We should understand “design” as a discipline enabling designers to invent creative solutions in order to solve issues. We are used to say that engineering focuses on technical problems, and that “design” focuses on human issues. From there, there are thousands of different design practices : some design products - industrial design -, others design apps - digital design -, sounds - sound design - or food - culinary design -, for example. It is about adapting a solution - an idea, a technology, etc. - in a human context which contains social, cultural or economic constraints. It is like thinking as a sociologist - knowledge - and acting like an engineer - tools -. To do so, designers use specific tools and methodologies. To illustrate this way to imagine tomorrow’s products or services, we decided to share our methodology in the following part “design methodology”. Enjoy !
Setting up a design&science approach
Getting through iGEM’s experience and working on Æther’s project is a way to experiment new approaches of our future jobs, far away from the traditional laboratory, design studio or lawyer’s office. As curious students, but also as citizens living in a complex world, we strongly believe we could play a role in solving tomorrow’s big issues.
We feel concerned about environmental, health and social issues. We also think major innovations in these fields will emerge from the meeting point between disciplines : at the frontier of science, engineering and design. Thus, in order to propose a relevant and realistic response to a contemporary issue, we have endeavored to design and maintain strong interactions between our skills, knowledge, methods and tools all along the project, from Ideation to the Prototyping of a product and a service based on an app.
Ideation is a key factor to design successful projects and innovative ideas. As we are a multidisciplinary team, we used specific tools (brainstorming, mapping tools, ideation tools, post-it sessions, etc.) to communicate between us. They are common tools for designers, engineers and scientists, helping us to mix our skills in order to :
-identify contemporary major issues ;
-imagine biological solutions ;
-create products and services using these biological solutions to solve previously identified issues, taking into account social, economic, cultural, ecological or technical aspects, amongst others.
These exercises led to schemas and maps : a starting point to draw innovative ideas through sketches. Thus, we decided to focus on air pollution and we started to imagine different ways - scenarios, materials, products, services - to fight it. This choice - air pollution -, comes from a twofold observation :
-First, we understand outdoor/indoor air pollution as an issue to solve thanks to design and science : it causes major health issues all around the world. There is no frontier to stop airborne pollutants and we are all exposed to it.
-Then, we understand air pollution as an opportunity for sustainability : pollutants can be degraded and recovered into useful raw materials - such as metals - we could use to feed industries, rather than using non sustainable extraction/transformation processes, harmful for the environment.
From there and thanks to the tens of ideas we had, we jumped to the next stage : research.
After selecting the more relevant ideas regarding air pollution, we started to :
-meet with experts ;
-identify related literature ;
-meet and question potential users through - meetings, surveys - ;
-look for past and present solutions and to identify their limits ;
-identify the codes - semiotics, signs, ergonomics, shapes - induced in health related products.
Finally, all these steps led us to understand the context in which we would use our device/service. Analyzing the existing products led us to identify opportunities to create the more relevant product and service regarding the context and the User. This analysis let us think that creating an affordable, energy self-sufficient and efficient product as well as a user-friendly service would be way for mass adoption that would benefit health in our societies.
At this point, we validated the “big picture”, a general idea we needed to transform into a usable and viable service and product. From this point, we had to start to build the user scenario and to imagine a precise design of the product, the service through an app. To do so, with specific design tools and thanks to a continuous dialogue with scientists and engineers, we :.
-designed the user scenario - user experience roadmaps and storyboards - ;
-sketched a precise user experience design for the app - user experience roadmaps and storyboards - ;
-sketched the detailed product including technical, formal, ergonomic and usage-related constraints. ;
CMF, COLOUR, MATERIALS & FINISHES
In order to design a low cost and robust product, we had to find the right production process, the right materials and finishes. To show the user our product is health related, we also had to find the right colors, understandable in its meaning and suitable in homes. To do so, we used different tools and knowledge, such as :
-mood boards ;
-on site material library ;
-online material database ;
-RAL and Pantone color charts.
3D MODELING & 3D RENDERING
Based on these detailed scenarios and drawings, we started to use 2D and 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to develop our product and our service. All this work had to include technical and mechanical constraints due to production processes and materials we would use. Air flow models made by engineers also helped to dimension perfectly the product regarding the indoor air volume to be treated, as well as energy calculations to perfectly dimension the solar cells surface regarding the power we need to supply to the object.
Using 2D and 3D tools helped us to experiment and to validate choices regarding dimensions, assembly, ergonomic tricks, as well as the choice of materials and colors. To do so, we used 3D modeling and 3D rendering tools, such as :
-McNeel Rhino 3D, modeling software ;
-SolidWorks, modeling software ;
-Luxion Keyshot, rendering software ;
-Adobe Photoshop, graphic design software.
MODELING & PROTOTYPING
Once we precisely designed the product and the app, we had to see how it fits to the hand or to the home, how it looks and feels. To do so, we had to try it in real conditions. We simulated the app on an iPad and we made several mockups and prototypes of the product, using digital manufacturing technologies enabling us to have a realistic look and behavior of technical parts and assemblies. We used additive manufacturing tools, such as :
-Zortrax M200 3D Printer, fused deposition modeling technology (FDM) ;
-FormLabs Form 2 3D Printer, stereolithography technology (SLA) ;
-3D Systems 3D Printer, selective Laser Sintering technology (SLS).
As well as cutting tools, such as :
-Trotec Speedy, laser cutting/engraving technology ;
-Vinyl cutting machine, vinyl cutting technology (Atelier Instyprint, Paris 75010);
And of course, a lot of work - long and exhausting tasks - has been made by hand, using sanding technics to give the prototypes smooth surfaces. This step allowed us to validate the best dimensions and usability for the end user.
VISUAL IDENTITY - LOGOTYPE & GRAPHIC CHARTER
Designing a strong visual identity is a key element in Æther’s communication. We had to make it easily understandable and recognizable for the end user as well as for the general public. Whether it concerns the smartphone/tablet app, social networks, email communications, or the website, the graphic charter of the project must convey the identity of the project at first glance. The logotype we designed had to reflect our project’s purpose at a glance and the visual chart had to transmit to the end user/general public our identity through various graphic elements - fonts, pictograms, colors, layout principles -. To do so, we used 2D graphic design tools, such as :
-Adobe Illustrator, graphic design software ;
-Adobe Photoshop, graphic design software.(Atelier Instyprint, Paris 75010);