Unicorn Tracks Part 2: Smart Cap
The quest for the next great product
This is a series about unicorn tracks, also known as the quest for the next amazing idea. If you haven’t read our intro article to this series, check it out here.
This concept is Patent Pending.
Maybe you need a way to stop those late-night cravings, or a way to secure medicines from young hands, or simply a super-secure means of storing jam…
Honestly, this idea came about when thinking about how to safely contain medical marijuana. Now that weed is legal in many states, we can start to look at it through legitimate market lenses.
As any seasoned stoner will tell you, mason jars are the storage method of choice for those sweet buds. It keeps the smell contained, it’s transparent, and you can use the jar to “cure” the weed for consumption.
The issue is, mason jars aren’t secure. Pretty much anyone besides my 78-year-old granny can open them.
From the concept of secure marijuana came the idea that perhaps there is a market for micro-security in other sectors, such as medicines and foods.
In the US, more than 60,000 kids per year are treated for overdoses or poisoning from unintentionally taking medication. This seemed like another viable market to examine as a possible use-case for a “smart cap”.
Armed with these hypotheses, we began the design process to expand upon and iterate a smart cap concept.
We began by developing a series of UX personas on which to base our design research. Personas are key to ensuring that each potential user group is represented. It also serves as a springboard to working with research participants and allows us to refer back to and amend the personas based on our feedback.
As we identified different groups, various themes emerged: protection, ownership, display, secrecy, socialization. We found that there is a very broad range of applications for a product that creates small pockets of security.
Taking these personas forward, we developed a timeline based around a specific user. In this case, we look at the various stages, actions, and feature needs of a mother and how she might interact with the product.
It’s important to have some granularity here. If the result is too generic, the artifact becomes less useful down the line; specific emotions/actions/needs will help to inform specific design choices. These choices will, in turn, give us richer feedback when we ask for user feedback.
Having a reasonably solid concept of the product at a high level, we developed an information architecture of what the digital experience might look like. We know that this product will have a significant digital component, and it’s a relatively simple product, so the architecture is naturally concise.
We look at various factors, such as login information, on-boarding, primary and secondary use, and necessary settings. This also starts to give us an idea of what kind of feature-set the MVP will need to provide to fulfill the needs of the users.
This map, though simple, gives us an effective roadmap to building the digital experience.
PHYSICAL UI STUDIES
This product relies as much on the physical experience as the digital. As we worked on the strategic and UX design of the product, we also began physical form development.
Iterating through dozens and dozens of sketches, we began to hone in on a form that was both pleasing to the eye and true to function. At this stage, there is as much to do with research as there is with gut feeling. Often times, it is difficult to say where in your subconscious the image comes from but the result seems very familiar.
The beauty of being a small design firm can be summed up with a word: speed. These ideas can go from rough sketch to physical model in a matter of hours.
Models give us so much more information; we can observe and analyze much more nebulous concepts like handedness, bulk, potential material breaks, grip, and others. We can even embed things like magnets or basic electronics to start to get a sense of richer interactions that will follow as the product progresses.
With the Smart Cap, one of the biggest determining factors was manual operation; how are the users meant to actually open and close this thing? Twisting? Push-and-release? Buttons? All the above?
Diving into 3D modeling, we began to create physical UI studies. Here we could explore the visual feedback that a user might experience; what level of fidelity do we need? What kind of information is critical, what is less critical? What is the right balance between subtlety and clarity?
Even the simplest products need attention paid to the micro-moments. The little things that make you say, “huh, that’s actually pretty cool.” This is where interaction design(IxD) comes into play.
While it is an ongoing process, the IxD of the product starts to materialize once the strategic skeleton and some of the UI have taken hold. We started playing around with the main interaction point; the lock.
Because of the simplicity of the app, this interaction point has to be awesome. Users are presumably going to be on this screen multiple times per day and making it smooth, communicative, and effective is non-trivial.
This product has many interesting applications. It could be the first of an ecosystem of products. It can be “dumb”, simply acting as a robust lock, or “smart”, communicating wirelessly with the web and other devices, Bluetooth and your smartphone.
The expandability of the concept is why we like it. It also is relatively simple and, of course, solves a real problem.
We like it, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Sprout Studios is an award-winning, Boston-based concept to launch design studio deeply rooted in today’s pop culture and technology. Our multidisciplinary team fuses innovation, creativity, and instinct to design authentic lifestyle-driven products, brands, and experiences. We work at the convergence of hardware and software, bringing UI/UX and digital design together with physical products.
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