[Made in China] Customer Discovery (By Kev and Bruce)

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 10)- Customer Discovery


Hypothesis Statement:

  1. We think that commuters who rely on bikes to go to work or school are not making use of the front bike basket to hold their accessories and we see an opportunity to design an add-on to the basket in order to prevent accessories inside the basket from falling off.
  2. We think that commuters who rely on bikes to go to work or school are sometimes only using one hand to bike as he is using another hand to hold his phone which helps him to navigate the way. We see an opportunity to design a phone holder to the basket in order to allow the commuter to read the phone hands-free while biking.

Enhanced User Stories:

 This is the current design of our product “bike pad”:

Here are 2 examples of our many customers:


User Interview

My target user will be? (Tip: how would you describe your primary target user)

My target user will be commuters who rely on sharing bikes to travel to school or work or general frequent bike users.

The problem my user wants to solve is? (Tip: what does your user struggle with or what need do they want to fulfill)

  1. It is impossible to store small accessories, such as a book or a folder, inside the basket because it will fall off easily. The basket space is not utilized and commuters have to carry it in their backpacks as well, causing inconvenience.
  2. It is common for the bikers to use one hand to bike and another hand to hold his phone, no matter it is for messaging, navigating or other purposes. This may be dangerous to both the biker and the pedestrians as it would be harder for the biker to control the bike with one hand.

My user’s need can be solved with? (Tip: give a very concise description / elevator pitch of your product)

The Bike Pad is a multi-purpose add-on to any sharing bikes that helps users in 2 ways:

  1. By attaching it to the top of the basket, it keeps your stuff inside from bouncing off.
  2. The slot can keep your smartphone safe inside, and the transparent and water- resistant film on top will make it easy for navigating when biking.

Why can’t my user solve this today? (Tip: what are the obstacles that have prevented my user from solving this already)

There are existing add-on solutions such as elastic mesh and solid phone holder that can be attached to the handlebar. However, there is no existing solution that combines both functions into the same product, which would be easier for the customer to carry around.

The measurable outcome my user wants to achieve is? (Tip: what measurable change happens in your user’s life that makes them love your product)

It is very hard to quantify the convenience brought by utilization of the bike space. However, we might find a reduced number of bike accidents since it becomes safer for our customers to bike and use their phone for navigation at the same time.

My earliest, most visionary adopter will be? (Tip: remember that you can’t get to the mainstream user without getting early adopters first)

We do not have specific visionary adopter in mind. But we can station at metro station exits or locations where people usually pick up sharing bikes and invite interested commuters to try our product.

My primary competition will be? (Tip: think about both direct and indirect competition, e.g., what substitutes might exist?)

As mentioned before, the primary competition will come from existing solutions such as elastic mesh or phone holders that are attachable to the handlebars.

I will beat my competitors primarily because of? (Tip: what truly differentiates you from the competition?)

We would be the only product that combines both functions of elastic mesh and phone holder. Since our design will also be easy to carry around and made with plastic, we believe portability and light weight will also be our key features.

My biggest technical or engineering risk is? (Tip: is there a major technical challenge that could get in the way of actually building your product?)

Since we are planning to manufacture it by plastic injection, the design of the mould will be important. We would be asking industrial designer Arlen for help and review.

What assumptions do we have that, if proven wrong, would cause this product to fail?

If no one is actually willing to put their stuff in the bike basket or no one is actually using their phones while biking, our product will fail.

[Made in China] Design for sustainability (By Kev and Bruce)

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 8) – Design for sustainability


We have ordered an inelastic mesh (with hooks) from Taobao. However, we suspect that there are 2 main areas that could be improved to make the product more sustainable:

  1. When we unpacked the product, there was a strong irritating chemical smell from the mesh itself. We guessed this was due to the dyeing process. In addition, the dye might probably pollute the environment as well. We suggest that designers should use natural dye or low impact dye instead.
  2. The mesh came with a thin layer of plastic packaging, which was wasteful as it went to the trash bin directly. Since it may be impossible for them to completely get rid of the packaging, we would suggest the designers to wrap the mesh with recyclable materials instead to minimize environmental, such as using recycled papers rather than plastic.

