Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of three news features that invite the reader inside IDM’s core class—the Integrated Design Lab. In this series, contributor Melissa Ackermann details the students’ second project from start to finish.
As the clock began its countdown to the December 10th IDM Sales Gala, the students still faced an abundance of opportunities for creating innovative kitchen utensil solutions. They quickly dwindled down their list to six: a modular fruit and vegetable storage system, an unconventional mug design crafted from the finest porcelain at MIT, an innovative mobile phone stand for viewing recipes, a uniquely detailed and customized cheese board, a table-top herb-growing station, and a decorative sushi-rolling mat.
Six design teams were formed around these opportunities using two sets of selection criteria: choosing one student from each discipline—design, engineering, and business, and matching up each student with one of their three top-ranked opportunities.
As Director Matt Kressy set the students on their way to begin their projects, he offered up some words of wisdom, “Through this design process, you’ll be challenged with many new decisions you didn’t have to face in your previous project. You will find that your design decisions are different when they are connected to making 50 units. It’s not so straightforward and obvious. Keep in mind that the ‘devil is in the detail’!”
The students quickly set out to begin their research and develop their prototypes. Although they had originally derived their ideas from conducting user needs analysis, they had to revisit this phase in their newly formed teams in order to determine the various prototype possibilities they could test and build.
Over the course of many late nights, each team worked rigorously on extensive concept generation and feedback acquisition, identifying what seemed to be working and what could be done better. Through this process, students were able to formulate their strategy by identifying potential risks and uncertainties. They intended to reduce and eliminate as much risk as possible by getting answers in the fastest and cheapest ways possible.
Students found themselves getting an intimate understanding of what Kressy meant about “the devil being in the detail” as they worked relentlessly to mitigate the various design factors—customer needs, quality, safety and performance, as well as profit and cost—all within the looming time constraint.
After much frustration with their concept, one of the teams even made an incredibly tough decision to completely pivot on their product midstream and start from scratch. “We were originally exploring egg making, but learned that the food-safe materials were difficult to work with and expensive, and required a great deal of testing. We went down that road for a while, but there wasn’t going to be enough time. So we changed course and started over with concept generation.” The team ultimately ended up designing a modular fruit and vegetable storage system.
In the end, the universal challenge that all the teams share is how to maintain the desired look and feel for their products while scaling up for manufacturing. There’s no doubt that the evolution of their initial product design—or in Team 1’s case the entire product—has been forced to undergo changes, some embraced wholeheartedly and some accepted reluctantly.
As it currently stands, students are working diligently to resolve their real-time challenges as they embark on the homestretch to complete their kitchen utensil project—a true test of innovation and perseverance! Each team’s unique design approach is outlined below.
Team 1: Root 16
Opportunity: modular fruit and vegetable storage system
Approach: focus on small-space solutions
Real-time challenge: shifting from the egg-making problem to the storage solution was time consuming
Team 2: MUGger
Opportunity: nontraditional mug to meet user needs
Approach: focus on branding and form—ergonomics and vessel and heat function
Real-time challenge: determining low-cost packaging material that is biodegradable and environmentally sound
Team 3: Perch
Opportunity: mobile phone holder for kitchen use
Approach: focus on user survey and focus group
Real-time challenge: prototype testing which version offers the best functionality and aesthetics
Team 4: Brielliant
Opportunity: cheese board incorporating unique detail
Approach: focus on user journey map and product positioning
Real-time challenge: reducing the long word-curing process that
slows down the next steps in the manufacturing process
Team 5: Living Flavors
Opportunity: table-top, hydroponic herb-growing station
Approach: focus on aesthetics and maintenance
Real-time challenge: getting the laser cutter to properly
work with the plywood for the box
Team 6: Sushigami
Opportunity: decorative sushi-rolling mat
Approach: focus on interviews and competitive product research
Real-time challenge: applying FDA-approved paints and glosses
for food safety
Stay tuned for the third installment of Inside the Integrated Design Lab, which will highlight the outcome at the sales gala as well as each team’s greatest challenges and lessons learned.