The Inside Track for Transport Designers

By Catherine
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Written by Catherine Bolgar

 

Global car ownership passed the one billion mark in 2010, with more than one vehicle per person in the U.S. and much of Europe. Yet despite the fact that Europeans and Americans waste an annual average of 111 hours in traffic jams, public transportation ridership rose only 8% in the European Union and 15% in the U.S. and Canada between 2000 and 2012

Why don’t we design an experience that would beat cars?” asks Bruce Mau, co-founder of Massive Change Network, a Chicago design studio. “Let’s make something that’s exciting for people and makes them want to use it.”

Underground metro systems have installed art, Wi-Fi and heated seats; bus services are now trying similar approaches. Some Paris bus stops, for example, now boast Wi-Fi and charging stations, coffee, bus ticket sales and neighborhood information.

But buses are fighting against the so-called track effect. “People seem to consider vehicles running on tracks as more solid, almost no matter what you do to improve bus services,” says Andreas Røhl, an urban-transport specialist at Gehl Architects in Copenhagen.

If you put in tracks, people will know or feel that this will stay here, it’s a permanent thing,” he adds. “If you’re a developer, then you’re sure this new mode of public transport will stay here.”

Planners can, however, overcome such concerns. Curitiba, in southern Brazil, for example, applied designs used in metros to buses in the 1970s, to create bus rapid transit (BRT). The city’s long, articulated buses run along an exclusive road corridor. They have extra doors to speed access. Tube-shaped bus stations are raised so passengers don’t need to climb steps to board, and fares are paid on entering the station, rather than the bus, further saving time.

“They got the carrying capacity of a subway at about one-hundredth of the cost,” Mr. Mau says.

About 70% of Curitiba commuters take buses, which carry as many as 11,000 passengers per hour during peak times. And that pales compared with Bogotá, Colombia, which tops the BRT ridership ranks with 45,000 passengers per hour. BRT has now been adopted by more than 150 cities world-wide.

This level of efficiency is possible thanks in part to better vehicle interior design, which varies according to local need, says Andrew Nash, director of Vienna-based GreenCityStreets.com. For example, urban vehicles should be open, with few seats, so people can get on and off quickly, while on suburban routes, riders sit for longer requiring more comfortable seats, he says.

Although comfort and convenience are important, designers cannot just focus on amenities. Mr. Nash recalls a San Francisco company whose buses were fitted with Wi-Fi and USB ports, which went bankrupt after just two months.

Instead, design needs to optimize processes such as more efficient fare-collection machines, and information technology that provides precise arrival information, he says. Applications such as Ridescout lay out a range of travel options, such as walking, biking, driving and public transportation, and calculate the time, money and calories involved.

“Life in the city is increasingly about using different choices at different times,” says Jarrett Walker, president of Jarrett Walker & Associates, a public-transit consultancy in Portland, Ore., and author of the book Human Transit. “It gets us away from imagining that transport options are like teams we belong to: bus riders or bikers or drivers.”

It’s important therefore that we “don’t assume that some sort of design choice—a nicer bus, Wi-Fi, nicer shelters—solves public transport’s problem,” Mr. Walker says. “The problem may be that the service is just useless, that it doesn’t run where needed or at times it’s needed. Network planning has to make sure it’s useful for people.”

“Useful” generally means “frequent,” he adds. “The biggest problem is waiting. We have to design the network around frequency.”

To have frequent and full buses, public transportation needs high-density urban areas, where parking is expensive and inconvenient, and where access to public transit is just a short walk away.

Urban planners can increase density along mass-transit corridors, as has happened, for example, in Toronto as well as Curitiba. “There are ways you can control development around the transit,” to put riders near lines, Mr. Mau says. “That kind of density management is what transit people should be designing.”

In this way, we can challenge the widespread assumption that car travel is always fastest, followed by metro trains or light rail, with buses the slowest. Bus rapid transit in city centers averages 16 to 18 kilometers per hour (kph), which is faster than the 12 kph average of cars in Beijing, though slower than the 25 kph in New York and Singapore. Buses can travel as quickly and reliably as subways if given dedicated corridors, Mr. Walker says.

In fact, it is cars that tend to slow mass transit, by double-parking, blocking tram tracks or just generally creating traffic jams.