[Made in China] Alpha Prototype Presentation and Feedback (by Kev and Bruce)

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 7) – Alpha Prototype Presentation and Feedback

Link to presentation

We focused on building an alpha prototype that allowed us to demonstrate the folding mechanism of the product because we believe that this would be an essential feature to be successful. In the presentation, we discussed how we were inspired by the needs of bike commuters and how we figured out the framework that would probably work the best after reverse-engineering the laundry basket. Before the presentation, we believe that there were several issues that we would need to address as soon as possible:


  1. Materials: What kind of materials would be light and foldable, and ideally water-resistant as well?
  2. Attachable: How can we stabilize the basket on the bike? Fastener or hooks?
  3. Functionality: After we decide the shape, where will we place the phone pocket? Where will we place the zippers?

Nick believed the opportunity identified was great but he was concerned whether consumers would want to purchase the product. For example, he pointed out that if people were not even relying on the bikes during rainy days, then it will be a waste of time if we need to make it waterproof. In addition, both Nick and Rudi suggested that it might be more useful to make it washable instead because the baskets are usually dirty which make people reluctant to use it. However, we did not think we should be adding this to our to-do list since we already spent a lot of time working on the mechanism.

After talking to Christian, we decided that we would completely abandon this collapsible basket idea because firstly, it would be very hard to manufacture or mass produce with this design and secondly, we are running out of time to select the fabrics. Therefore, over the weekend, we prototyped another product using cardboards and laser cutter, which we simplified it to be only holding a phone and some papers. The design will also include a transparent plastic film on top, which can hold the phone tight while allowing our customers to look at their phones in their rides.


[Made in China] Reworking Bad Designs Documentation by Kev

Class: Made in China
Week 6 Class Activity – Reworking Bad Designs

Back in week 2, we have identified multiple bad designs in the AB. This week, we tried to rework one of the problems, which was the door at the fabrication lab on the 8th floor. It was not user-friendly because to get out of the lab, one must unlock the door by pressing the side button. This would be creating inconvenience and hassles, especially when one was carrying something in his hands.

Our proposed solution was to create a crash bar just like the design of an emergency exit. While other classmates in our team were working with Professor Rudi to reconnect the wires and install the crash bar, I and Bruce were finding a way to disable the knob since the original design would require users to push down the handle first. We carefully measured the dimensions of the original side cover, quickly made a design for the new cover using Illustrator and printed it out using the laser cutter. We then unscrewed the cover and added the new cover to it. Fortunately, everything worked well and we successfully stopped the knob from popping out. Although we did not have enough time to complete the rest of the crash bar, I believe this was a valuable experience because I was able to apply the skills of using a laser cutter for quick modelling. But most importantly, I learnt that “keeping things simple” was the golden rule for designing a good product.





[Made in China] Design for Physical Prototyping (by Kev and Bruce)

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 6)- Design for Physical Prototyping

Below are the digital sketches of our proposed prototype:

3D view

Side View


Front View

Top View

We decided the container should have a rectangular base because it would not only maximize the storage space, but also provide stability as we would not want the container to fall off or bounce around inside the bike’s basket. We thought about adding a phone pocket on top of the container, so we created the “slopes” on top to reserve space for placing the pocket and making it aesthetically pleasing. The height of the container was decided to be 300 mm as we learnt that it would create safety problems if it was too tall. Although it was not included in our sketches, the container would be attached to the basket by either Velcro fasteners or other kind of hooks. But this was not something that we would be worrying about at this stage, since it would be relatively easy to come up with a solution. To make it collapsible and light, we planned to only have two metal rod frames to support the whole structure. This feature would be key to the success of the container because if it was bulky and not portable, no one would be interested in this product.

