Defining The Challenge
Elegant Solutions was approached by a client who needed designs created for a solar powered charger and flashlight capable of being produced end-to-end in East Africa. The client wanted us to emphasize simplicity in function, ease of maintenance, and durability, and to design for optimal production costs. I shared responsibilities in all aspects of the design and CAD drafting of the concept, as well as the user experience research.
This project required a technical understanding of solar power, a political understanding of Eastern Africa, and a cultural understanding of the ideal use cases. Our objectives and constraints were driven by this unique combination of sociotechnical factors. Our designs were also driven by the client-provided assumption that a “typical day” of sunlight in East Africa should be enough to charge a phone to full power.
Laying Out The Plan
This project required extensive use of Autodesk Inventor, so designs were managed using Autodesk 360 and Autodesk Vault. Communication with manufacturers and fabricators was performed using traditional communication channels and was limited due to the simple nature of the prototyping phases.
To create our final concept, we went through a traditional process of iteration and design. We initially created over 100 sketches of concepts and configurations.
From there, we moved to Autodesk Inventor where we tried out the top designs the client had approved. We created a matrix to assess and compare each design.
Once we had chosen a design that the client liked, we created detailed engineering drawings for this concept.
Finally, the design was prototyped to demonstrate form using 3-D printing.
This was one of the most challenging and fulfilling contracts I worked on during my time with ES. It required me to apply myself as a designer and user experience researcher, and required both members of ES to apply their technical and design skills within a complex sociotechnical context. This was also one of the first 3 contracts ES completed, and was my first experience managing the entire project management cycle from initiation all the way to closing.