The Design Process
Step 4: Prototype
After having gathered our research, and decided on some of the product specifications we went to the next stage of the Design Process – Prototyping. We had encountered prototyping before while spending the day with Unlimited Lab at Fablab London. At FabLab we learned that prototyping is very important in getting closer to the end product, and that prototyping can be done with the simplest of materials – cardboard, balloons, paper – basically, what ever household product that is available to you. Not only is it valuable in terms of design and specifications, but also it assists us in getting closer to what the product actually is, what materials we should use, as well as the packaging options. Instead of going from idea to production, the prototyping step is helpful in making sure that we’ve chosen the right materials and specifications, before spending money in the production process – it minimizes the risk of loosing valuable time and funds.
We wanted to minimize/remove the pain of sleeping with earphones/earbuds. We began by testing two ideas; An ear pillow with a build-in speaker and an ear-pillow designed so that the user/customer can use their own earbuds with the product.
For the prototyping session the two most important areas for us to test was whether or not we could create a pillow for the ears without feeling the earbud through the product – we wanted to remove the discomfort, so this particular feature was very important! Secondly, we wanted to make sure that the sound still came through the ear pillow, and that the levels and volume were still pleasant for the ear. We made our first product from a combination of sponge pads, microfiber fabric and makeup sponges.
The materials we used for the first prototype proved to be succesful in testing our two key features. By creating a designated hole for the customers own earbuds we we’re able to control where the earbud was placed, and by covering it with a soft fabric and padding, we found that we were completely unable to feel the earbud – SUCCES!
The sound was arguably lower that before, but the sound came through with all the musical nuances, and we even found it to be positive that the music levels were lower, so that the user will be able to hear their surroundings while sleeping – the fire alarm, for instance. The prototyping sessions helped decide which product was the most feasible and doable. It also got us a bit closer to the specific design – although we obviously won’t use sponge pads in the final product!
With this prototype, we were now ready to present our product at our first Dragon’s Den – more on that later!