Challenges for the coming week would be making a physical prototype that can simulate the folding mechanism by re-engineering the laundry basket we bought in Taobao. We were not planning to rely on computer software for digital fabrication, except for simulating forces and tensions on the different fabrics. Rather, we believed traditional assembling methods, such as using scissors and tapes, would be faster and more efficient to simulate the mechanism for the container.

[Made in China] Concept Selection and Schedule (by Kev and Bruce)

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 5)- Concept Selection and Schedule

Below are the photos of the low-rez prototype we made. We decided to begin our prototyping using papers because it would be very easy to assemble.  The main purpose of this model is to test the form but not the function. Although the model is very “ugly” and poorly-assembled, it does pose several important questions for us to consider before we can work on a better prototype.

Key Questions/Uncertainties to address:

  • What should be in the basket? How should it look like?
    • The low-rez prototype shows that the basket would be very huge in size if we want to contain a backpack inside. This also poses safety problems as a big basket could block the cyclist’s vision.
    • Action plan: Observe what people put in the basket when they are commuting.
  • How to make the basket foldable and collapsible?
    • Although the low-rez prototype does not directly show us any insights, this is an important issue because we want to make sure people actually want to carry our products around.
    • Action plan: We will re-engineer and investigate the mechanism of the collapsible laundry baskets that we bought on Taobao. We can also work with another group who is also working on collapsible bags.
  • What kind of materials do we use?
    • There are certain criteria such as water-resistant, light and durable.
    • Action plan: We will research online, visit fabric markets and try to talk to suppliers.
  • How to attach and secure our product to the basket?
    • We made a paper fastener on the low-rez prototype and it seemed like the idea will work.
    • Action plan: Test with actual fasteners and hooks.

Below is our plan for the final prototype project.

[Made in China] Concept Sketches and Patent Review by Kev and Bruce

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 4)- Concept Sketches and Patent Review

Concept Sketches

Link to the sketches

We came to this position through observation. We want to create a product that solves problems. Many of the older problems are already taken care of, but some of the newer ones are not. By observing and experiencing, we find that the shared bikes scattered around the cities have a few issues, and one of them is the not-that-useful basket. The basket is shallow and loose, combining with the bike’s solid tire creates a dilemma: things can bump out quite easily. We set to tackle this issue by targeting commuters who rely on these sharing bikes in their daily lives and need a handy storage solution in their journeys.

So we target customers who:

  1. Need to commute daily using the shared bikes
  2. Have stuff other than their bag to carry
  3. Encounter bumpy roads
  4. Need a solution that is cheap and convenient to bring around

We prepared three stages, from the easiest to the hardest. The first stage is simple add-ons to the pre-existing basket. We designed one variant that is made of elastic material and one variant made of a solid cover. The second stage is adding another container with a lid inside the basket. We also want to introduce modular designs so that our customers are able to securely fit-in small products such as coffee mugs.

As suggested by Christian, our planned third stage is to completely redesign the basket. However, this was eventually abandoned because we believe the poor design was made on purpose so that trash could not stay in the basket.  This idea is similar to the specially-designed uncomfortable chairs in the NY subway stations which prevent people from occupying the seats for too long. It is not practical to make it a “comfortable” design.

The list below shows how our 5 designs may or may not satisfy customers’ needs:

What is good? What we miss?
1. Elastic Net
  • Easy to make
  • Cheap
  • Scalable
  • Things can still fall out from the side.
2. Solid Cover
  • Easy to make
  • Things can still fall out from the side.
  • Shared bikes usually suffer from violent smashes and crashes. Baskets are often not in their original shape.
3. Foldable basket with straps & lid
  • Increased storage space
  • Large and bulky
4. Customizable Basket
  • Practical
  • Customers may need to handle extra components
5. Modularized Basket
  • Applicable to more use cases
  • Customers may need to handle even more extra components


Patent Review

1. Carrying case for use with a bicycle

A carrying case for use with a bicycle comprises a receptacle defined by a pair of side walls, a pair of end walls and a bottom wall. A lid is hingedly connected to the receptacle. At least one pouch is secured to a side wall of the receptacle, the pouch being defined by a cover which is hingedly secured to the receptacle along a bottom edge is proximity to the bottom wall of the receptacle. An expandable container is foldable within the pouch and opens to a fully expanded condition when the cover is hinged open through 180 degrees. The volume of the carrying case is greatly increased when the pouch and container are fully opened.

