Industrial designers shape our world through products, services, and experiences.
Today we have vastly more powerful tools and deeply insightful methods at our fingertips, allowing industrial designers to inform the creative process as never before. As observers of user needs and identifiers of market expectations, they have a vital role to play in meeting challenges of the future.
Each year, the Association of Chartered Industrial Designers of Ontario (ACIDO) hosts a province-wide competition to bring together Ontario’s top industrial design graduates to pitch their solutions targeted at our present and future challenges. To gain a better understanding of their approach, we caught up with the Award of Excellence winner Aaron Bavle of Humber College to discuss his creative process.
SK : Please briefly describe your project.
AB : My project, Solace, is construction workwear which is integrated with an innovative fall arrest harness designed to mitigate the risk of injury during and after a fall. The fall arrest components within the workwear are designed to make this protective equipment more comfortable to wear, easier to don, and most importantly, safer in the event of a fall.
SK : What inspired the concept for your project?
AB : I used to work in the construction/scaffolding industry, so I have firsthand experience wearing traditional safety harnesses. Thankfully, I’ve never fallen while wearing one, but I’m well aware of the serious injuries, such as suspension trauma, that can occur if that were to happen. Aside from the injury potential, I also know that current harnesses on the market are pretty uncomfortable to wear and can be a real pain to put on. Seeing as how many people wear this equipment on a daily basis, I thought there were some real opportunities to try and design a better solution.
SK : Can you provide a brief overview of your creative process?
AB : The first and perhaps most important step of the process was to learn everything I could about my primary users and their field of work. This involved many interviews and on-site field observations with people in the construction and safety industries, which essentially helped me define the problems I was going to try and solve for them. From there, I made myself aware of currently available safety harnesses and their shortcomings before putting pen to paper and generating preliminary concepts.
SK : What were some challenges you had to overcome?
AB : I think initially it was really daunting to come up with tangible ways to improve a piece of equipment which hasn’t seen dramatic change in many years. Most safety harnesses function in essentially the same way, so it was challenging to rethink the way a safety harness looks and functions without affecting the end users’ trust and confidence in their equipment.
SK : Did you encounter any “lightbulb” moments (ie. moments of clarity)?
AB : There were many “lightbulb” moments along the way! Perhaps the most significant one occurred when I asked myself the following questions: “Do these groin straps really need to be there? Is there a better way to support the user’s weight?” After that moment, the design process really took off and I realized that I might be heading towards a feasible, realistic solution.
SK : Is there any other part of your creative process that you would like to speak to?
AB : My favorite part of the entire process was when it came time to do some ergonomic testing of my final concept. Since I was developing a product designed to function under tension and stress, I needed to physically test it on a real human body. Needless to say, volunteers weren’t exactly lining up so I found myself dangling from ceiling girders in my school’s hallway between classes. End result: overwhelming success, despite the sore back.
SK : What are your plans for the future? What’s next?
AB : I’m really glad to be finished with my schooling and pleased to say that I’m working as an exhibit designer here in Toronto. I’ve received some extremely positive feedback from the public and industry alike regarding Solace, so I’m currently thinking about the realities of potentially pushing it towards production. For the time being, I’m just grateful to be employed in the design industry and I’m excited for whatever the future may hold!