Blog Summary

In this unit the brief was to design and develop an innovative product based on one of the 3 key areas of focus for urban cycling today. Safety, Security or Storage. It was my intention to create an in-home storage piece particularly focusing on those who live in rented accommodation. Through research and experimentation I wanted to really develop my engineering and CAD skills as this is where I feel my design weaknesses lie. I have rarely used CAD programmes to develop my design work in previous projects and most of my work has been driven by aesthetics and material rather than the user and manufacture. I chose to focus my research on young professionals who live and work in the city, use their bicycles for commuting and recreation, but aren’t necessarily fanatics. I wanted to create a piece which could maximise storage space but wouldn’t require altering the property in any way. I also wanted my design to be a simple and stylish piece which could be used in a variety of homes and would appeal to a large audience.

I began my project by creating several personas to determine my target audience. I surveyed a number of people I knew who owned bicycles and lived in urban areas to see which common issues they faced. Most people I spoke with were aged 25-35, lived in flats and didn’t have a safe space to securely store their bikes at home. In addition, they were concerned with the safety of their bike if locked up outside. I found the problem of storing a bike in the home the most interesting challenge as most of my target market live in rented homes. “Only 26 per cent of “generation rent”, classified as young people from the age of 20 to 39, will own their house by 2025, according to the research by PricewaterhouseCoopers.” (Rodionova: 2016). Those in rented accommodation are unable to cause any superficial damage to property under their tenancy agreements making bicycle storage extremely problematic.

I started to explore the current market to identify what products were already available to my target audience. I found many items sold were bespoke pieces with a high price tag and require drilling into the wall. The only alternatives were cheap ‘IKEA hacks’ or uninteresting and unattractive pieces. This demonstrates there is a gap in the market for low cost, in-home bike storage. As the London Cyclist pointed out “Unless you’ve craftily positioned yourself in a home with other cyclists, housemates, family and spouses can sometimes find this desire to keep the bike inside confusing and slightly annoying.” (Arthurs-Brennan, 2015: Online]  The aesthetics of my storage solution is of the up most importance as I require it to be both attractive and practical.

To ensure the space within the home is maximised to it’s fullest I wanted to create a storage hub which could also house other items usually found in a hallways such as coats, hats, shoes and books. Initially it was my plan to design a freestanding piece. I came to realise it would probably require a great deal of floor space as a sturdy base is needed to support the weight of a bicycle and other household items. Also as my users are renters it’s likely they would move house and a solid piece of furniture could difficult to move, I also I didn’t think a knock down piece would be robust enough. As pointed out by Alison J Clarke, renters often don’t consider their rented homes permanent so tend to purchase cheaper pieces rather than invest in heavy duty furniture. ““Ikea also suggests temporariness, which suits what the home interior has become, according to Clarke – “a place of transience rather than permanence”” (Amandolare, 2016: Online). To combat this I decided to design a system landlords install, and tenants can add the modular pieces they need. This would allow users to create a unique storage space specific to their needs.  It could also be easily transported if moving house. I wanted to ensure my manufacturing costs were as low as possible to encourage landlords install it. I looked to high street retailers such as Habitat, IKEA and MADE for inspiration and possible materials.

When investigating the kinds of spaces which would house my piece I found that many city centre flats had little floor space and hallways are relatively narrow. Government legislation states the minimum clear width of every hall should be 900mm and a corridor must not be reduced below a minimum of 750mm at any point (HM Government: 2016). With hallways measuring less than 1 meter wide it was very important to keep the piece as narrow as possible. I also decided I wanted to use fixtures which can be pushed back and easily moved to ensure it only takes up space when in use.

After sketching a number of Initial ideas I mocked up some potential designs in Solidworks which turned out to be a valuable tool. They made me realised my designs were far too large and wouldn’t fit the average hallway. I also felt the full wooden piece didn’t look homely. I had wanted to create a steam bent wooden drip tray to catch any dirt or mud from bikes, however these renders proved it wouldn’t be practical as a solid piece lacks any flexibility. It would be impossible to store when not in use and would constantly fill the hallways. Also the base systems I had sketched were very wide and not many homes would have the wall space to accommodate them. I next photographed a life size sketch of a bicycle in my own rented flat and found it would be very difficult to fit into most spaces, so having the flexibility to mount a bike in various positions would be  crucial.