2. Collapsible bicycle article carrier

An article carrier which is to be mounted over the rear wheel of a bicycle and includes a pair of baskets, one each on either side of the bicycle wheel. Each basket is connected through a scissor linkage assembly to be collapsible adjacent the bicycle wheel.


3. Quick release bicycle basket and carrier rack therefor

A bicycle basket is provided with means which engage portions of a carrier rack secured to and carried by a bicycle wherein the basket includes a pair of oppositely extending rack engaging hooks on one of its upstanding walls, and a rack engaging cam latch on the bottom wall thereof for securely, though releasably, anchoring the basket relative to the carrier rack.


[Made in China] Presentation Reflection by Kev

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 3): Project Proposal Presentation Reflection

Link to the Presentation File

My original idea was to redesign an ice cube tray so I planned to focus on the shortcomings of the current products for the presentation. However, I came up with a new idea when I woke up that morning, which was a dish warmer with smartphone connectivity for controls. I quickly did some product comparisons on Amazon and included it in my presentation as well. I also redefined my business opportunity to be smarter and fancier kitchenware that targeted consumers with higher disposable income, as supported by the Allied Market Research.

To my surprise, most people found the ice cube tray idea more appealing. Some of my classmates suggested that they could use the oven to warm the dishes instead as it was very common in the US. Professor Christian also quoted the case of Juicero, which was a failed kickstarter company, to illustrate why I would want the design to be as simple as possible but not too much unnecessary functions. I believed they were right since I did not seriously consider how consumers deal with this problem using simpler methods. I might not learn this information from the web, but it would be helpful if I had talked to any of my American friends before this presentation. It was important to ensure the opportunity actually existed.

Unfortunately, someone also pointed out that there were already some solutions to the ice cube tray, such as plastic ice-cube making bags. Nonetheless, I still believed they were not common in Asia or in China and the market for a simpler ice cube tray still existed. I was also suggested to add some features to the ice cube tray, such as a temperature sensor to forecast when the ice would be made, or work on other poorly-designed kitchen appliances. Furthermore, after listening to others’ presentations, I had realized that it was hard for me to come up with an appealing design idea because I was thinking to invent something new that no one had thought about it before. It might be easier if I could just make some modifications to some existing products or build on them. I would probably use this approach to brainstorm more ideas for the rest of the week.

[Made in China] Project Proposal by Kev

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 2) – Project Proposal

Redesigning Ice Cube Trays

On a hot summer day, there is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a cup of iced drink, no matter it is beer or coke, under the burning sun. You may want to add a few pieces of ice, so you decided to take out the ice tray from the freezer. Nonetheless, you realize the ice has stuck closely to the tray. Therefore, you spend much effort twisting the ice tray for several times and ice finally all drops out at the same time. If you are lucky, most of the ice will fall into your cup of drink. If not, you can pick them up from the table or even the floor. This certainly annoys you because adding ice should be a simple process.

Classic Ice Cube Tray

The traditional ice tray holder is a great example of a poorly-designed product. Firstly, as the water is still in liquid state, it can easily spill over if you are not holding it properly. It is also important to ensure the ice tray lies flat in the freezer so that it won’t spill over, which takes up the limited space in the freezer. Secondly, the ice can be easily contaminated by dust or other pollutants during the freezing process because they are directly exposed to the air. Thirdly, as illustrated in the example above, it is very hard to remove the ice from the tray. Not only the finished ice might be stuck to the wall of the tray, it might also stick to the ice cube next to it, making it a larger piece than desired. If the ice does not drop out naturally, you may have to twist the tray with a little bit of force for several times to loosen it. If this still does not work, you may need to pick it up by hand, which is unhygienic and also dangerous because the surface of the ice is really cold and may hurt your fingers. Therefore, this poses a great business opportunity to redesign this ice tray.

