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Refining the tools for production – Successes, tricky decisions and compromises

The successes at this point included progress made on the commenters. We had refined the notch design to ensure the shapes were a usable size which didn’t interfere with an A6 card when they interlocked

These could be pinned down also with tent pegs through the slots created for elastic braces. We decided with Helen to use a palette of purple, orange and green to provide an aesthetically pleasing frame for white card, as well as greatest contrast between the card and each other, meeting extra needs for people experiencing colour blindness.

Success has also included progress made on the materials and production approach for the zoners. Having initially considered Correx for the pins, we explored a number of solutions including metal frames, Aluminium composite and MDF. The best of the solutions appears to be foamalux for its weatherproofing, light weight and durability.  An iroko stake will support the foamalux pin shapes. An ongoing challenge is how best to refine larger pin shapes so they don’t act as a sail in the wind, blowing away and/or pulling the stake out the ground.

Our initial deadline for completion had been just ahead of Dutch Design Week. However, as the date edged closer, it was becoming apparent that too few elements of both tools were resolved well enough to start production.

How had this happened? Leading on from the first prototype and subsequent development, the needs and capabilities of both tools had grown.  This was good because it was the result of checking how well the tools might support Helen’s work. With such an open-ended project brief for tool creation, it seemed pertinent to meet this need as best as possible. However, the scope was now far exceeding the time and resource available to fully address all of the elements including time for rigorous tests and iterations.

New elements included:

  • a custom made bag for the commenters to store, transport and present to participants
  • a question and response tool for participants to use at the site of each zoner.

Likewise, balancing the needs for permanence, weather proofing, safety and theft deterrent, with portable, transportable and storable capabilities presented an ongoing challenge within the materials budget available. This was compounded by a growing list of elements each having to meet those needs. Approaches to branding on to the tools also required further time and resource.

It was frustrating to realise that heavy compromises may need to be made over what was practically achievable. However, with the opportunity to continue this project into a second stage, elements dropped at this point, including an inspiration manual and the question and response tool mentioned above, could be re-introduced for development later.

The photos show the team testing the first verion of the wooden stakes. Unfortunately we quickly realised that the design would not withstand being hammered into the ground more than several times, meaning a re-think of how the wooden stake would go into the floor was necessary.

Hayley Alter & Sarah Pickard