Project 2 — Special Carriers
Part 1: Experimentation
Having carefully come out of the last project injury-free from using Xacto knives, never would I have thought that my first injury at CMU would be from holding cardboard — not even cutting it. Putting the cardboard down by my desk, the paper sliced through my finger, leaving my first battle scar as a designer.
Injuries aside, the concept surrounding this project has me very excited to start exploring its different facets — from the moment I saw wind-up toys on the floor, I knew it would be something interesting. After learning about the factors that make a product “enjoyable” — not necessarily a complex product, but rather a simple product that performs its simple functions well — and the premise that I would be tasked with making an object that directly tackles some of the inconveniences in our everyday lives with regards to transporting goods to the studio, I was ready to start experimenting with the cardboard that had ruthlessly cut through my thumb.
Starting this project, I wanted to start by exploring the very basics of working with cardboard — how to join it together. No matter what way I thought about it, making a 3-D product from a 2-D piece of cardboard would require the use of some way to conjoin the pieces of cardboard. As a result, I first observed some of the different ways some of the boxes holding my masks functioned — with the use of tabs and flaps.
Intrigued by the idea of a flap to hold separate pieces of cardboard together, I wanted to replicate the folds I observed in my mask box. However, very quickly, I noticed that there was a stark difference in the material I was working with — the thin, light paper that created the mask box could easily on to itself, whereas the thick, heavy nature of cardboard required larger flaps, or even potentially a method of hooking onto itself to prevent it from sliding.
Using this problem to inspire my further exploration, I looked for ways for cardboard pieces to stick to themselves securely.
Tabs needed to be perfectly measured or used in great number for the cardboard to stick together, whereas creating a few hooks could securely lock itself onto the cardboard — however, it is a hassle to fold and unfold the hooks, making it a method of joining cardboard that should be left “permanent” — users should not have to worry about unfolding and folding tabs when putting together the box.
Taking into account these experiments, I wanted to create a joint that would be structurally sound, while easy to take apart. Thinking about where all the slabs of cardboard should join, I realized that it would be most logical to take advantage of this and make it at the handle since the box could potentially be taken apart from the top. As a result, using tabs and the idea of implementing ‘hooks”, I created a handle that used tabs to “hook” the slabs of cardboard together.
Still confused by the nature of cardboard and how I can make forms out of it, my next area of experimentation will be how to create forms out of cardboard while also experimenting with some of the satisfying “functions” — messing around with the springy and bouncy nature of cardboard.
Part 2 : Form and function
Thinking about some of the annoying things I have had to face while moving in and out of the studio, I quickly thought about my issue of holding too many bottles — my backpack could only hold one since one of the two cup holders is constantly occupied by an umbrella, and when carrying drinks for friends from La Prima, my hands are filled with drinks, awkwardly having to put them down to open the door or wait for a stranger to help.
Thus, by reflecting on the nature of the handle I made while experimenting and how to incorporate an element of surprise when I served the drinks to my friends, I wanted to take advantage of the latching and unlatching method as well as the springy texture of cardboard to create a carrier that would “blossom” when put down. This way, every time I served drinks to my friends when I put the carrier down, the carrier would go from hiding their drinks to exhibiting their drinks, creating a certain excitement every time the carrier was put down. I (or the holder) was in control: the drinks would only be visible to friends when the carrier was on the table and hidden from others when being carried.
Starting from the basis of the handle I had created during experimentation, I concluded that to unlatch, the latch would have to move below the slot, allowing enough space for the flap the slot is situated on to naturally fall to the surface of the table. Though simple in idea, how would I create a system that could create the space needed for the tab to unlatch?
I thought of the idea to create a “slider” — the handle would be able to move up when being held, holding the flaps together, and move down when put onto the table, unlatching the flaps. The space would be created by gravity and a stationary piece of cardboard that served as a “boundary”, as well as a slab of cardboard that would constantly move in-between the stationary and bottom pieces of cardboard.
Although the function works, there are still a variety of issues to consider. My carrier uses a LOT of cardboard for one water bottle, almost seeming like it is overkill and unsustainable. In addition, there are no curves or experimentations with form — bottles are round, how can I alter the shape to fit the shapes of the bottles? In addition, if I were to build the carrier again, how can I use less cardboard —what pieces can I combine, what can I take away and make more simple?
In addition, there are still many issues as to how the cardboard should interact with the user as well as other pieces. My carrier is constructed using the piecing together of cardboard through a very tight fit and accurate measurements; however, after a few uses, the cardboard will slide and create inaccuracies with the carrier. How can I create stronger, more secure tabs?
Finally, the handle — the most important part of the carrier as it is the main part that the user interacts with. How can the handle be easier to use and more comfortable to carry?
