One of the problems I as a designer have is when to stop designing. I did not know other designers face this problem until I read about it in a design magazine. For some it does not seem as a problem as they simply follow their heart and mind. But even then it is sometimes difficult to stop. In other words, it is difficult to know exactly when to stop the flow of creativity.
This fact made me think quite a lot when I first read about it. Since then when I see any existing product I ask myself is the design complete? Did the designer(s) stopped too early? To find out, all I have to do is to look at the product if after a while I canít think of any alteration(s) or modifications they I know the designer completed the job. Maybe sounds a bit selfish, but I need to think like a designer by looking from different angles at the same problem. It makes me try my creativity in a new field. It is challenging and it excites me.
However there are times I find ways of modifying an existing design for maybe a new purpose. One of such everyday products are mugs. Most mug designs have only pattern and/or handle variations. There is not that much to do really. It is a bit like re-inventing the wheel. It ends up to be round again, well mostly. Mugs preferably need to be cylindrical in shape. If they are bigger than average they look like a bucket and heavy to handle. If they are smaller, they become more like espresso cups.
To keep your hot drink warm, the top needs to be covered. Like the take away ones. But you hardly see mugs are covered.
As a challenge, I create myself a very simple specification;
- To design a new mug with a multipurpose cap.
Because I told myself what is the point of having a cap just to keep drinks warm. If I was going to modify a mug it had to be interesting in some way. I thought multifunction is a way forward. No one wants to buy a mug just to have a cap on it.
After tampering with some cardboard muck ups and a mug, I asked myself where I should put the cap when I finish with it. For me design process has a lot of questions. Strangely sometimes simple designs have more questions. Then the idea came to my mind. Once finished using the cap the best place to put it is under the mug as this photo shows;
Cap placed under mug
Having this arrangement also makes it possible to use the cap as a storage place. To take the cap out need to unscrew the base. It has a conical shape to stop liquid leaking into it and at the same time acts as a small container.
Cap taken out
Once the base is taken out it can either be used as a cap to cover the mug or as a container. The cap has sufficient space to keep a few biscuits or tea bags.
Cap placed over cup
Is there really an end to a design process?
My experience shows for different reasons simple designs are usually better. The idea of creating a new design is to solve a problem. A complex design may create other problem(s) so what is the point. Yes as Dieter Rams said it ďless is betterĒ.
As an experienced mechanical engineer with postgraduate and manufacturing background I do not have difficulty designing products that demand engineering knowhow. However I prefer to design products that are not complicated to manufacture and assemble. From initial stages of manufacturing to packaging and delivery there should be minimum handling and labour time. Generally speaking in manufacturing the longer each component is processed and handled the final cost will be higher.
The present economical situation and also lack of space at home or office causes problems. Some of the shelving units do not match to the existing available spaces. Unipart was created over a few weeks working part time. It is made of only one panel without the need for any fixings or tools. The user just needs to interlock each panel to the next one. Probably the hardest part of this design project was to come up with an interlocking projection and slots arrangement. However it is simple to assemble by anyone. This is an idea designed with both manufacturing and consumer at mind. Unipartís eco design reduces wastage thereby helping the environment.
I decided to design something that is;
- Simple because simple designs are often less costly to market. There are less labour, material and manufacturing costs. A simple design takes less time to assemble and packaging is usually easier. Simple designs are more user friendly as they are easier to use. But above all it seems simple designs are less wasteful.
- Needs less tool handling to assemble therefore any age user can purchase it.
- Eco friendly.
- Useful for most locations, at home or office. To provide users the opportunity to create the desired shelves, in any available space. It can be used on desk to store books and letter or on its own for shoe storage.
Unipart is made of hard recycled plastic and manufactured by injection moulding. As there is only one component thereby there is only one manufacturing tool needed.
The panels are connected to each other by a series of dovetail projection and recess without the need for a tool. These panels are interlocked therefore there is no need for any fixings. A shelf of any shape can be created by connecting a panel to the next one. Simply the dove tail is inserted to another panelís recess. As there are sufficient numbers of projections on each face, the panels can be connected from any face to create any shape the user requires.
