Cameron Rowley, 23, won the Conran Shop’s inaugural Designer of the Future award with his One Step Ladder design.
Mr Rowley, a graduate of Kingston University, said: “When using step stools and ladders around the house, it is usually for a very brief moment and with only one step.
“I wanted to create an object that facilitated this behaviour while maintaining a smaller footprint.”
Mr Rowley said the product was designed for use around the house in tasks such as reaching higher kitchen cabinets or dusting the ceiling, adding: “Its beauty is a consequence of its process and function.”
The award has been established in partnership with the Marandi Foundation with the aim of continuing the work done in nurturing new designers by the late Sir Terence Conran, who died last year.
The £40,000 prize comprises a £3,000 cash prize and a paid internship, with the rest of the money going towards developing the ladder and bring it to market.
Mr Rowley’s ladder was one of 97 entries into the inaugural competition and won out over 11 other finalists.
The judging panel, which included architect Lord Norman Foster and designer Anya Hindmarch, said: “Sir Terence Conran always voiced a philosophy of good design being ‘plain, simple, useful’.
“This is a good solution to a frequent challenge; its purpose is easy to see and understand. Elegantly executed, it also serves as a great looking product.”