As the CUTE Values, Urban Cycling unit of my MA approaches the end, now is the time I can reflect on what I set out to achieve at the beginning of this project and reflect on whether I feel my initial intentions, to create a multi-functional, eco-friendly cat carry case that can be used both on the bike and in the home as a pet bed that ensures the customer their pet is safe, secure and comfortable on the ride, have been met in the final outcome
Before I began the research stage of this project, I thought long and hard about choosing my project direction and wondered how I could diversify my current portfolio of work. It can be tempting to produce products for similar markets with similar themes as that knowledge has already been obtained and familiarised in previous projects. However, I understand that in industry, I will most likely not spend the entirety of my design career focused solely on one specific market. To broaden my design thinking, I need to explore different markets and the issues within them. That is not to say I cannot bring my own personal design ethos to these different design sectors such as my strong belief for environmental consideration, ethical concern and gaining creative empathy for the user. These factors are what I feel makes me a responsible and successful designer and what separates my work from others. In our consumer-based world, it is important to not design for the sake of it but to solve real issues faced by users and find solutions that aim to improve their quality of life.
It was important not to forget the commercial aspect my product and identify what exactly it is that makes Svane and Sikker a successful and saleable series of products in the mass market. I took the time to ensure I could test my potential solutions on not only my primary user of the cyclist but the secondary user of the cat. It was clear to me that one solution may be suitable for one user but not the other and subsequently I found myself constantly referring to each user, keeping both their wants and needs in mind when creating the final outcomes.
The Urban Cycling project focused around the 3 S’s – safety, security and storage. Although my user was mainly concerned with safety and storage, the combination of Svane and Sikker has encompassed each one of those S’s. Svane, the multifunctional, 2 in 1 pet carry case come pet bed, focused on storage both on and off the bike while Sikker, the pannier-mounted locking base, focuses on securing the Svane model to the bike to assure the customer their cat can be safety transported to wherever they need to go.
In my initial ideation, I seemed to be more focused on the storage element and aesthetics in the home as it acted as a cat bed. For a moment, I lost touch with the brief and forgot that this was an urban bicycle-focused product and the main issue the user could be facing. If my bicycle dependent, animal lover did not have a sustainable solution for relying solely on the bicycle for transport but needing to transport their well-loved pet to locations such as the vets, groomers or cat-sitter’s, they could be faced with an ultimatum: bike or cat?
As a pet owner myself, I empathised with the user and understood how they see their four-legged friend as a member of their family and would not consider the possibility of letting them go. Yet, I also understood that, practically-wise, the bicycle is an economically and environmentally efficient mode of transport that plays a huge role in my user’s day-to-day life. Therefore, the only option the user is left with is finding a solution to safety transport the cat on the bicycle. This is where I began my design process.
Throughout the project, I kept referring to the mantra of The Copenhagenize Design Company, a multi-disciplined group of designers looking to make the world a more bicycle-friendly place, who focus on ‘re-establishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and practical form of transport’ (Copenhagenize.eu, 2017) with great ‘interest in taking the bicycle seriously’ (Copenhagenize.eu, 2017). I interpreted this explanation as taking the bike as seriously as our society sees the car, therefore creating solutions that compete with the car and showcasing the benefits in cycling over driving. My user has identified that bicycling has social, economic and environmental advantages over the car and therefore I wanted to create a solution for my target market in addition to potential users to make them reconsider if they need to rely solely on their car.
I decided for, my final brief, to create a multi-functional, eco-friendly cat carry case that can be used both on the bike and in the home as a pet bed. The product needed to ensure the customer their pet is safe, secure and comfortable on the ride. For my user, the welfare of their pet will be the most important factor to consider when designing their solution.
I chose to focus on cats instead of general small pets, as I had considered in my initial brief, because the bicycle pet carrier market was very dog-orientated and although the products had been designed for dogs, cat-owners would have to use the same products owing to the lack of suitable cat transportation carriers suitable for bikes on the market. In bicycle forums, I found many users were encouraged to create their own DIY solutions by altering conventional pet baskets to suit the bicycle like in the example below. This example shows a pet carry case, loosely secured onto the pannier rack on a touring bicycle. Not only is this unsafe but also required the use of an unconventionally long bicycle for an urban environment. I wanted to create a solution to fit the hybrid bicycle with a standardised pannier rack so it would suit most urban cyclists.
The second reason I wanted to focus on cats is because I had access to a secondary user to test on: my cat, Lilli. I have never created a product suited for animals and believed this would be a great opportunity to challenge myself and extend my portfolio of design knowledge whilst having creative empathy for the user, being a pet-owner myself. Although I am not solely reliant on the bicycle, I have previous experience with issues facing the pet carry case and the negative association connected to it. I remember the dread of both myself and my cat when we needed to use the carry case as it would be often followed by a long period of time spent on trying to force the cat into somewhere it did not want to be. This would often leave both myself and my pet stressed and agitated for the whole trip. I wanted to focus on not only the needs of the human user but the animal who would need to create a positive association with the product. The focus of this project was user-centred design for both stakeholders.
