When it came time to look for a summer internship, I really wanted to find something that would help me explore the various aspects of supply chain management. With that in mind, I felt like interning for a larger scale company wouldn’t be ideal because I would likely be limited to a narrower role with fewer activities.Continue reading
About 2 years ago I tried to shoe ski down a huge, snowy, slick hill on my way to class (as any college kid would), which resulted in me falling pretty hard on some ice. After my fall, I experienced sharp and persistent pain in my hip.Continue reading
Looking at the bigger picture has always been a tendency of mine. I’ve shaped who I am today, in part, because of my inclination to question ideals, motives, and systems around me. I think it’s a big part of what drew me to industrial design—I love the discussion around what makes a well-designed product. I love the questioning.Continue reading
During the first few weeks of our internship, we heard talk of an intern project and a running joke about how the birdhouse is coming along. Around our last month at Tekna, we were given the project brief. The mission was to create a birdhouse for the back patio—but not just any old birdhouse.Continue reading
Before my graphic design internship, my experience was limited to branding, marketing, and some web design then I came across Tekna’s internship opportunityContinue reading
/ SPARKLING BEVERAGE MAKER
KitchenAid® Sparkling Beverage Maker Powered by SodaStream allows you to make refreshing, homemade carbonated drinks in eye-catching fashion.
Our engineers participated in benchmarking, concept development, refinement, a-surface modelling, analysis, pilot production run, mechanical development, CAD modelling, detailed drawings, and supplier interaction. Design credit: KitchenAid®
NATURAL BORN GRILLER
Research / Industrial Design / Engineering / Production
We were challenged with helping Traeger’s vision to develop a new flagship grill with improved craftsmanship, reimagined aesthetics, an advanced, wifi enabled user interface, improved cooking performance, and a cooking capacity for a family to cook a complete meal.
At the beginning of this project, we conducted secondary research on BBQ and pellet grills through blogs, websites, and collecting competitive information. We also spent time in the field, allowing us to travel to stores in different states that sell obscure pellet grills. The highlight of our field research came from interviews with leading industry influencers such as Danielle Bennett (Diva Q) and Cameron Treu (Bam Bam). We even participated with Bam Bam at the Nevada State BBQ Championship (Best Dam BBQ Challenge). These discussions and insights from observing what it takes to make great BBQ, led us to hypotheses on the science of smoke and smoke utilization as well as the BBQ culture and a griller’s expected experience.
Alongside exploring the design aesthetics of this new flagship grill, the team established methods to investigate and measure their hypotheses around smoke utilization. Proof of function prototypes were fabricated and data was collected and analyzed to help guide the team toward appropriate solutions. To ensure the aesthetics were hitting the mark, multiple iterations of mock-ups were presented to research participants to gather end user feedback and ensure we were delivering on Traeger’s brand values and executive team’s goals.
Tekna partnered with DornerWorks, our embedded electronics partner as well as an app and web development firm, OvenBits, to design and execute the Traeger WiFIRE System. This system allows the grill to be an IoT device, with cloud server and app based remote control. Our design team led the GUI development, managing the workflow, language, and graphics for what might be the most advanced grill control in the industry.
In addition to the electrical, app and cloud development, we delivered fully developed CAD models to Traeger’s supplier and supported the product commercialization with performance testing, pre-production assembly, collaboration with Traeger’s Chinese supply base, and first part approval.
THE PERFECT MIX OF POWER & DURABILITY
Animation / Branding / Graphic Design / Packaging / Industrial Design / Engineering / Production
We’ve all been there. Working on a project in a dimly lit garage or making minor home repairs in tight spaces. Poor lighting and the inability to see your work can make these jobs impossible to complete, and at times, simply dangerous. Proper lighting makes all work tasks safer and easier. Appropriate lighting, without glare or shadows, can reduce eye fatigue and headaches. It can also prevent workplace accidents by increasing the visibility of moving machinery and other safety hazards.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? However, many types of industrial lighting solutions in automotive dealerships and repair facilities have primarily focused on ceiling-mounted applications, without considering many of the regular tasks that are performed with the car overhead. Professional mechanics face this challenge every day, often making the best of what is available, and sacrificing their personal safety and efficiency.
DCI Lighting saw this opportunity and asked the question, “What if lighting could be reinvented from the ground – up?”
We always stress the importance of leveraging key design elements to communicate a brand’s story. With some forethought, this can be done without adding significant cost to the product. Graphic identity, badging, packaging, and IFUs convey quality, value, and connect with a consumer on an emotional level.
While engineering testing was underway, our brand team was able to look at the overall visual identity and suggest ways to improve strategic messaging. We developed a brand hierarchy, logos, badging, packaging, and marketing collateral that aligned with the product’s value proposition.
As we moved closer to product launch, digital material, website, e-commerce, and social media became key deliverables, centered around the positioning statement “Lighting Reinvented from the Ground Up.” The product was officially unveiled at the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, with a custom trade-show booth designed to immerse visitors in the context and environment of a professional garage, featuring a full-size display of the undercarriage of an automobile. Looping videos with early end-customer research further enhanced the Helios story.
Industrial Design / Human Factors / Engineering
Avegant’s Glyph is the world’s first personal theater designed with lightweight portability, rich audio, and amazingly precise video. We worked with the Avegant team to provide ergonomic adjustments and industry-leading aesthetics. We created functional prototypes and alpha units that were tested and released for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. The team took home a CES Editor’s Choice Award and a video spot on USA Today. Since then, the Glyph has evolved and went on to win the Best of CES Award in 2016.
Avegant’s proprietary display technology is really not a display at all. An image is projected directly onto the user’s retina through millions of micromirrors and reflected light. This technology replicates the way we see and interpret the world around us, thus creating the most natural and comfortable viewing experience on the market.
