New Design Magazine Feature
With offices in Windsor, Hong Kong and Australia, Designworks is a full service creative product design consultancy. Product designer Frazer Stuart explains the reasons for and many benefits of self-initiated projects.
Design is all about problem solving. Every product that we create at Designworks is designed to solve an issue. Ironically, this process also makes designers excellent problem spotters, and whilst most people may consider an existing product or system satisfactory, designers are programmed to question everything. Combine this with vast knowledge of emerging technologies and innovations and you start to see opportunities everywhere.
Take the toothbrush, which was first invented in around 3500BC. It is difficult to come across a product that is used so often and so universally but which has not been significantly reinvented. Such products often remain unchanged because they work well. The adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies here, and usually indicates that there is no commercial advantage to be gained by redesigning because the existing product is satisfactory. But who wants just satisfactory? Just because an idea is not currently commercially viable does not mean that it isn’t worth pursuing. The process of developing it may spark other viable ideas, or the concept itself may become viable in the future once the technology which drives it becomes more affordable.
This was the case when we decided to embark on our self-initiated AR toothbrush concept - ORDI. The aim was to haul the humble toothbrush into the 21st century, utilising augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). The brush works with a smart mirror to track the user’s brushing whilst analysing it real-time. The software can then suggest ways to improve brushing technique. The medical industry is set to be revolutionised by AI tech, making diagnosis more proactive than reactive, aiming to avoid ailments rather than having to treat them. ORDI is designed to prevent problems through improved, tailored brushing technique. If a problem begins to develop then the user is alerted instantly, so that simpler treatment can be sought. Other unique features include a UVGI light to disinfect brush heads and an automatic floss dispenser to make the entire brushing ritual simpler, more sanitary and, above all, more effective.
Product design is always about creating the best product possible; however, all projects will have a set of constraints within which designers must innovate; chief of which is usually cost. Cost dictates size, shape, tech integration, material selection, part count etc. There is a great deal of thought and care that goes into creating a product that perfectly meets a tight brief, and a lot of satisfaction to be taken from that process. It’s just difficult to avoid wondering what you could do without those restrictions. Some of our self-initiated concept work fits into this category – blue sky. The AR toothbrush project is the perfect example. The ultimate oral healthcare system with no compromise.
At Designworks we really enjoy self-initiated concept work, however client work always comes first. We pride ourselves on our extremely quick concept development which requires razor sharp focus. Any self-initiated projects occur in rare downtime or mostly outside of working hours. Design is more vocational than some other careers and generally designers are passionate enough to want to create designs after 5pm. Moreover, self-initiated projects allow designers to tailor ventures to suit their own interests and expertise meaning that these feel more like recreation than work.