During my trip to Milan Design week The IKEA festival provided some interesting food for thought. The Scandinavian home ware company described their collection as being designed for a young mind. They stated they make their pieces easy to personalise, flexible, sustainable and could even be transported home on the metro. This is a philosophy which was in line with my own brief. I noticed a number of their pieces allow customers to modify them to suit their space. “IKEA’s strength is in furnishing the entire home while the others do not.  IKEA is also good at making necessary adjustments to reflect local market tastes”(Loeb, 2012: Online).

Another interesting piece I saw was The Capa Chair by Makoto Suzuki which is completely customisable and inspires creativity in the user “What makes it even more attractive, though, is the fact that you can customize it — not only to your colour choice but also to your needs. If you don’t want a plush armrest, choose a side table instead, or maybe an anglepoise book stand or a cup holder. You can create any combination of available parts, which include small trays, a leg rest an even side shelves for speakers.” (Yamada, 2016: Online)  Every piece is completely unique and designed to suit your own personal needs. Unlike IKEAs stylishly simple pieces, The Capa Chiar is bold and interesting and options include everything from wooden rests to faux fur cushions.  Such vibrance and individuality is often lacking in furniture for the rented home. Here you are encouraged to create a real statement piece. Both exhibitions made me question how far I could push a modular furniture piece and how would people want to use it in their homes?

My background lies within Textile Design and I began to consider the use of fabric as a versatile material as it is not often seen in furniture pieces, other than upholstery. Fabric could give me the scope to add colour, texture and pattern to my work. I initially though I wanted to design a generic piece which could be used in numerous homes, however fabric could allow me to create an almost endless range offering hundreds of possible storage combinations. Users would have the ability to create a totally unique piece which suites their individual personality.

For my final design I decided to use a peg board, however the final base board would only measure 0.5m wide and 2m high. A simple bike hook would allow users to store their bikes horizontally or vertically depending on the space they had available. Wider items could be mounted on the board and hang out over the edges if  users had the space. No storage piece designed protrudes more than 500mm from the wall to ensure it doesn’t invade too much floor space. All pieces simply fit to the wall using dowels and can be removed and changed around as often as desired. Although I explored a number of other attractive options such as slatted walls or hooks on bars, I found pegboard be the cheapest system for landlords to install. All the items for it are commercially available and it’s easy to install by mounting it onto top hat battens which screw into the wall. In addition if landlords owned numerous properties wholesale purchase of these items could help in drastically lowering the cost.

For the bike drip tray rather than a solid piece, I began to look at awnings, pram hoods and tents and the way in which fabric is stretched over flexible poles. This would provide the ability to open and close the drip tray as needed and would be lightweight enough to move. I made a number of prototypes in card, wood veneer and fabric to understand the shape.  I firstly thought I would use thin ply wood to hold the tension in the fabric, however this material would cost more than flexible plastic or bent aluminium. Also as the supporting poles will be covered by fabric the additional costs seemed unnecessary. Wood would result in the drip tray being quite weighty and I need to keep all pieces as light as possible to prevent them from pulling the peg board from the wall. Instead I would use carbon fibre poles to create tension, similar to those used in tent technology. “The Fibrapole 292 is a .292″ outside diameter carbon fiber tube that has become Fibraplex’s standard for designer and replacement tent poles because of its ability to best match stiffness and flexibility of comparable aluminum poles” (Fibraplex, 2017) My research has shown me that aluminium is arguably less likely to break, however for equivalent strength carbon fibre is half the weight. I went on to made small prototypes in both canvas and cotton and realised a canvas cover, similar to a pram hood, would be extremely heavy. For manufacturing I would opt for water proof Nylon as it is cheap to purchase and provides all the material properties I require.

