New semester here we go! I am undertaking 2 modules this semester – CUTE Values (which I’ll be focusing on in this blog post) and Commercial Aspects of Product Design (in other words, Business 101 for creatives). So, CUTE Values, sounds very appealing huh?
‘CUTE’ turns out to be an acronym for Communication, Usage, Technical and Environmental Values. Taking the exact words from the brief, this unit explores design thinking as an approach to designing better products and extends the understanding of the complex and often conflicting requirements and constraints within the design of new products for industrial production. I pick this module for the opportunity to learn and challenge the technical aspects of manufacturing. I think it will be fruitful for me to try to do something related to plastic and metal, which are materials that I never got my hands on before. This is the best moment. As someone who is constantly intrigued by technology, can this be a juncture for me to dip my toe into the realm of technology embedded products? I cannot decide as I am having a huge conundrum for technology being the primary problem solver when it comes to design.
Flashback to the final feedback last semester, my head tutor advised that I should, in any circumstances, remain firm with my established design agenda and start practising it, despite the emanation of the more ‘commercial-orientated’ module. I am just going to quickly reinstate my design agenda. I will be breaking down design to its prime emotion, interaction and social culture. Engaging with the storytelling of a product, I speculate the commercial viability of the fiction. I tangibilize ideas by experimenting with new materials and marrying man and machine. With deluging optimism, I seek to create products that encapsulate the essence of Future Nostalgia.
The unit revolves predominantly about designing something innovative and commercial to solve greater issues. The design brief narrows down to the target market of urban cycling, based on one or more focal point:- Safety, Security and Storage. The first step in product design, I need to craft a ‘Persona’ – fictional character of my target user, supported by market research and interviews. Needless to emphasize, it is always user first. Human first.
At this point, I begin with reapplying the methodology used in the last semester. I spread out a mind map, digging deep into user experience, culture, desires, emotion, so on and so forth. There is this speculation on renewable energy in the future and how everything including cycling can be an opportunity to exploit or generate electricity to be used or sold. This can be a piece of technology which collect kinetic energy like a dynamo then energy can be transferred via a micro-usb slot. How much energy does it really collect anyway? Should technology be introduced to something that has always been low-tech? How much better can technology actually escalate? My uncertainty and doubts are making me to rethink of other possibilities.
Correspondingly to the incremental significance of the Maker Movement, more people opt to go back to basic, building something on own self, having empathy to our surrounding and riding bicycle is a behaviour that somehow coexists with the movement. It is essential that people who rides, will at least know how to maintain their own bike if not fix.
After some interviews with bike shop owners, cyclists, cycle enthusiast and professional bicycle mechanic in Manchester, I recognise differences in my preconception of user group. Majority of the cyclists are the commuter cyclists, age ranging from early 20s to early 30s – they cycle because it is a cheaper and faster option within the city. However, on the other end of the same spectrum, bike enthusiast will never give up cycling despite their age and commitments. They are the ones who most likely from and lead the community. It is not true that cyclists are concerned about the environment hence their act. It may due to the overrated topic of sustainability that the ‘hipster’ nature of cyclists are disfavouring the idea. Most interviewees claim they cycle because it is an enjoyable activity. It is apparent for the racing hobbyists, whose age range from 30s and above, have huge passion in cycling. With their occupation in higher executive position, they can afford to spend more to achieve their desired lifestyle. A carbon fibre road bike can fetch a Holy-Batshit-Crazy retail price of £10,000! Therefore, I am making a tiny shift in my market positioning to the higher end market. Perhaps a tiny fraction from the commuter cyclists (the bike enthusiasts for instance) are willing to pay for the value of a functional art cum product.
Art does not belong in design unless it serves purposes, certainly not something that I would partake in. In the field of my expertise, achieving the status of ‘art’ in design (which is what the masses perceive) is the composition work of solutions in a visual-pleasing manner. Quoting Charles Eames, design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose. Pardon me for keeping my idea up to now. It shall be a personal bicycle display furniture adopting the function of a fixing stand. This idea grows from the urge to beautify an industrial commercial tool and the desire to treat the bicycle as a masterpiece. Fly or die? Maybe I should read more books.
If you are a cyclist, let me know what do you think of the Bike Toolkit/Display Stand and what makes you happy cycling in the comment below.