When I scooted from Coventry station to Warwick Arts Centre last week for the amazing 3D modeling, 3D printing and generally world changingly cool things conference last week, I had no idea who I'd encounter or what they'd think about my speech about user focussed design on the startup stage this year.
I found an exciting industry in huge demand. They are the graphics people behind Games of Thrones, they generate the 3D moulds behind the future of oil drilling, they create the software behind the latest transport designs, adverts and engines. They're are clearly awesome. And it feels like there's a real desire to get strategy right, even radically so, to win long term battles and yet respond to new directions that are breaking out in the short term too. There was a serious buzz of friendly rivalry, competition, knowledge and care. It was a pleasure to behold.
One person startup
I, on the other hand, have spent the last year locked in my head, in no-budget startup mode, connected online with many people but, in reality, on my own. The daily niceties of office life, the range of clients to meet, the monthly, quarterly and annual forums or parties? All gone. I'd chosen to leave that and set up entirely on my own. Whilst that's perfect for my way of working, it takes turning up a conference to realise that you've been working on your own for a year. I was a little out of practice at human contact, I must say.
In the Riut place?
So what was I doing there? It's a design conference. And in the last year, despite no design or technical background, I designed my first product, the RiutBag. Why? Because all urban rucksacks are the wrong way round. The RiutBag, pronounced "riot bag", has no outer zips. They are all against your back for safe, calm city travel. I believe this reduces fear of crime, suspicion between people and alleviates stress in commuters and city travellers.
I was simply a rucksack user this time last year. That's the only thing that qualified me to have this idea and stand up on the stage at DEVELOP3D. In fact I believe, as the user of a rucksack, I have a greater understanding of the challenges associated with using it in context than even multimillion dollar research and development department. It took a Revolution in user thinking to make it. So I named my company: Riut.
So that's what I do outside conferences.
Non-tech startup vs tech design industry
I want to blog briefly about the exciting culture clash between a one person startup without a design background and a multi million dollar industry made of technical experts and designers.
Again and again the question came: "but what did you use to model the RiutBag?" It took me a moment to understand what they were saying. Did they mean a male or female human model? Did they mean materials? It took us a moment to speak the same language. They meant: "which software did you use to 3D model the RiutBag before you prototyped it?"
The one answer that couldn't be accepted at this conference, or online afterwards, was this: I didn't use any software to model it.
Pencil/pen and paper
I drew my design again and again by hand on paper. I worked really closely with the fantastic Annah Legg who understood what I was saying and drawing. She went straight to the sewing machine and starting working on the prototype based on our conversations and my drawings.
Every problem we encountered - like the dreaded bottle holder - created failures, solutions that simply weren't good enough, more drawings, more phone calls and finally a better solution.
As each prototype emerged, I knew we were going in the right direction. I loved each one and could see its potential. When we got to prototype three it was the RiutBag I had envisaged. It's the design I'd had in my head and the one I'd drawn.
That's how the RiutBag got from a sketch to the final prototype. Next blog: how we got from a prototype to the final manufactured version. Until then, here's the infographic version of the story [LINK].