The next challenge I faced was how to hold the drip tray up when in use. I investigated pram hoods and the systems they used. A number seemed to use a Ratchett and Pawl mechanism, however this could prove expensive to manufacture. In addition “Ratchets can only stop backward motion at discrete locations (i.e. at each successive gear). As a consequence ratchets can allow a limited amount of backward motion called backlash or “play.”” (Creative Mechanisms, 2017) A 2 way Ratchet system could be used but this could also prove more expensive in manufacture. I noticed however, cheaper prams seemed to use simple friction stays which are inexpensive and very easy to use. Although a plastic hinge, as used in a prams, may not be strong enough  to support the drip tray, a pressed steel hinge, similar to those used in PVC windows, would be ideal for my piece.  The frame of the drip tray would be mounted onto a batten which would have the necessary dowels needed to mount the drip tray onto the peg board

Drip Tray Frame on bords

I also began to experiment with the use of fabric for shelves. I felt this would provide the piece with more organic and following shapes rarely seen in knock down furniture.  I designed a simple fabric self which would be hung over wooden dowels. Users can use this to create more interesting shapes by pulling the pieces over other wooden rods and creating tension.  Furniture company MADE suggest renters decorate their home with soft furnishing to create a more interesting space “Consider adding vibrant hues with your furnishings instead- a neutral wall can offer the perfect backdrop for a dramatic fuchsia armchair or a sideboard painted in bold sunshine yellow.” (Made, 2017). In a similar way I feel modular pieces made in a variety of fabrics give users the opportunity to decorate their home by creating a statement wall.

DSCF8739

Overall I am pleased with the concept of my piece, but I feel until full scale working prototypes are made I would be unable to test if the pieces can hold the weight of all the modular items. For example, the dowel in the bike hook may not provide enough support to hold the weight of a bicycle. However, if the dowels were unable to support them the pieces I think a simple metal hook, similar to those used in shop displays could work as a logical solution. I also found the CAD renders I created were extremely challenging part of this project, but they became an invaluable tool in reflecting the scale and aesthetics of the piece. Hand sketches made it easy to underestimate the sheer scale of a piece and CAD made it quick and easy to experiment with layout, colour and scale of various pieces in the collection.

I feel my final collection has successfully matched the aims I outlined in my initial brief. It  should be easy to put all elements of my collection into production as the technology is available to manufacture all the pieces at a low cost. My piece provides users the ability to create a unique and vibrant space without damaging their flat and losing their deposit. My main issue would lie in persuading enough commercial landlords to install the base piece so users felt it worth investing into a collection of storage pieces. However, as the pegboard is a low cost solution and easy to install I would hope it would appeal to landlords as a cheap investment to  prevent damage to their property . I feel this project has a lot of scope for further development with lots more storage pieces which could be added to the collection. As a result this system could be come an area in the rented home for real self expression. On a whole this project has been a challenging and I have had to adapt my style of design considerably. However, I have found by having a problem to solve I was provided with a clear goal to aim for, something my projects can often lack.

References

Images

Fig.1: Vadolibero (2017) ‘Bike Butler’. [Online] [Date Accessed 11th February 2017] http://vadolibero.com/product/bike-butler-c/

Fig.2: For The Love Of Bikes (2011) ‘at home: bike storage using IKEA and DELTA racks’ [Online][Date Accessed 10th February 2017] http://fortheloveofbikes.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/at-home-bike-storage-using-ikea-and.html

Fig.3: Better Living Through Design (2013) ‘Make Bike Rack’ [Online] [Date Accessed 11th February 2017] http://www.betterlivingthroughdesign.com/personal/make-bike-rack/#more-24170

Fig.4: My initial CAD renders (CAD Drawing)

Fig.5: The Capa Chair by Makoto Suzuki seen at Milan Design Week (Photograph)

Fig.6: Cardboard maquettes exploring form (Photograph)

Fig.7: Fabric and wood veneer drip tray prototype (Photograph)

Fig.8: CAD render showing bike drip tray form and friction stay (CAD Drawing)

Fig.9: Fabric Shelf Prototype (Photograph)

Fig.10: CAD Renders of MODULAIRE in situ (CAD Drawing)

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