only for my team but for Nick too. NCAD lighting and temporary studio partition walls had to be removed before the film crew moved in during August 2019 to build the set. We even created a fully functioning bathroom that required the installation of a temporary water tank. Working with Nick Andrews and NCAD was a great experience. The set build took less than two weeks, and all filming was completed in two days.

What plans do you have for the future?
Reviews of my production design on Normal People have been really positive, which is exciting. While I wouldn’t say the phone is ringing off the hook due to the pandemic, I’m now suddenly receiving calls from overseas. As I work without an agent, this is a breakthrough. Right now, filming on my current job Valhalla has ceased due to lockdown. In the meantime, I’m up-skilling and re-skilling by taking online courses in 3D modelling packages such as Rhino, Vectorworks and Sketchup.


David McCaul, (Metals Jewellery & Objects) 2003
Current Career - Goldsmith/Jeweller
We caught up with David McCaul, NCAD graduate and founder of Mc Caul Goldsmiths, to chat about his career.

'Be a sponge. There is so much knowledge available at NCAD, between the teachers, technicians, library and fellow students. Take advantage of that and try to absorb as much as you can in your time there.'
David McCaul

What career path did you want to follow as a child?
I was more of a sporty child than artistic. However, I always loved drawing. I had a brilliant art teacher in Donal Higgins at Portmarnock Community School. He pushed me towards art college.

Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
NCAD has a reputation for being the best art college, with the best teachers and most interesting programmes. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in! However, I felt there was no harm in trying. I didn’t know about the metals and jewellery department until I got to the college. Once I discovered it, I was hooked. I absolutely loved it.

How did you develop your career towards your current job/practice?
I spent many years studying and training before I set up my own practice. Four years at NCAD, two years at the DCCOI goldsmithing skills course, and a further two years completing my MA at London Metropolitan University. In between that time, I was working at small workshops to learn as much technical skills as possible; and to learn how to run a business.

What is the one experience – during your time at NCAD – that has informed you most in your career/work to date?
How to think creatively. How to be curious. How to translate that curiosity into ideas and designs.

If you were chatting with current NCAD students today, what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
Be a sponge. There is so much knowledge available at NCAD, between the teachers, technicians, library and fellow students. Take advantage of that and try to absorb as much as you can in your time there. It’s very hard to find that time again as your career progresses.

Given the global turmoil and change, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what – in your opinion – are the opportunities for those in creative industries?
The advantage for people in the creative industries is that they are good at thinking outside the box and generally aren’t afraid of change. This pandemic will force us to reassess our practice and adjust to the new normal. It is easier for smaller practices to do this than larger ones, so we have an advantage in that respect.

Website Links: www.mccaul.com


Moses Rowen, BDes Industrial Design (Product Design) 2013
Current Career – Innovation Designer

'When I set up my own studio four years ago, I decided that competition would be my proving ground...I got to design electric vehicle chargers for Enel, autonomous robots for Porsche and exercise machines for NASA.'
Moses Rowen

What career path did you want to follow as a child?
I don’t remember thinking about careers as a child. I liked drawing and playing with Lego. I guess the closest idea to an actual career I had was being a car designer. I later found out that car designers just draw what the outside of what a car looks like. That was a real let down, I wanted to design the suspension and the chassis and the engine, everything!

Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?
When I realised that there wasn’t a course that taught you how to design things from scratch (I also wanted to design robots and flying machines), I had to make a decision. Learn the creative part, then the technical part or vice versa. I decided on the latter. I initially studied mechanical engineering at DIT and then industrial design at NCAD. I’m glad I did it in this order. The frustration I felt from the focused practicality of engineering was alleviated by the creative freedom I found in design.

How did you develop your career towards your current practice?
I was lucky enough to be offered a job straight out of NCAD. The job was in architecture - West 8 in Rotterdam. They threw me in the deep end! It was an incredible learning experience. I got to work on world-class projects. I designed a lot of furniture, but I also designed bridges in Russia, sculptures in Columbia, and towers in China. My biggest lesson from working at West 8 was that competition is the ultimate crucible for honing your skills. When I set up my own studio four years ago, I decided that competition would be my proving ground. It was a tough gig! I got very good at being rejected. But I also got to work on amazing projects for clients I simply would never have had access to otherwise. Every new competition required a totally different skill set. I got to design electric vehicle chargers for Enel, autonomous robots for Porsche and exercise machines for NASA.

What is the one experience – during your time at NCAD – that has informed you most in your career/work to date?
Always ask for feedback. A big hurdle for me initially was accepting critique of my work. It took a long time to realise its value. If someone takes the time to think about your work and give you feedback on it, really think about it, especially if you don’t like what they have to say. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for feedback, especially from people with more experience whose work you respect.

If you were chatting with current NCAD students today, what is the one piece of advice you would offer?
You shouldn’t get into design if you want a 9 to 5 with great dental and a pension. You have to have a passion for it and you have to be willing to put the graft in to get your skills to the point where you can do really great work. In the digital age you’re no longer competing with other young designers in Dublin, Ireland or Europe. The work of every designer on the planet is available at anyone's fingertips and guess what, some of those designers are shit hot. Competition is a great way to improve your skill set.

Given the global turmoil and change, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, what – in your opinion – are the opportunities for those in creative industries?
The current situation has proven that the way we live is no longer sustainable and it never really was. Our planet is a finite resource. I believe that designers will have a key role in developing new ways to live that are responsible. For these solutions to be taken seriously they also have to be enjoyable. Engineers, scientists and policy makers tend to be pretty outcome focused, designers must be process focused in order to ensure quality of life. Creative industries more broadly have always been great unifiers.

Portfolio Links: www.mosesrowen.com

For more student and Alumni stories have a look at our Alumni and Student Achievements pages on our web site.