Five minutes with Rupert Wilkinson at Oxford Product Design

We spent five minutes with Rupert Wilkinson, MD of Oxford Product Design – in fact, the only product design consultancy working out of central Oxford.

OPD’s mantra is “making things better by making better things” and Rupert is committed and passionate about the work they do – whether it’s designing the first hand-held Bluetooth spectrometer or the world’s first scanner to combine a pre-calibrated stereo camera with photometric imaging. Their motto? Design it right.

In short, OPD helps clients take new products to market – through research, design, engineering, prototyping, manufacture and product management services. “Delivering an exceptional, commercially successful product requires creativity, passion and technical expertise in multiple fields,” says Rupert. “Our team brings together expertise across a wide range of disciplines from research and strategy to all types of design – mechanical, industrial, electronic, software, engineering, prototyping and manufacture.” They are rightly proud of their success in getting the vast majority of OPD-designed products to market.

The company works across a wide variety of sectors from household to industrial products and from consumer to medical devices. Based right in the heart of Oxford, a hot bed of innovation, they don’t need to go far to find clients – Rupert can see the offices of three companies that he’s working with from his office window at OCFI! They’ve worked with a long list of local companies, including Oxsight, Oxbotica, Wave Illumination and Fuel 3D to name a few.

Over the last few years, they’ve worked on an interesting range of products, too. The most successful is probably the EVOLite®helmet for JSP (Johnson Safety Products): the lightest safety helmet on the market – great for users and great for JSP as it is made from much less plastic, but still exceeds the necessary safety standards. They’ve worked with Oxbotica on a various roof-mounted devices for their ground-breaking autonomous vehicle software, and they’ve also designed smart glasses for Oxsight to help people with sight degeneration see again. “It was a very moving experience to witness people who used the glasses seeing the faces of loved ones again,” says Rupert.” It was working on jobs like these that made OPD realise they’d like to work more on products that align with their values – “we always try to do what’s right – for the project, for our people, for the planet”.

More recently, they have started looking at designing their own products with the know-how they have developed in-house, especially around connected devices, the internet of things and robotic systems. Their first product is an energy stop device: if someone calls in and can smell gas the “stop” mechanism automatically turns off the gas supply, averting danger.

Before starting OPD, Rupert was a freelance designer working on high end products like luxury phones and rugged handheld computers. He noticed that Cambridge had numerous product design agencies working for local innovative businesses but Oxford had none. This was a lightbulb moment and he realised that there was a huge opportunity for an Oxford-based consultancy. It looks like his hunch was right. He set up OPD in 2013 with his wife, Clare, as an OCFI-based virtual office, and they are now a team of 25. The company is expanding fast and they are looking to employ one designer or engineer a month this year. “If you know of good designers,” says Rupert, “ask them to get in touch!”.

“The strength of OPD is its people”, says Rupert. “Learning from each other helps us find original solutions to products.” We wish them the very best of luck.

If you want to find out more about Oxford Product Design, see here. And, if you want to find out about working at OCFI, see here.