Very happy with the results of my experimentations, I am excited to start thinking about some of the more complex issues with my carrier, as well as how I can continue to refine and explore the idea of my carrier “blossoming” when being put down and “closing up” when being held, acting almost like a flower. The model that I created only represents how 1/4 of the carrier would work—over the next few days I can start to build iterations of the carrier to their full size—observing the problems that can occur to the carrier in its true form.
Part 3: Messing with Function
Moving forward with enlarging the carrier and working with four latches, I started to understand some of the problems that came about as a result of the nature of cardboard. Although it would work for the first few times, after a while, cardboard is prone to soften and rip and tear, creating a variety of problems in the meticulous measurements needed for the latches to work.
Thinking about some of the ways I should go about making the handle connected with the stopper that would hit against the stationary cupholders, I wanted to work with the ideas of hangers — use latches that would slide into a slot. This quickly became an issue in terms of staying secure, since the latch and the stopper is a spot that faces a lot of pressure — the latches are only half an inch thick, and they have to support the weight of 4 soda cans. The latches quickly became too soft to function, falling off of the stopper every time I carried the cans.
Furthermore, the handle also flopped around constantly. The use of a large flat shape fitted into the slot that also needed to provide the handle with space to easily slide up and down resulted in it being virtually impossible to find a balance.
Lastly, the amount of cardboard being used was an issue — four soda cans required the use of an entire sheet of cardboard from the art store. It was overkill, and I would potentially need even more cardboard to make all of the pieces secure.
Realizing that directly going from one latch to four latches may have been too dramatic of a jump, I decided to work with only two flaps at a time instead to first figure out the function of the latches falling apart, while also focusing on how to securely join all the pieces of cardboard. The use of only two latches provided for a larger margin of error, and the latches would work around 70% of the time—the other 30%; however, could again be attributed to issues with the nature of cardboard.
This time, rather than relying on friction to piece together the cardboard, I inserted a long tab through the tabs that would stick out of the slots, so when moving around, they would be stopped by the tab hitting against the roof of the cardboard.
To address the issue of the handle flopping around, I experimented with putting multiple pieces of cardboard on top of each other so the handle had less space to move around. However, even though it worked better than iteration 2, the cardboard was still not as secure as I would have liked it to be. Moving forward, I will explore with 3-D type structures such as rectangular and triangular prisms to secure the handle to the cupholder, so the handle itself will be able to stand upright rather than fall to one side.
Part 4: Taking a step backward
After a meeting with Steve and Stacie, I realized that I was pooling my efforts into the wrong thing. Sure, the idea of using a function for the purpose of exhibiting was interesting, however, it did nothing for the objects in the process of transporting. Exhibiting should come second after how to carry the objects, and the flaps of a carrying falling to create surprise did not help protect or secure the objects in the process of moving from point A to the studio.
As a result, I had to take a step back: how do I move forward? Should I scrap my entire idea? Or are there still parts in my project that were still salvageable? If I were to move forward, how could I connect the function of the handle moving up and down with the concept of transportation?
After talking to Jamie and Andrea, and with help from Stan and Jasmin, I focused my attention on the last question. Rather than the purpose of the function is for exhibition, how can I make the purpose of the function related to transportation?
Although there are still parts to think about, using the function to protect ties in with the concept of transportation much better — to be able to use the movement of the handle to protect in the act of transporting. When bringing drinks from point A to studio, there are often times where cans are dropped for the flimsy carriers provided at the dining halls—a security measure during the act of carrying would be useful in preventing a potential accident.
To be able to make such progress in 2 hours honestly surprised me — I was able to go from having no idea what to do to be able to take a step back, give the process a little thought and share my struggles with others to truly be able to understand what is at stake, and then move forward again. From this experience, I was able to understand that it is easy to focus on insignificant things and veer off track from what is truly important — rather than keeping one’s head down with a tunnel vision to perfect something, it is more important to be constantly thinking about the main purpose of a concept, and how to work towards that concept.
Although satisfied with my progress today, my work is still not done. Again, the issue of the handle moving around is still a problem, and I will explore how to create the handle movement with a 3-D structure as the form. In addition, how do I reduce the amount of cardboard used, now that I do not have the issue of the large flaps that covered the carrier before? Finally, how do I start working with form — to make the object fit the shape of the cans better?
With a stronger intention behind the function, a clear vision of where to move forward, and most importantly a newfound perspective on how to think and reflect about certain decisions I make when going about my work, I am curious to see what these takeaways will continue to take me as I further my progress.
Part 5 —expanding sheathing function
Iteration 4.5 served as a model to demonstrate that expanding the function would work. Reflecting back on how iteration 1 to iteration 2 was too much of a jump, I wanted to perfect the sheathing method completely, before worrying about form and the handle. However, the tab length was measured too short, and I could not see if the usage of an extended piece of cardboard through the tabs could support the weight of the 4 bottles.
Sheathing provided many new interesting ideas to think about. Before, the cardboard had to be in a T-Shape; however, now the cardboard could be square, reducing the amount of cardboard needed. In addition, the bottom cupholder could be reduced to one piece of cardboard, it is a rectangular prism.
