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 tasked with finding 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.
AN ITERATIVE, CYCLICAL DESIGN PROCESS
We undertook a human centered approach that was both iterative and cyclical, based on the Stanford/IDEO design process. Over nine months a wide variety of liquids and dispensing methods were investigated to discover user needs and gaps in the market.
THE FUZZY FRONT END
This project lay 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.
DEFINING OPPORTUNITY AREAS
To kick off, we conducted several brainstorming sessions to determine opportunity areas that would make most use of Flair’s benefits. Flair is an airtight container which expels liquid in measured doses, without leaving leftover material in the base. These unique benefits make it suitable for high value liquids and those which area susceptible to oxygen degradation. We formed a prioritized list of liquids and contexts which could make the most use of these benefits This formed the basis of our research areas which included high value liquids in food, cleaning, home maintenance, healthcare and many more.
PAINT AS AN OPPORTUNITY AREA
Through this process we identified that paint was a high value liquid that could make use of Flair’s unique benefits. Targeted research was undertaken into paint and the painting process to identify key frictions and explore how Flair could potentially solve them. Research 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.
THE PROBLEM WITH PAINT
During this research phase we identified some key problems.
Key problems included:
Set up and clean up is very time consuming
Additional tools are required to open a paint tin 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 - this causes significant frustration
Estimating accurate amounts of paint to pour into the tray is difficult
Paint is often wasted through spilling during set up or because too much is poured into the tray
Paint tins cannot be recycled
During clean up, paint is often washed down the sink. This is is an environmental hazard
The cyclical shape of paint tins results in a large amount of dead space in store shelves and transport palettes.
DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR IDEATION
Fleshing out the specific problems associated with painting allowed us to form a set of design requirements for ideation. These included that it needed to decrease set up and clean up times for painters, be easy to open, dispense paint without spilling, only dispense required amounts of paint at one time, reduce the impact on the environment and be stackable to reduce dead space. These requirements formed the basis of ideation and prototyping.
RAPID PAINTING PROTOTYPES
Using our key insights as a base, we began a process of ideation and rapid prototyping to solve specific problems around painting. Rough prototypes were useful in exploring ideas and gaining insights as they were tested with potential users. Using "Wizard of Oz" techniques (simulating the experience of paint dispensing for participants) were useful as we did not have a fully functioning prototype to test with in these early stages.
CONCEPT TESTING SUCCESS
We conducted concept testing and research using our functional prototype at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. This involved surveying participants, setting up walls for participants to paint and informally interviewing them about the experience during the test. Our findings from this testing were that the overall concept was a success - participants had an overwhelming positive response. From here, we built out the physical product design and created several higher fidelity working prototypes. These were taken to Stanford Design EXPE for final submission.
THE SOLUTION: PAINTPAC
Paintpac is a small cardboard box with a plastic bottle inside and a paint tray on top. When you push down on the tray, paint comes up. Paintpac solves the core problems associated with DIY painting and can be sold at any hardware or homewares store at roughly the same price as a paint tin.
STANFORD DESIGN EXPE
In June 2014 Paintpac was presented at the Stanford Design EXPE in Stanford D.School. This was the most incredible opportunity to share our design journey with an audience of professors, global corporations and students. EXPE comprised of a formal pitch presentation and a stand promoting our final concept and demonstrating our prototype.
After presenting our final concept and prototype at Stanford D.School then at the Swinburne Design Factory Gala, our IP was handed over to the client. They engaged in talks with major paint manufacturer Dulux about taking our product to market (with further R&D development) with developments on hold until further notice.