Svane, the 2 in 1 carry case and cat bed, focuses on the second bullet point and is the storage element of my final outcome. Svane is the Danish word for swan which was inspired by the unique way the cat carry case opens to allow more access for the human user to have access to the cat but also for the cat to view it as an open product they are free to walk through and stand in. This is intended to prevent them feeling like they are being trapped in, an association they commonly encounter with the conventional pet carrier.
I created two further locking steps on the doors, one magnetic strip and two straps on either side for the user to physically lock into place. Initially I was only going to use the magnetic force to close and lock the side doors but I felt it wasn’t strong enough to convince the customer it couldn’t be prised open by the cat. By adding the double straps, it gives the customer the physical feedback of locking the carrier in comparison the magnetic force. Although, the Sikker product is focused around safety, some features had to be added to Svane for safety, making the two products together a 5-step locking system, further for filling the customers need for safety-assured product.
By creating a series of sketch models and testing them on the bicycle, with the cyclists and the cat, documenting them on the blog, I understood the effectiveness in my final design from the feedback I received from users in their environment. My final aesthetic was a simple but softer form to that of a conventional carry case with the same practicality. The product is pleasingly simple and unobtrusive with the main focus lying with the material properties and manufacturing selection.
My target market is environmentally-conscious, which is one of the leading factors they choose to solely rely on the bicycle for transport. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense for them to own a cheap, plastic, petroleum-based product that would leave increase their carbon footprint. However, I wanted Svane and Sikker to be mass produced products to reach a higher majority of potential users meaning I was left with the dilemma of either compromising mass production for environmentally conscious material selections or going against my design ethos in favour of mass production scale.
In the end, I came to a compromise for both arguments integrating eco-friendly materials that were suitable for mass production manufacturing techniques. I researched into more sustainable plastic solutions and came across hemp plastic that not only had a beautiful, wood-like natural aesthetic but had a host of great material properties that made it suitable for the urban environment including good dimensional and UV stability. I thought this would be a great use for an under-rated material normally hidden away in the lining of car doors.
Initially, I was very interested in using cork in a method of defusing the sound on the bicycle ride as a method of acoustic walling. In the final Svane, design I came to the solution of compression moulding the hemp plastic between a thicker piece of cork to create this method of sound dampening. In addition to reducing the sound on the road, therefore lowing the stress factor on the cat, the cork lining would act as an insulator on the ride and in the home as a bed, creating the sense of cosiness or Hygge as the Danish say, and acting as a small method of shock absorbency in bumps in the road. I wanted this product to showcase properties of these materials that are only used in a few markets and prove they would serve well in my one. I continued this exploration providing the soft cork ergonomic handle and hemp canvas pannier storage proving that mass production does not have to severly compromise the user’s carbon footprint. This project has encouraged me to experiment more with environmental, plant-based materials from other markets and see how they can work within my design solutions. Svane provides an ecological solution that many other conventional models cannot match.
If I had more time I would have expanded the Sikker storage collections to show different options for different jobs. Some examples I thought of included stylish briefcase-style storage unit for a business environment, where the 2 in 1 pannier storage and handle could be added more more room, so cycling businessmen and women could bring their documents and electronic devices in on the back of their bike. I thought the shock absorbency of cork would be fantastic for protecting electrical devices along bumps in the road. I thought it my concept would be good in bike courier market for services like Uber Eats and Deliveroo. The insulation in the cork could keep food warm and offer a more aesthetically pleasing and functional model than the large carry cases they work with. I would have also like to have experimented on making the Sikker pannier rack mounted base slimmer as it would be permanently on the bike. However, this would need more time and experimentation so as to not compromise the safety implications I put in place.
In conclusion, I feel this project allowed me to further develop my style of individual practice within the wider context of design practices by following my ethos of creative empathy for the user and experiencing their issue with them as well as experimenting with more environmentally conscious solutions. My brief was to create a multi-functional, eco-friendly cat carry case that can be used both on the bike and in the home as a pet bed that ensures the customer their pet is safe, secure and comfortable on the ride. I feel Svane and Sikker have covered each one of the criteria with a 2 in 1 system, made from environmentally materials suitable for mass product with properties to improve the experience for the ride for both users. I would be confident to move forward onto into the next stage of making a fully working prototype as I believe the introduction of practical bicycle aimed products such my concept will make the bicycle more feasible and practical as a primary source of transport.
Overall, this project has not only allowed me to explore a different market but allowed me to tackle new obstacles and solve them with the well-designed and sustainable solutions of Svane and Sikker.
Andersen, M. (2017). Copenhagenize.com - Bicycle Culture by Design. [online] Copenhagenize.com. Available at: http://www.copenhagenize.com/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].
Daniel, B. (2017). Deliveroo riders demand employment rights following in Uber's footsteps. [online] Tech City News. Available at: http://techcitynews.com/2016/11/08/deliveroo-riders-demand-employment-rights-following-in-ubers-footsteps/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].
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