Two Unipart panels being inserted
Close-up of Unipart panels being inserted
Eight Unipart panels being inserted
As Unipart is a modular system therefore consumers can buy as many parts as they need to design their own unit. With a variation of colours users can create their own colour combination shelves.
Unipart panels can be in different sizes depending on the usage. However for desk usage or stand-alone unit, for example as shoe storage, can consider an approximate A4 dimensions.
Unipart was runner up in ďAí design award & competitionĒ this year.
I think one way for designers to show their love for design is to create a useful new design with more restrictions.
If you look around there are numerous types of mug designs. However, the basic shape has not changed that much maybe because its main function stayed the same. A mug holds hot or cold liquids. In other words it needs to have a primary shape of a container, a hollow object, to hold liquid in it. Circular or any other geometrical shape, it needs to be able to hold liquids, i.e. it needs to have depth or height.
The advantage of a mug to a cup is that it does not need a saucer. It is more convenient to use as it can be used by itself. However this advantage is reduced when you need to look for a tea spoon.
I considered two facts that a mug needs to have a depth and a tea spoon is usually the same length of an average mug height. Furthermore nearly all mugs need some kind of a handle. Joining these facts together, I thought to myself, I can design a mug with some kind of a handle to keep a tea spoon in it.
And this was how I came to create these mug designs;
As long as the handle is straight it can hold a small tea spoon in it. To use the tea spoon, it is pulled out of the handle and once used it is put back in the handle for next time.
Now every time you take your mug, particularly in a shared kitchen, your tea spoon comes with it.
Not only itís convenient, but also more hygienic as well.
Who said you canít reinvent the wheel? Yes I know this is not the wheel, but sometimes in design the idea is to look from outside of the box and ask yourself if you can do something different.
I find the best thing about any design is the challenge it creates.
I noticed nearly everywhere serving pizza, it is not covered. Beside as pizza is basically a form of flat bread covered with little ingredients it gets cold very quickly as well.
Most foods are kept warm by being covered. Then I asked myself why canít keep pizza covered? If it is in a box and closed, it does stay warm longer. The problem is probably the size of the lid. Most users do not have sufficient table space to put the lid down once it is removed.
I was also wondering if half the pizza, for example, is used why we need to cover the whole plate then. That is how the idea came to me.
The slot in the lid provides enough gap to remove one or two slices. To serve there is no need to remove a big heavy lid and once remove the lid you do not have to look for a place to keep it. All you need to do is to slide this lid to any direction while it is covering your pizza and just remove a slice. This lid can be made of glass or ceramic.
I am a mechanical engineer by background. Even before starting my engineering degree my ambition was to create new designs. After finishing my engineering postgraduate studies and being involved in engineering for about 10 years, I was convinced design is the way forward for me.
In my believe design is for industry what alphabet is for literature. Everything so far created or invented has some kind of design. But sometimes I ask myself why design is less appreciated and invested in. This was one reason I decided to do a more direct design course at Central Saint Martin, University of the Arts, in London.
I take my design job very seriously. I tend to give my clients as much information as possible. To be honest I go as far as and just stop telling them their idea may not have a market. With two kids and like many other people I work for money too. This is the only reason I do not tell them their idea may not be a winner. Anyway ideas have their own sessions. What today is not sellable next year maybe.
From the beginning of my design, I tend to consider manufacturing, assembly, maintenance and also the environment. However for me simplicity is one of the main decision factors in selecting the best design idea from a selection. Technically speaking I believe simple designs are better but there are times I ask myself do the consumers want simple design too. Aesthetically, it seems some consumers think design simplicity equals luxury. As an engineer simple design equals to good design for these reasons;
- Simple design is easier for consumer to use.
- At least in some cases simple design can be more functional.
- A simple design is manufactured and produced more easily.
- Simple design has less maintenance and repair time.
- Sometimes simple designs cost less for consumer too.
However, how far a designer can go to achieve this?
Wonít over simplification give a cheap image to a design?
What do you think? Where one draws the line for simplicity?
Thank you for reading.