[Made in China] Final Individual Reflection by Kev

Class: Made in China
Final Individual Reflection

As a business student, I have learnt the concept of “design thinking” in my freshman cohort class. I remembered we had a few brainstorming sessions for ideas to improve sustainability in NYU, but the furthest we got was to “pitch” our ideas to the class and maybe adding one or two pictures of the “prototype” to the slides.  More than a year later, I enrolled in this “Made in China” course because I wanted to understand how the ecosystem of the creative industry worked in China. Unlike the previous class, it sounded really cool that I could design my own project and get it manufactured, but not simply “talking on paper”. Looking back at these past 14 weeks, it was definitely not an easy process. At a certain point during the course, I was pretty discouraged as things did not go as planned and I worried that I could not produce anything meaningful.  However, I am so glad that I made it to the end and I was really surprised that there were few students and guests who were actually interested in buying my prototype. I am not only thrilled about my accomplishment, but am also wondering whether I want to be an entrepreneur and build a start-up in China after graduation as the course has sparked my interest in “making” something.

From the original ice cube tray concept to the beta prototype of the Bike Pad, I realize the value of my “idea” was not about all the fancy functions that I came up with, but the opportunity identified that motivated me to keep finding creative solutions through aligning my thoughts to what my customers think. I and Bruce had constructed so many different kinds of prototypes, including low-rez prototypes, looks-like prototypes, works-like prototypes and engineering prototypes. Although each prototype looks really different than the rest and not one of them is perfect, they all give me some new insights on how my ideal solution should be like. On the other hand, the most important takeaway from this course is of course directly experiencing the “made in China” ecosystem.  In particular, I had the negative perception that “Made in China” equaled “shanzhai” before this semester.  Through examining the product cycle in class and visiting factories to talk directly to the people in the industry, I now strongly believe the Chinese manufacturing industry had both hard and soft skills, which means they have the capabilities to produce high-quality products and services with high efficiency. After all, China is gradually moving up the value chain and is providing comprehensive supports for entrepreneurs to conceptualize their ideas and engage in the production processes.

As for working with Bruce, I believe our division of work is pretty natural. As an IMA senior, Bruce is more familiar with utilizing technology tools in modeling and has much more experiences with hardware designs. Therefore, he tried really hard to produce multiple high-quality 3D rendering models and coordinated the 3D printing processes, which are very important for us to visualize our concepts and evaluate their feasibility. He also showed me how to use various tools available in the IMA lab to do rapid-prototyping, which I think was one of the most important processes that we went through before we had our final design. Meanwhile, I was more responsible for the “business” side of the project. I was always planning our next steps, collecting feedback for the product and making sure we had everything we need for the next stage and were meeting all the deadlines as I knew it took some time to develop nice-looking models using technology. Sometimes I might have annoyed Bruce by always proposing new ideas that might sound completely irrelevant to the project as I believe we should not waste our time on improving ideas that were unlikely to succeed. This was why I suggested adding a “phone case” function when the “basket in a basket” idea didn’t work out and to use “L”-shaped hooks instead of circular-shaped hooks that could easily break. I do believe that I have demonstrated him the importance of being flexible and always have some backup plans in case things didn’t go as expected.  Overall, we had a great time working with each other and we were both delighted to see our products finally came into shape after numerous re-designs.

 

[Made in China] Final Documentation by Kev and Bruce

Class: Made in China
Final Documentation

a) Mission Statement

“To bring convenience to sharing bikes users and make their journeys more enjoyable”

And our product is based on two hypotheses:

  1.  We think that commuters who rely on bikes to go to work or school but are not making use of the front bike basket to hold their accessories. 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.

b) Photos and renderings of our final product:


c)  A description of the product

The Bike Pad is a multi-purpose add-on to any sharing bikes that helps users in 2 ways: Firstly, the bottom lid can be attached to the top of the front basket of any sharing bikes and keeps the groceries inside from bouncing off. Secondly, the phone case can be easily attached to the bottom lid with the unique snap-fit design and hold the biker’s smartphone securely for convenience in navigating and music-playing. As the product is made of plastic, It will also be light and portable. Users will be able to customize the product to fit different models of the phone.

 

d) The Design Journey

  • After Week 8, we have decided that we will not need a collapsible function, so the entire design shifted from being a “basket in a basket” to an add-on to the bike. After consulting with industrial designer Arlen, we think we may want to design an attachable elastic plastic/silicon case with a transparent film on top to hold the phone in place. Nonetheless, we realize the design is not feasible as we need to utilize plastic injection which is very expensive and requires at least few weeks to few months for the manufacturer to produce a mould. Therefore, we again switched to a design that makes adjustments to existing products. The cover/lid that we bought from Taobao is helpful in preventing the stuff from bouncing off, so our idea is to add an attachable phone case on top. After few trials and errors, we finally come up with the snap-fit designs that are easy to use and strong.