It’s not fair that one person in a car has the same right to road space as 50 people in a bus,” Mr. Nash says. “But it’s politically difficult to say we’re giving priority to buses because there are more people on them.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Shifting Design Process: The Cassiopeia Camera Experience

By Estelle
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Understanding the needs of multidisciplinary creative teams

This Article has been written by Teshia Treuhaft and originally appeared at Core 77

The evolution of design as a professional practice is one regularly impacted by developments in other fields. As designers, we often sit squarely between disciplines, streamlining and humanizing products for greater usability and appeal in the end result.

Never has the requirement to work between disciplines been as important as it is today. As industrial design becomes increasingly interwoven with service design, user experience design, engineering, manufacturing and more—designers must act as the bonding agent for teams producing innovative products.

In an effort to further understand these emerging hybrid teams of designers, managers and engineers, companies are going as far as studying the trend of co-creation to optimize for social ideation and more collaboration. Likewise, with the speed of technology and pace of product development, having tools and solutions that allow companies to build faster is proving a greater advantage than ever before.

 

In order to research the way teams work from the inside out, Dassault Systèmes put together a creative team to design the Cassiopeia Camera Experience. Cassiopeia is a concept for a connected camera that has the functionality of a digital SLR, and allows the user to sketch over photos and scan objects or textures. The team took Cassiopeia from inspiration phase to design validation, allowing Dassault Systèmes to gather first-hand knowledge of the needs of each team member and design solutions that directly enhance social ideation and creative design among the group.

Cassiopeia Camera Experience

Using this research, it becomes clear as the project progresses through different phases, that the requirements of each contributor change and communication between parties gains complexity. While each phase builds on the next, a well equipped team will be able to regularly come together during each phase for design validation.

We decided to take a deeper look at development of the Cassiopeia project for unique insight into the inner workings of a team—one that is not only building a product but a holistic experience.

Inspiration Phase

The inspiration phase of any product demands input from a number of key players inside and outside the company. This is often done by compiling references in the form of articles, visuals, sketches and more. A product manager typically leads this phase, however every member of the team can provide valuable input at this fledgling stage.

Team gathers references and inspiration to define key functions of the product

Communication at the inspiration phase must support amassing source material and then distillation until a key concept emerges. The inspiration phase is particularly important for connected devices like Cassiopeia. In this case, the design team faces not only the task of designing the camera, but also the connected functionality. The complex use cases and physicality of the product must be developed in tandem during this phase for a unified end user experience.

Ideation Phase

Once the inspiration is clear to the team, the work of narrowing the idea down to a discrete set of requirements is the next step. This ideation phase moves the product from discussion of the concept into a physical form for the first time. For this phase, creative designers are tasked to visualize the product for the team, iterate together and repeat.

Rough sketches gives the product a form factor that can discussed and refined at later stages

Sketching in this phase is essential. It allows the team to understand possible variations and begin to make decisions about a number of factors. During ideation, the ergonomic and functional aspects of Cassiopeia merge for the first time into a rough form factor that can be communicated to the team.

Concept Design Phase

Once the product is visualized for the first time using the 3D sketches, the next step is to model the product at scale. An industrial designer will typically model the product in 3D, testing and refining design variations from the ideation phase.

An industrial designer adds scale and refines features of device. 

With Cassiopeia, this is the phase where shapes begins to emerge and the conversation about the product shifts from conceptual to physical. The goals of the design must be clarified and communicated clearly so that the product can seamlessly transition from a design into a physical object that can be considered from a manufacturability standpoint.

Detail Design Phase

Once the industrial designer has taken the design from concept sketch to 3D model, a design engineer takes the model and considers it from engineering and manufacturing perspective. This shift from design of the device to engineering of the device is a careful balance to retain as much of the original concept for the form factor as possible.

Foresight during the detail design phase offers ease of manufacturing and greater success in the final product.

This is a key matter of communication between the engineer and designer in order to deliver a product that not only is aesthetically aligned with the inspiration – but also can be manufactured. For Cassiopeia, this requires a seemingly subtle but highly important refinement of surfaces and geometry.

Design Validation Phase

In the final step, the team must simulate the product in order to engage in discussion and finalize the design. Design validation occurs both in the final steps and at regular intervals during the development. There are two main forms this validation takes, led by a visual experience designer and a physical prototyper. A visual experience designer will create a number of detailed renders, while the physical prototyper will develop physical 3D models.

Visualizing decisions is essential to engage key players inside and outside the team

For Cassiopeia this is a key phase as the camera has a number of complex parts, surfaces and functions. Regular design validation throughout the process gives access to all members of the team to make decisions about the final product. When collaboration is managed well, the multidisciplinary team will arrive at the validation phase having shared expertise at each step of the design process. As a result, the final prototype is a true reflection of their shared vision and is reached more quickly than ever before.