Finally, I successfully incorporated the idea of including a 3-D shape as the handle — which is FAR more secure than the 2-D handle in previous iterations. Not only is it more secure, but by placing long cardboard slabs through slots created right on top of where the handle and the stopper meet and right on the bottom of where the handle and the cupholder meet, the handle is able to securely move the slab of cardboard on the bottom containing the sheaths up and down.
Moving forward, I believe that the mechanism is almost done. Now, it is time to focus on the form of the object (especially the handle), as well as cutting down on the amount of cardboard needed to create this object.
Part 6: Reflection
During the class review today, a lot of the concerns (as well as the mechanics working well) I expressed in part 5 were confirmed true — my classmates agreed that the mechanics are engaging and interactive, however, the form and the amount of cardboard needs work.
The next iteration I create serves to address these issues. Although moving back to a 2-D handle appears to be “going back to old mistakes,” it is necessary, because the use of a 3-D structure requires the addition of 2–3 inches being added all around the cupholder platform—if changed to a 2-D shape, the platform could be more rectangular and without the extra 2–3 inches. In addition, I could experiment with making some of the curves round/keeping them angular and understand how the juxtaposition between curves and edges interact aesthetically.
Changing the box into one piece of cardboard is an extremely difficult and necessary task since it reduces the need for any extra tabs sticking out from the sides, improving the form. The box needs to be EXTREMELY secure since it has to support the weight of 4 separate cans, but with this, I can explore how secure one tightly fit tab could be, or other methods of latches and hooks.
Part 6.5—Creating Iteration 5
Going about creating iteration 5, I tried to think about the measurements as much as possible—where could I decrease the dimensions to cut down on cardboard or how should the circles be cut and measured for the mechanism and sheaths to move the most smoothy? The round pieces of cardboard worked really well only when they were measured exact—if they were too short, they would not be able to stick to the cupholders due to the tension created when piecing the ends together, and if they were too long, the protruding parts would often get caught on other pieces, ruining the mechanism.
Slowly, I am able to start to see the form take shape. I think that the juxtaposition between the circular shape of the cans and the angular edges of the carrier work well, however, I still want to potentially experiment with a circular form as well. In addition, the handle still needs work, as it is uncomfortable on the hands and should be easier for the user to interact with (maybe potentially insert a hole so the user can hold more tightly).
I need to continue to explore how to most securely piece together the cardboard: it is as if cardboard is extremely strong when you do not want it to be, and extremely flexible when you want it to be secure. I want to continue with the idea of making the bottom one-piece; however, the sides of the box slide out as I carry it because the tabs wiggle around due to the weight of the cans.
Finally, I need to think about how easy it is to put the product together. Right now, Iteration 5 is not difficult to put together; however, there are definitely things that can be improved. Slots could be measured more meticulously so parts do not slide around and require awkwardly readjusting them, and I can continue to think about how to cut down on the number of pieces needed to create the carrier.
An issue with iteration 5 that was overlooked was that there was no way to carry the carrier unbalanced — if there were only 1 or 3 cans, the carrier would lean to the side with more cans, obliterating and folding the handle.
To address this issue, I thought that extending the tabs on the side to be connected to the handle would solve the problem: this way, rather than the weight being pushed onto one side of the box and bending the handle, the weight would be transferred to one of the tabs, leaving the handle unharmed. The design for this handle came from my first exploration — the sides latch onto the handle, following a similar mechanism as Iteration 2; however, rather than falling down to the floor this time the sides are supposed to stay attached.
I also paid special attention to the form of the carrier, thinking that the square form of the panel would appear too “blocky”. Thinking about the taper on the x-wing fighters in Star Wars, I thought that placing a taper on the sides of the carrier would allow it to look more “sleek” while also allowing for users to easily take out the bottles.
The cover on the handle was created for a more comfortable fit — without it, the cardboard digs into the carrier’s hand. Created using a scored piece of cardboard, it follows the shape of someone’s hand, allowing for a comfortable grip.
Throughout the process of going about this project, there were many things that I learned about my design process. I can visualize things in 3D a lot better than I expected, as imagining the mechanisms working on paper and transferring them to actual cardboard ended up working the way I envisioned. I also understood the importance of stopping, reflecting on the purpose of your actions, and looking at the bigger picture rather than focusing on the small details.
This was also the project where it “clicked” that I was in college to learn design. Having observed some of the upperclassmen’s work when applying to CMU, this project was what garnered my interest — it was surreal that I was finally creating it myself. Figuring out the mechanisms, having to backtrack and use the experiences learned on the way to start over, and having to understand how to work a material that is so present in my daily life but I never thought twice about — this was what I always thought I would be doing here at CMU.
Moving forward, I am excited to continue to work on this process of tackling a big project, trying to make form of the jumble of random thoughts jotted down and sketched out in a notebook, and watching it take form to a working thing.