“I can just imagine how things are going to work” Jonny states. Not smugly it should be noted, and there’s almost a reluctance to the statement. But he can, and he does. In fact, he has done most of his life, as Jonny explains: “When I was younger I used to make loads. My dad had this garage and I used to have a little bench, so I used to make stuff, and take loads of things apart and I guess it helped me build up a really good knowledge of mechanical stuff.” His education in all things mechanical and technical didn’t stop there. Jonny studied Product Design at Bournemouth University, before entering the professional world in the solar-panel industry. Along the way he’s also become something of an inventor. Some of his more recent inventions include a solar-powered chicken feeder, an electric powered longboard, and a vest that includes a subwoofer for all your outdoor musical needs. Each component of his life thus far has molded him into the designer he is today. Now into his seventh year at Limbs & Things, Jonny’s expertise ensures that he retains an element of that inventor title. Except, he’s now inventing the ‘proof of concept’ designs needed for the next generation of Limbs & Things products.
Jonny’s role in the Research and Development department, and specifically the new product development cycle, typically sees him involved in the initial stages of a project, designing prototypes. Explaining the process, Jonny says: “Usually I’m sent a list of things that Limbs & Things want a product to do. So, they find out what the market wants and then they come to us with ‘this is what we want the product to do’ and I then work out a way of doing that quite quickly. So, in the workshop I’ll make stuff, print things and do some CAD (Computer Aided Design) and make something that will do what it’s meant to do. It’s not polished but it proves that we can make it, and this is kind of the way we can do it.” Quite often Jonny’s designs aren’t pretty, but they’re not meant to be. It’s all about figuring out a way of displaying that the product can do what’s desired of it, showing that it’s feasible in terms of time and cost, and then the polishing comes along later.
After seven years at Limbs, Jonny has a long list of products he’s worked on in his repertoire. Amongst them has been PROMPT, Abdominal Examination Trainer and Shoulder Injection Trainer Every project presents its own unique set of obstacles, but it’s how those challenges are navigated and conquered that ensures the Limbs R+D team is so distinguished. However, there are instances where ideas and creativity can abandon Jonny at a moment’s notice. “Thinking through something mechanical, so mechanisms, sometimes I just can’t think, and it is like I’ve lost a skill!”, Jonny states. It’s about remaining unharried and remembering that every working part or mechanism has a way of working, as he explains: “It’s always good to never dismiss anything and just try it, even though it seems mad, it might end up actually being a part that we use. Even though it’s not related at all, it kind of is - everything is a machine really. It’s a case of looking around, taking stuff apart to see how it works, and just not thinking too much!”
In a way, it’s a job that allows Jonny to channel all the skills and memories he amassed in his dad’s garage. Known as the ‘concept king’ by his peers, Jonny admits he’s found a home here at Limbs: “To be honest, I would just stay here for ever. I love this job, I feel quite appreciative that I can do something that is exactly what I like doing. There’s a real balance; there’s practical skills, computer stuff and the whole design process. Here, you can see that your design has gone in and it’s been made, and you can say ‘I drew that’, or ‘I designed that’.”
Jonny’s designs are “amazing”, says Piers Bentley, Jonny’s line manager. “He’s a very valuable and well-respected member of the R&D team”, Piers continues. Jonny’s advice for a career in prototype designing? “As long as you’re not afraid of making stuff wrong or making mistakes, because then you just learn anyway and do things quicker”, he says. Although, we can’t promise you’ll be quite as good as Jonny!