With the amount of waste produced in the US, the goal of this project was to design a product platform that demonstrates product longevity by empowering consumers to take an active role in prolonging the life of their products. Through research I found that people aren't willing to service or fix damaged products themselves if they don't understand how to do so—they'd simply rather simply buy a new "thing."
If complex products were simple to understand, diagnose, and disassemble, would this change consumers' willingness to fix them? This question was at the core of the design decisions I made. Furthermore, creating a product of value was extremely important. When someone buys a car, that individual doesn't throw it away when it breaks down; why not? Because cars are investments, they are very expensive and very important to those who drive. Thus I knew that the product I design needs to be an important investment to the end user.
With this in mind, I faced a few challenges throughout the design process. First, since I am proposing a solution for product longevity, the overall design should be timeless and able to span generations. Second, in order to create a product that people will feel comfortable disassembling, diagnosing, and replacing the parts themselves, the design needs to be simple and approachable. Finally, in order to to add value to this product, it needs to be extremely efficient in how it is designed and works.
Rotimi Solola, designer
Early on in the process I took the time to learn what's required for various kitchen products to work. I documented the time, tools, and effort it took for me to take apart and diagnose kitchen products I bought. I took note of whether or not each product could even be fixed by your average consumer if something were to go wrong. My findings justified my rationale for pursuing this project.
What's the business case? Why should companies invest in this system? Why should consumers invest in this product? These were questions I had to answer, and I did so with design. The value of this system is that it is an ever expandable and consumer serviceable platform that relies on business to consumer relations that lead to transparency and trust. Consumers will know how the product comes together, how it works, and where they can get new components from. In addition, consumers will own a system that they can scale up or down pertaining to their cooking needs. HUB will become a consumer's go to kitchen appliance.
There were 3 goals I needed to achieve with HUB's design. First, the device must be able to be deconstructed quickly—I mean record breaking fast! I wanted consumers to be able to dismantle this product in as little time and with as little effort as possible. Second, it must have an integrated and beautiful design inside and out that can translate to the other modules. Third, it must have tight packaging. The motor is the largest component inside HUB, so I wanted to be efficient with packaging the housing around it, while leaving room for electronics and the heating contact.
The second design path focused on all of the swappable modules as well as the connection point that was required to secure the modules to HUB. I took a simplified approach to this by designing one connection point for all of the modules. I created a list of all the modules that I wanted to start with so I could understand how to modify the connection point accordingly, then I started to build up the module designs from there.
The top profile of HUB is pill shaped, which is a result of having the 2 core components in concentric circles. The left circle is dedicated to the motor, and the right circle is dedicated to the heating contact. This configuration communicates a level of simplicity to the consumer. I avoided a cube-like structure because the rounded pill shape has a smaller visual footprint, which makes it less intimidating to users and easier to handle.
I then used this shape as a constraint when designing the other modules. Doing so allowed everything to feel like one product no matter what the module was. When it came to designing handles for some of the modules, I kept a consistent pill shaped cut-away or depression. This was a subtractive process which reduced the overall volume of the modules. I took this approach to maintain a low profile and maximize stowablility.
These are all small details, but they add to the overall perception of simplicity. HUB seeks to solve complex issues, so the appearance off simplicity is extremely vital to the end user.
The Big Picture
HUB still needs a lot of work to become a reality, It's more than just a product—it's one example of how to take a sustainable approach to design. As designers we are constantly making things, but unfortunately this by nature is not very sustainable. Designing is challenging, however designing something truly sustainable is a greater challenge. We have to understand the bigger picture as well as the fine details. And when following the "norm" is no longer fulfilling, we have the power to redesign and rebuild until we have created something truly meaningful.