In 2013, while working freelance for a Boston-area design firm, I worked on an under-faucet-mounted filter system for a well-known water products company.
The challenge here was to take existing filter parts and modify them for a new interaction in a new industrial design. The fluid flow feature size and shape needed to be optimized for performance, while still fitting inside a design the client really liked. Beyond that, this had to be accomplished with a minimum number of parts, concealed and minimal seams, and a small electronics package and button underneath. I have one, but just for decoration. It turned out really well, I think.
You can buy it here. I don’t get any money from this.
What i’m doing right now does not qualify, at least not by my past standards. In the long long ago, when i was working on this, i was routinely showing up to work at 7:30, leaving at 7:30, and coming in on weekends. i tested the prototypes until my hands bled, i watched the video replays until my eyes glazed and i whiteboarded the points of failure until i went insane. It was incredibly valuable to making me really good at what i do (read: i wasn’t quite good enough when i started the project), even if it was a maddeningly near-miss attempt at making a strangely conceived product.
At the time, though, i had nothing better to do. No video games to get sucked into, plenty of time left to go out drinking with friends. Sometimes i broke up those quiet Saturdays in by bringing my bike to Maynard and riding for 40 miles before retrieving the de rigeur McDonald’s feast. There wasn’t anything i would rather be doing, ultimately. i wanted that next answer most of all.
And it’s not entirely different now; i mean, when things aren’t working, i’m preoccupied with the need to put things right and soon. At the same time, though, those pushes five years ago took a lot out of me. It’s not that i can’t still hit it hard; i’m still hauling ass for nine hours a day, but at the end i go home. Not because i’m done, but because i’ve learned that whatever you’re doing outside of work, even if it’s stupid and objectively pointless, it’s important (obviously it’s easier to remember that with a significant other). Because if you sit down at home and forget what you used to do with your spare time, then you probably suck at work and don’t even realize it. The other half of it is the confidence that comes with experience. That the answers will come. They may be bad answers that tell you your idea is bad and won’t ever work, but they are obtainable if you ask the right questions. When you have a hard job, not every day can be a good day, but your bad days damn well aren’t going to get better if one’s blending into the next.
So even if my shit ain’t working, i’m still probably going home at 6. even if i’m just going to lie on the floor and have a staring contest with the cat. ‘Cause maybe the cat knows the answer.
(The answer is meow.)
In 2014, while working freelance at Boston Device Development in Newton, i helped KinderLab Robotics design, launch, and produce their KIBO robotic learning toy, a recent winner of a Parents’ Choice Magazine gold award.
KIBO was redesigned from the wheels up from a proof-of-concept prototype, to be a durable, playful toy that evokes the indestructible wooden toys of yore (while packed with electronics), while still sticking to a cost that schools and educators and parents can afford. With a simple, yet easily understood modular architecture, kids can build the robot with sophisticated sensors and sweet-looking artwork and then use special wooden blocks to feed it its marching orders and send it off to do their bidding. Or better still, figure out why it might’ve done something else.
disclaimer: the owners of the work depicted herein have no association whatsoever with the rest of this website.
Between 2011 and 2014, I worked on numerous single-cup coffee brewer designs for the leading manufacturer of them. Some of these are ubiquitous, others were obscure or for overseas markets. Others not shown were never produced, for reasons.
Work on these products included part breakup and ID implementation, design-for-assembly strategy, cup mechanism designs, fluid path design, drip trays and water tanks, carafes, and concept development.
Small home brewer
Deluxe home brewer
Office brewing system
Large thermal carafe
A well-known brand of consumer appliances needed some engineering work done on a lid and pitcher system to go with a forthcoming modular blender motor product. While the cup-shaped vessel for smoothies and things was an easy fit, a pitcher and lid with socket was a more complicated product. It needed to nest together neatly, incorporate safety interlocks, accommodate safe pouring, and seal against flying liquid.
In 2011, I worked on a project for a national brand of marine pump products that was looking to expand into the household market using their existing, proven pump technology.
They came to us with some preconceived notions of how much performance they would get with existing pump and battery selections versus their hypothetical use case. Experiments and benchmarking showed that likely performance would be far short of what their marketing research suggested would sell. Beyond the need for a larger battery, they needed to provide a larger pump head for household use than for marine use (picture pumping out a basement versus a dinghy). We came up with multiple new configurations using their existing technology, and breadboarded proof-of-concept systems to show that they delivered.
After that, my colleagues generated a rugged, user-friendly, stable industrial design, that could be thrown into the flooded space and left to do its job. Implementation of this as a part-waterproof, part-immersed housing with low cost parts and a minimum number of tools was a fun challenge.
I never bought one, and the project ended short of completion, partially because my former employer shut my office down, but the end product still looks like what we were working on. Hope everybody that bought one liked it. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available.