VISY through ME310 Corporate Sponsorship
Our team of seven included two industrial designers, two mechanical engineers, one business analyst and two communication/digital designers. Roles were not distinctly separated, allowing team members to cross over and function in a truly interdisciplinary way. My role included:
User research (interviews, shadowing, survey design, synthesis)
Prototyping (physical product)
Branding and packaging
Exhibition stand design
WHAT IS ME310?
Stanford ME310 is a masters level program where students collaborate to solve design innovation challenges for global corporations. The course teaches students how to use the IDEO/Stanford design process of product development, focussing on interdisciplinary collaboration and learning by doing. Teams begin their projects at Stanford University where they meet their global teams and learn the fundamentals of human centered design by participating in activities and workshops at the D.School. At the end of the year, final proof of concept prototypes are presented at the D.School at the Stanford Design EXPE Fair.
Our team was asked to find a new market opportunity for a liquid dispensing technology known as Flair®. The corporate sponsor wished to develop a new solution that was commercially viable and environmentally sustainable as well as meeting the needs of end users. Flair® is a double layered plastic bottle with a one way valve at the bottom and nozzle at the top. When air is forced through the one way valve, the inner layer contracts, expelling the liquid inside.
THE FUZZY FRONT END
We operated in the "fuzzy front end" of innovation. This period is categorized by uncertainty, ongoing research and identifying patterns and gaps. We were encouraged to "embrace ambiguity" and not settle on an idea too soon but rather diverge, explore the problem space and come up with as many different avenues as possible (often the crazier the better!) We did not converge on a final concept until the last stages of the program.
We undertook a human centered design process during this project. This process was iterative and cyclical and based on the Stanford/IDEO design process. Over nine months we investigated a wide variety of liquids and dispensing methods to discover user needs and gaps in the market.
DETERMINING RESESARCH AREAS
We conducted several brainstorming sessions around liquids which could make use of Flair's benefits (viscous, highly valuable, those susceptible to oxygen degradation, requiring measured doses and benefiting from 360 degree dispensing.) These liquids formed the basis of our research explorations and included areas such as food, cleaning liquids and liquids in healthcare among many others.
RESEARCH EXAMPLE - INTERVIEWS & OBSERVATION
We conducted interviews and observational research to see how liquid dispensers were used in different contexts. One area we researched was liquids associated with babies, including baby formula. We chose this area to explore because babies require sterile feeds (a sealed air-tight system made use of Flair's benefits). We found mothers found it difficult to prepare powdered baby formula, especially when they were on the go so one prototype we created dispensed pre-made formula.
BRAINSTORMING & IDEATION
We brainstormed different ideas as a team based on our research findings. We found this an easy way to generate many ideas quickly and analyse them as a group. We evaluated ideas in several ways including SWOT analyses, technical feasibility, viability and through prototyping and testing. We also voted on favourite ideas using sticky dots.
A key deliverable was developing several "quick and dirty" prototypes per week under the premise "build to think not think to build". These prototypes were created to test out selected ideas and themes. We used a variety of materials including items from product tear downs, cardboard, glue, plastic and unused medical equipment. As well as prototyping ideas that came from research activities, we also created ideas and prototypes based on specific themes such as known product requirements and "dark horse prototyping" (developing out of the box ideas) and prototyping for extreme edge cases such as blindness. These were tested with users to gain feedback and we incorporated learnings into future prototypes.
Drink delivering drone
Smoothie machine for kids
In-flight drink dispenser
Cocktail making game
Drink dispenser for the blind
Magical art supply dispenser
3D painting pen
THE PROBLEM WITH PAINT
Through this process we identified that paint was a liquid we could investigate further as it made full use of Flairs benefits:
Air tight - valuable for fluids that are susceptible to oxygen degradation
Liquid dispensed consistently (in both quantity and quality), including measured doses
Ability to use with high viscous products
Good for high value products (as it leaves little to no waste in the package)
While investigating the painting process and speaking to a DIY painter we discovered some key insights. We observed the process of setting up drop sheets, tin, trays and brushes and the user's frustration at the time involved. This lead us to begin more concentrated research and experimentation around paint, and finally converge on this problem area. Further targeted research into paint packaging and the painting process included:
In-context interviews and observation of DIY and professional painters
Guerrilla interviews with staff and customers at hardware stores
Engaging in DIY painting ourselves
On-site user tests - asking participants to paint a wall
Benchmarking existing paint packaging and tools (including product tear downs)
Reviewing existing patents associated with paint/painting.
Once we had conducted this research, we summarised our findings into key problems:
Painting is time consuming to set up and clean up
People are frustrated over the time and effort involved
Opening a paint tin requires tools and can be difficult if the paint around the rim has dried
Pouring paint from a tin is messy and difficult due to the inverse lip on the rim
Paint is often wasted through spilling
Estimating accurate amounts of paint to pour into the tray is difficult
Paint is often wasted because too much is poured into the tray
Paint tins cannot be recycled
During clean up, paint is often washed down the sink = bad for the environment
Stacking paint tins in store shelves or palettes for transport = large amount of dead space because tins are cylindrical.