In 2016, several groups of students from NUS Design and Environment’s Division of Industrial Design (DID) launched successful crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter for their creative solutions to everyday problems. More than a year on, their ideas have gone from prototype to product, with their creations shipped to customers around the world. For the two teams behind the KIN wallet and Aubergine pillow, the journey has been a challenging but rewarding one.
The team from KIN Studio — consisting of plucky Year 2 student Ng Ai Ling and final year student Lim Li Xue — developed the KIN wallet, which self-sorts coin and notes. Their design has earned them the Red Dot Design Concept 2017: Best of the Best Award.
The process so far has been a “most exciting and excruciating” one, according to the duo. The project required their utmost attention to detail. For instance, in refining their master sample before starting production, they spent days sourcing materials and comparing prices, to ensure they found the right materials within their price range for the product.
The team candidly admitted to teething issues in the early stages of the fulfilment process; a major one being lack of communication, causing some disgruntlement and anger among their backers.
“Initially, we were afraid to share any updates because we did not have good news or progress to share. We were also trying to resolve some issues faced during the production stage. We were afraid of being open with our progress because we felt that we were not performing up to expectations,” said Ai Ling. When they finally gathered the courage to explain their situation, things improved.
Grit was necessary to get through these obstacles, the team shared. “Every day there will be something to bring you down. Being optimistic and persevering until the very end is the most challenging and important aspect that we need in order to make progress,” said Li Xue.
They are en route to fulfilling their 4,746 orders, and they are not resting on their laurels. They hope to develop new products, including different versions of the current wallet. “As designers, we wish to continue to produce lifestyle products that are ‘Designed in Singapore (and) Made for the World’, which is our motto!” Li Xue said.
The Aubergine pillow, named for its vegetable-like shape, is the brainchild of four DID students — recent graduate Hor Sue Xian, Year 4 students John Teo and Jolyn Kang, as well as Year 3 student Jacelyn Lau. Their design incorporates the use of the Bernoulli Effect, allowing the inflatable pillow to be blown up with just one puff of air.
To successfully navigate the path from prototype to product, the team maintained constant communication with the factory — drawing technical specifications, annotating photographs, as well as sending over prototypes. They even had to travel to the factory in China on multiple occasions.
“This was way beyond the scope of anything we’ve ever learnt, as projects in school typically end with a design concept and a prototype. We learnt the hard way that designing one prototype is extremely different in scope and complexity from designing hundreds of mass manufactured final products,” John shared.
Looking back, the Aubergine team wished they had been braver and more daring in making decisions, as they had a few instances when progress came to a standstill due to their hesitation.
There were also challenges in communicating with their manufacturer. While creating their master sample for their product, the manufacturer changed the design of the pillow dimple without informing the team. “We were totally caught off guard. After heading down to the factory and clarifying with them, we realised that this was actually done to strengthen the ends of the dimple line. In the end, we accepted the change though we still made slight aesthetic tweaks to it,” John recalled.
Despite these hurdles, the team has since successfully delivered their pillows to their customers. They are looking forward to further commercialise their venture, with the vision of “getting it to the shelves of your favourite stores”.
“It’s been a long time coming as it’s slightly over a year since we first started this project. We’re extremely proud of our team for being able to constantly solve each unexpected curveball that came our way, while still being able to laugh at each other and ourselves on the way,” John declared.