The functional engineering prototype, above, affectionately named the “steam punk proto,” provided an excellent demonstration of the Glyph’s core virtual retinal display technology. This prototype lacked user-friendly ergonomic adjustments and a desirable form factor. With the optics and circuit boards undergoing a new round of development at Avegant, Tekna focused its initial efforts on adjusting the headset to fit a wide range of head shapes and sizes. Critical anthropometric data were collected and studied. User studies were performed to refine interaction positions and inputs.
Our goals were reliability, comfort and style. After the basic prototype direction was defined, detailed part-design and assemble methodology was explored. Throughout the process, there was a concentrated effort to maintain a robust design and yet reduce size, weight and part count.
In parallel, other team members benchmarked competitive product by exploring design elements, materials choices, manufacturing methods and branding messages. This research, along with input from Avegant, served as the foundation for the Glyph’s personality and aesthetic development.
Several rounds of detailed part assemblies were built with parametric modeling software. Each round concluded with rapid prototyped, proof-of-concept models tested by users, media, and investors across the country. The acoustic cavity received additional attention from partners in California and Austria to define Avegant’s signature sound and noise cancelation system. The revolutionary technology and user adjustment challenges meant that this system could only be designed from the inside out. Unique mechanisms allowing smooth interpupilary distance and diopter lens adjustments were created and then carefully packaged within the global design. Those adjustments were critical to aligning the micromirrors with the user’s retina. Without proper positioning, the viewing experience was compromised. Circuit boards were strategically positioned for performance, interaction and system balance. Cables and wires were precisely routed, service loops were created and strain reliefs provided. The assembly of each subsystem was carefully planned.
Once the optics and circuit boards for the International Consumers Electronics Show prototypes were defined, the final aesthetic details were established. Renderings were created to communicate form, color, finish, and material. An international press release introduced these early images of the Glyph Alpha to the world. A month before the deadline, a test build was conducted in Austin, Texas. After two days, 43 necessary changes were identified and after an intense week of design, final part files were released for fabrication. CNC machines were fired up, 3D printers were initialed, and model makers were prepared. With over hundreds of parts to fabricate, this project required the orchestration of many partners to ensure delivery of successful prototypes.
Two weeks after releasing data, Avegant and Tekna team members gathered to build the first of 12 functional prototypes. After 16 hours of concentrated effort, the first working Glyph Alpha was born. In two more build sessions lasting several days (and nights), additional improvements were added. Finally, the remaining Alpha units were completed, tested, and released for the show.
Success was realized at CES as the Glyph received massive media attention. Reviewers raved about the Glyph’s revolutionary technology and superior performance. The team took home a CES Editor’s Choice Award and a video spot on USA Today. After celebrating the positive media response for a brief moment, dramatic visionary renderings illustrating the next phase of the technology were released in advance of a pending crowd funding campaign. It was time to do it all over again. Stay tuned for next chapter of the Avegant Glyph story.
WHEN CLOSENESS MATTERS
/ NARA BASSINET
Research / Human Factors / Industrial Design / Branding / Branding / Animation / Engineering / Production
The first moments of a newborn’s life are crucial for lifelong development. It is during this time that a mother bonds, skin-to-skin, with her child. Together they foster warmth and a stable heart rate for baby while establishing their first moments of connection. The Scandinavians have a term for this closeness – Nära.
The Nara bassinet was designed from the ground up as a new innovation in the Labor and Delivery department of the hospital. It was designed to bring mothers close to their newborns when it matters most and provide caregivers with a safe, ergonomic care solution.
Tekna recognized that the bassinet market has been relatively ignored for decades. Current bassinets can be described as one of two things: a wood filing cabinet or a metal filing cabinet on wheels. We started to ask the question, why are we pushing newborn babies around on filing cabinets?
We started our research at the source – with NICU and mother/baby nurses. We conducted one-on-one user interviews, focus group discussions, and took full-scale mockups into the field to get to the root of the frustrations. We heard complaints of bulkiness, uncleanliness, and inaccessibility that added up to an experience that was just plain clunky. We studied each person’s interactions and allowed their feedback to evolve our design. Some nurses were stooping and straining too much, others struggled to quietly and efficiently maneuver the bassinet, and mothers had trouble reaching for their babies from bed. It was clear we needed to develop a new solution.
We implemented our iterative prototyping processes and leveraged sketch exploration, CAD development, in-house 3D printing, and fabrication methods to refine the aesthetic and functionality. When we are challenged with a complex set of design constraints we don’t let our exploration get bogged down in a single process. Bouncing back-and-forth allows the development tools to inform one another, driving decisions and pushing the project forward.
We conducted comprehensive formative and summative usability testing with Labor/Delivery and NICU nursing staff, hospital environmental services, and new moms. Their overwhelmingly positive responses validated the final design and new features. Check out the video to see the team’s final solution.
As the product evolved, so did the brand, differentiating it in the market as approachable, caring, and inviting. Branding efforts included print material, animation, and video creation. The true value of experience that we were reinventing was taking shape but it needed a name, and ultimately we had to look outside the English language to capture its essence – Nara.
Altogether, initial user research, opportunity identification, and industrial design grew to mechanical engineering, regulatory support, branding, and manufacturing for a Class II medical device. The exciting value propositions presented by our end product captured the interest of a major medical device manufacturer that led to an OEM opportunity for Tekna. Our Realization crew worked tirelessly to ensure every bit of design intent was captured when we brought the product to life. We take pride in delivering this solution as locally designed and manufactured, leveraging a supply chain based predominantly in Michigan.
So far, hospital staff reactions view our solution as a much-needed innovation in the quality of care. Early sales have also been very positive, converting entire fleets of older bassinets with a demonstration of the new product. More to come…