"Don't touch that, it's yucky!" is becoming too common a refrain these days (at least to a parent of a toddler). Never before has navigating through daily life come with so many decisions. Should I touch the ATM with my finger or key? What if I forgot my hand sanitizer and need to stop by the grocery store? Did the store clerk wipe down the door handle recently?
As professional problem solvers (industrial designers, engineers) we see these new challenges as opportunities to improve daily life through design. We noticed that there are a number of "no-touch" product solutions attempting to address how to interact with common/shared surfaces safely. All of the products we saw neglected a fundamental issue: Where does a no-touch tool go after you use it? Typically designed as brass keychains these tools would be placed in a pocket, clipped to clothing or placed on or in a bag thereby transferring the contaminants/microbes to other items and to the user. In addition, we realized that there was an opportunity to develop a more elegant, desirable design solution. An added incentive to pursuing the product design was to learn more about and to take on the process of building a crowdfunding and social marketing campaign.
Problem Definition and Design Iteration
Working remotely, like much of the country (and world), we began by further researching the current market of pandemic tools and user feedback for existing items. We spoke with friends and family as well as colleagues in marketing and sales. After defining and agreeing upon the problem and goals we then brainstormed functional solutions. Collaborative sketching (via Zoom) allowed us to arrive at a retractable design solution that addressed the issues of contamination as well as minimizing the footprint of the tool so that it was as thin as possible to fit in the pocket. From there we moved into CAD to delve into the mechanical details and to refine the aesthetic. Mechanically, we focused on getting the sliding action to feel precise, smooth and premium. A spring loaded release was developed to lock the hook in place when in use.
We quickly iterated through a number of versions using our 3D printer (with one team member coming into the studio to pick up the parts) until we had a design that looked and felt right. From there we began working with a local machine shop to fabricate a prototype in the correct materials (6061 aluminum and brass, which we then sent out for hard anodizing and laser etching), Have a physical prototype in production materials allowed us to further refine the part tolerances and to get additional user feedback.
In addition we worked with our marketing partner on the name and logo concept for the tool and developed the final logo design in house. As we developed naming concepts we made sure that a web domain was available and put a "coming soon"page in place to get the ball rolling.
Design for Manufacture and Sourcing
Upon reviewing the machined prototype we realized that some tweaks were needed to improve the sliding action of the retractable hook and to capture refinements to the parts for manufacture. Updates were made to the prototype as well as the CAD model and a drawing package was put together to share with vendors for discussion.
After several rounds of emails and phone calls to domestic and international manufacturers we settled on a production partner who is willing to work with our minimum order requirements and cost target. To arrive at our costing we worked out all of the manufacturing logistics (part and assembly costs, packaging, shipping/duty, etc.).
Now that we had a path to production we could turn our focus to building a campaign to get the word out.. We were able to do photography and videography in-house (thanks to the talent of our mechanical engineering colleague Ben Matzke) and worked with a local marketing group on the strategy and placement of social media ads and posts on Facebook, Instagram and other sites. We also reached out to friends, colleagues, and professional contacts and family (for those of you reading this, thank you in advance!) to spread the word.
With the groundwork laid, we're ready to launch and look forward to putting the Purus tool into production! Check out the kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/purus/purus-no-touch-tool