A prototype for a product design class, mɛnd began as an assigned research project on the history of an essential tool of each student's choosing. After extensive research, we were instructed to develop different ways of redesigning the object. Because of my interest in sewing, I chose a sewing needle, and spent hours measuring the needle, drawing plans and elevations and isometric projections, and interviewing people on their own experience with the object. It was an interesting experience and definitely helpful in my decisions for my final product. I knew that I couldn't redesign something that had worked so well for so may thousands of years, but I could redesign the way it and ideas associated with sewing were presented.
The challenges I faced when working on this project were both physical and conceptual. Each student had to establish an identity as a designer, and select a few designers they felt aligned with their ideals and opinions on the design process. I chose designers Marc Newson and Karim Rashid, for their interest in incorporating technology in design, as well as their frequent use of bright colors and whimsical forms. I also strongly agreed with their opinions on giving enough value to an object that it will be treasured, rather than replaced. We also had to establish a specific worldview and objective and gauge whether or not our products and packaging were accomplishing our objectives and upholding our chosen worldview. I decided that my worldview was one that supported changing the actions of others by changing the way they think, and that individuals could be influenced through education and inspiration. We were directed to use our packaging to make a critical statement about the typical aims of product packaging design that aligned with our worldview. This affected both my final product and packaging decision.
After this hurdle, my next challenge became struggling with materials. After presentation and feedback from my peers on the product, I decided my original idea, though interesting, was a bit conceptually redundant, and that both it and sewing in general needed to be re-branded in a way to appeal to my target audience --young people who want to learn to sew (see my SPÜL project when available for more details). Eventually I decided that a simple sewing kit was the right direction for the project. After a variety of experiments with materials I knew I wanted to incorporate something that really mystified myself and others throughout the construction processes of our projects: kerfed wood. Kerfing involves cutting lines and patterns into or through pieces of wood to make them curve. I designed my own pattern, using 1/8 inch plywood, and used the resulting wood for the case of the kit; I wanted the kit to roll up into a pouch shape, and was heavily inspired by tool belts, and I felt this both helped neutralized the gender of an activity that is typically considered feminine and gave some novelty to the product that made it fun to interact with. Then, to brighten things up a bit, I decided on a very saturated red fabric for the inner pocket, and the container for the different tools was complete.
My next task was to decide exactly *what* I would put into this kit besides needles. After making note of what tools are typically sold in sewing kits and what tools my peers and others reported using the most, I chose to include needles, pins, buttons, basic thread colors, measuring tape, and scissors. I wanted the product to lie as flat as possible, and I purchased and organized each object with that in mind. I also aimed to create visual consistency by keeping all the colors of materials I could silver or brown (I was unable to find thin enough cardboard to do this for the paper holding the needles and pins, but they are also intended to be a natural brown color). I chose to exclude items like a thimble or needle sharpener to keep things basic, and because my target audience reported not using these items very often if/when sewing.
In addition to my pursuit of flatness and visual consistency, I also wanted the entire kit to be engaging and educational for the user. Because of this, I decided to include the kerfed wood, a pair of folding scissors, and packaging that was both interactive (shown in photo grid) had pictorial instructions on basic sewing stitches, like hem and running stitches, as well as branding and other information that highlighted the educational nature of the product, like the organization of things to appear similar to dictionary entries. I wanted as many elements of the product to be tactile and whimsical and engaging and fun for the user, to accommodate the reportedly shorter attention span of my target audience and keep them excited about continuing to use the product; hence, the kerfed wood, folding scissors, and adorable shirt and pants design of the box. I also made sure to include the educational elements on the inside of the packaging--rather than on the product itself--to give value to the packaging and make it less likely to be thrown away.
In the end, I had a product that both I and my target audience were satisfied with. I plan to create more iterations of it in the future and hopefully sell the product to other young people to encourage the development of a valuable skill that is useful in helping the environment, saving money, and using clothing as a means of self expression.