Looks-like Prototype

Works-like Prototype

Engineering Prototype 1

Engineering Prototype 2

How we made our physical prototypes? 3D printing!

  • We also conducted a prototype testing session with few classmates who use sharing bikes frequently. They all expressed interest in the product as the product will be helpful for them. They suggested us to remove the film as there would be glares, and tell us that it will be cool if users can decide where to put their phone on the lid. Therefore, our final product is designed based on their recommendations.  

 

e) Experiences with Suppliers/ Partners

  • Bruce: Arlen- Industrial Designer
    We had our initial design, but we were not sure if the product we designed could be mass manufactured. Arlen is the product design expert Rudi introduced to us. We asked if our design with TPU and other plastic could be made, he gave us some suggestions about choosing the right technology, as well as helping us come up with a few alternatives that could also accomplish our goal, while saving material and simplifying the assembly process.
  • Kev: Taobao Vendor
    After we have prepared the rendered files for our product, we planned to send them to a vendor on Taobao to 3D-print our beta prototypes. I was worried and a little bit anxious at first as I was not sure how the communication would work. It may sound stupid, but I did spend some time refreshing the page until I realize I have to first download AliWangWang to directly connect with the vendor after clicking the “connect” button. To my surprise, the vendor was very responsive and replied 15s after I sent the first message. The process was actually pretty quick: I sent them my file, told them I need 2 units for each case and specified that I want ABS as materials. He confirmed the dimensions with me, made a sample photo and reported the price. Once I sent him the school address and paid through Alipay, the deal was closed and the product arrived in the mailbox 3 days after. I was very amazed by the ecosystem that China has created. I thought Taobao is just like Amazon as they only sell consumer products, but I realize it is also a platform that provides “professional services” and connects designers to experts. From its high efficiency,  high-quality products and welcoming attitude, I finally understand why designers like to bring their products to China for further development.

f) Bill of Materials

ID Description Comment Distribution Format Quantity Unit Price
1 OGK TN-5 Basket lid made in Japan 1pc 1 35
2 3D Printed Case Material by gram 1kg 0.025kg 40


g) Sustainability

Although we did not intentionally incorporate design features that concerns sustainability in our product, we believe our product will be durable and not easy to break. It is not likely to be a hazard for the environment. However, packaging may be the biggest concern to sustainability for our case since we notice that the 3D printer vendor used a lot of foam to send the prototypes to us. If the product is ever going to be commercialized, we will need to carefully choose the packaging that protects the snap-fit hooks from breaking while being environmentally friendly.

Excessive Packaging

h) What’s next?

During the showcase, many sharing bike users expressed interest in our product and asked whether it was available for sale. We originally thought if we really want to commercialize our idea, we would need to connect with Japanese supplier of the elastic lid to customize it or simply design a new idea that can be mass produced through plastic injection and modeling. However, some of the guests suggest we can already put the existing products on Taobao and consumers will definitely be interested with correct marketing. Although what can be done after this beta prototype will be out of the scope of the class, we are glad that people like our idea and believe it is an innovative solution to the problem that they face every time when they need to use the sharing bikes.

[Made in China] Pop-up Store by Kev and Bruce

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 14)- Pop-up Store

As a closing project for the class, we displayed our final product in the IMA End-of-semester showcase. We are excited many students, staffs and guests show their interests in our project. Below are some of the photos and resources that we made for the show.

Website:
kht271.wixsite.com/bike-pad

Interest Form:  
https://goo.gl/forms/nYxIbUaSHEh5k0YY2

Poster:

Our Pop-up store:

Extra- A promotional photo:

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

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 11)- 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] Updated Design and BOM by Kev and Bruce

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 10)- Updated Design and BOM

 

  • As we decided not to include the collapsible function, we have updated the design concept and its specifications for the product as follows:

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

  1. By attaching it to the top of the basket, it keeps your stuff inside from bouncing off.
  2. The upper pocket is perfect for thin stuff like paper, or alternatively,
  3. The slot can keep your smartphone safe inside, and make it easy for you to navigate when biking.

The Design

It is made of 274 mm x 180mm x 10mm soft plastic material or silicon with a 274 mm x 180mm x 0.6mm polyester film on top, so it can fit various kinds of form factors inside your basket and hold your phone tightly. There will be 4 hooks attached below.

Film on top

Inner Design

 

  • We have also updated the Bill of Materials (BOM). However, we are unsure how we would produce the soft plastic or silicon so we have left it blank temporarily and will seek help from industrial designers later.

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

Class: Made in China
Assignment (Week 9) – 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
Assignment & Journal (Week 8) – 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] Mission Statement by Kev and Bruce

Class: Made in China
Journal (Week 7) – Mission Statement 

A mission statement should be broad but clearly shows why the company is motivated to engage in their businesses. For example, Google’s mission statement is simply “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” while Nike’s mission statement is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”. Similarly, we have constructed the following mission statement for our product:

“To bring convenience to sharing bikes users and make their journeys more enjoyable”

[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.