The development process of any electronic device is challenging for teams looking to innovate in their respective spheres. As consumer’s expectations increase for well-designed objects that provide comprehensive product experiences, the ability of teams to collaborate and move quickly will be increasingly valuable. The extent to which teams can effectively collaborate will be a defining factor for success – both for the team and the products they create.

To read more about Dassault Systèmes Solutions and Social Ideation and Creative Design, check out their website and webinar.

The art of making do

By Catherine
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Written by Catherine Bolgar


Lemons
 

When life gives you lemons, some make lemonade; others use the lemon juice to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis. Indeed, researchers at the German Cancer Research Center found that putting lemon juice on contaminated food or surfaces could be a cheap, practical and safe way to stop the spread of novoviruses, which cause gastroenteritis outbreaks, typically in hospitals, cruise ships and schools.

People who design solutions using simple materials are often called MacGyvers, named after the TV secret agent who would extricate himself from dangerous situations using only the materials to hand.

In India, such innovation is known as jugaad in Hindi. One jugaad pioneer is Ravidranath Tongaonkar, a surgeon in rural India, who substituted mosquito netting for expensive surgical mesh in the 1990s to repair groin hernias.

The idea spread. In Uganda, a piece of surgical mesh can cost $125  and patients often have to buy it themselves before an operation, says Jenny Löfgren, a medical doctor whose doctorate thesis at Umea University in Sweden examined the efficacy of mosquito mesh in Uganda.

However, when mosquito netting is cut to the right size, washed in water with a mild detergent and then disinfected for 30 minutes in an autoclave, it can do the job, Dr. Löfgren says. It’s important because out of 220 million hernias in the world, only 20 million receive operations. “And those who receive surgery in low- and middle-income settings are operated on with less-effective methods than in high-income countries,” she says.

The findings from our study will address and provide a solution for the inequality of surgery.”

Commonplace items are used for unintended purposes in a wide variety of situations world-wide. Cigarette ash has been deployed to removed 96% of arsenic from water, according to scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hefei and King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Brazilian scientists have used banana peel to extract heavy metals such as lead and copper from water. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have used polyacrylate, a cheap, absorbent material found in diapers, to swell brain samples, making them easier to view under regular microscopes thus dispensing with the need for high-tech super-resolution microscopes. Another MIT team found that paraffin wax didn‘t just seal fruit preserves and jams, but was also a cheap way to encase chemical reagents to isolate them from oxygen, carbon dioxide or water. This allows for pre-measured “grab and go” capsules that don’t need an expensive inert storage container.

While Mr. MacGyver usually had to rely on paper clips and duct tape, today’s lab scientists have access to 3D printers—or at least know-how to make them. Consider the example of Michigan Technical University Prof. Joshua Pearce, who first made a self-replicating rapid (RepRap) 3D printer for about $500, that was comparable to $20,000 models.

He wanted to 3D print inexpensive versions of scientific equipment, such as open-source syringe pumps used in labs to discharge precise quantities of chemicals, in industry as 3D printing tool heads, and in hospitals to deliver medication.

The 3D printer uses open script-based computer-aided design, or SCAD, that calculates automatically the proportions for syringes of any size (whether pushing out tiny droplets or concrete). “You put in which size syringe you want and the size of the motor, and the parametric program automatically scales it and gives you the parts you need to print,” Dr. Pearce says.

You can customize the design, print out the files, then 3D print all the plastic parts, buying the few remaining parts at any hardware store, he says. The pump’s “brain” is an inexpensive credit-card size computer, the Raspberry Pi, which runs open-source software.

The free design and low-cost materials “make it possible for anyone to design a high-end syringe pump that might cost $2,000, for about $100,” Dr. Pearce says. “If a hospital in a developing country needs a high-end syringe pump, they can make it.”

The open-source software allows any changes to be widely shared. For example, the software was adapted to Arduino, an open-source electronics platform used on some 3D printers.

“Something you learn from engineering is you can design something exactly the way you want,” Dr. Pearce says. “Today, with open-source designs and easy access to prototype RepRap 3D printers, where you start is you go to the Web and download designs. You can stand on the shoulders of giants and your MacGyverism is taking that and applying it to a completely new application.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Photos courtesy of iStock



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