The target market for a redesigned ice tray can be all households in the world with a freezer.  Allied Market Research estimated that the global kitchen appliances market is expected to reach $253.4 billion by 2020 with a 6.4% growth from 2014 and suggested the growth is mainly driven by “increasing disposable income”. Therefore, to be more specific, the target consumer for a “smart” kitchen design would be people with increased disposable income who are willing to pay extra for fancier or more user-friendly products.   There are few existing redesign attempts in the market, including:


  • OXO Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray”: It received a 4.4/5 consumer rating and costs $7.29 on Amazon. A cover is added to the tray to solve the second issue and to stack more ice on it, and these functions have received positive comments from the users. However, reviews also pointed out that the tray can only produce few amount of ice and the space between the cover slider and the tray may still cause spill-overs.

OXO Good Grips Covered Ice Cube Tray

  • OMorc Ice Cube Tray“: It not only has a spill-resistant cover, but also has a flexible tray that helps to “push” out the ice. However, it is slightly more expensive at $11.99 and some users still complain about the difficulties using it.

OMorc Ice Cube Tray

  • Endurance Ice Cube Tray”: It is made of stainless steel instead of plastic, and features a lever that helps to remove the ice. It is priced at $19.95, but some users complain about the mechanic failures of the product.

Endurance Ice Cube Tray

[Made in China] Journal (Week 2) by Kev

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 2) – Bad Design in the AB

As a study-away student from New York, I am not only new to the city and the Shanghainese culture, but also to the campus. I was pretty excited when I first entered the academic building, as it seemed to be much more modern and spacious than the buildings in NY. Nonetheless, the nightmare came when I have to locate my classrooms in this 15-floor building as there are at least 20 different kinds of rooms on each floor, including classrooms, reading rooms, washroom, etc. Fortunately, NYU Shanghai has placed maps on each floor to help us navigate. However, soon after, I am frustrated by the weird design of the maps, which is not user-friendly and confusing.

Map on 2/F AB

The photo attached shows the example of the facility map located at the lift lobby on the 2nd floor. Firstly, the orientation of the building in the map is misleading and confusing. When I step out from the lift and look at this map, a well-designed map will allow me to instantly decide whether I should be turning left or right to head to my destination. After looking at this map, my intuition will tell me to keep walking without turning if my destination is 210. However, I immediately notice that I am actually facing a wall. Since I remember I stepped out from the lift and when I compare this to the map, I suddenly realize I am actually facing the right side of the map and I should be turning left for 210. But I question myself again since the map indicates that I am standing right in front of the female bathroom instead of the wall, which I later realize again its entrance is on another side. Secondly, the board is also showing “conflicting” messages since, for example, room 207-209 is shown on the right of the “your location” red dot, but the signs above the map say I should turn left instead. The design has made every viewer to reimagine the space and reposition themselves, which is inefficient and unnecessary. It may also be very confusing for guests that may not know the building well.

Nonetheless, the map does have some features that help to increase readability. For example, rooms with different functions are identified with different colours so that it is easier to locate the destination. The design is also very simple, which means it has limited words and instructions explaining how to use it, but feature simple icons that can convey the same meaning.

If I were the designer and had to improve the map, I would change the building orientation from “landscape” to “portrait” mode (e.g. the auditorium will be at the top of the graph instead of the right side) to avoid the confusion. But it may not be both aesthetically and finically desirable since new boards will have to be produced. An easier solution will be adding an arrow next to the red spot, indicating the direction I am facing.  Furthermore, I will add solid lines to indicate walls and door symbols to indicate entrances to rooms on the map. Overall, I believe the map is not necessarily a horrible design, but the designers do need to be a little bit more thoughtful to make it more user-friendly and usable.


Improvement for the map (Arrow and lines)