6th November 2016
579 Dumbarton Rd
Somewhere that I haven’t visited for a while, but after passing by numerous times recently my curiosity led me to discover whether or not it had changed. Opened not too long ago, they have a real passion for great coffee and putting their own spin on classic delicatessen meals.
This week I have chosen to write about an element of the design process that I have been frequently exposed to over the past fortnight or so. The underlying theme is simply experimentation or trial and error as a method of reaching a solution. However, the specific definition of the Edisonian approach actually goes one step further than this.
“In the absence of formulae, we must test, and test, and test until it works best.”
The approach is not used as an alternative to methodical problem solving, it is used to describe a situation when a systematic approach is not an option. I first came upon the term whilst reading James Dyson’s autobiography and I have mentioned it during my interpretation of the Dual Cyclone in the teardown. After reading about Dyson’s famous journey - involving 5,127 prototypes - to perfect his innovative cyclone technology, I find myself relating back to it at multiple instances throughout this project and appreciating the struggles as well as the triumphs.
This week I was tasked with controlling the flow of sand through various funnels within a product I am currently working on. The difficulties associated with this problem were; the ability to determine exactly where the sand would fall, how quickly it would run, how long it would run for and what volume of sand would fall in each location. I began to solve the problem by sketching out the cross-section of the funnel arrangement which helped to spark some ideas, but there was no method of testing for me to determine how it would work in practice. I could only estimate how my proposed solutions would answer the mentioned variables, so it was necessary for me to mock-up a few models to carry out some experiments.
Unsurprisingly the solutions I had developed took an idealistic view of the sand falling completely regularly and I soon discovered that adjustments would need to be made. What really defined this approach for me was how obvious the problems were because I had the model in front of me and was able to analyse how the sand was falling. From this it was easy to see how the model needed to be adjusted accordingly. Although, following this it still took me 5 more models before I reached a solution.
Another area where I found physical experimentation to be a necessity as opposed to a choice was in figuring out the form of this same product. It seems obvious as we strive to create objects with aesthetic value, that this cannot be achieved if we don’t experience the aesthetic attributes that make up our design. For this product, where the point of sale will be on display in a shop it was crucial to establish the potential geometries and materials of the product that would make it stand out from it’s surroundings. From a consumer point of view, understanding how these different forms would feel in the hand; the warmth of certain materials and how they contrasted the cooler feeling of others as well as the weight and balance of the object were all aspects that needed to be considered. This process again demonstrated to me how obvious solutions became when I had a physical interaction with the product and how much easier it is to be playful with an object to discover alternatives.
Experiencing the design process in such a raw form reminds me of why I love the process so much. The ethos of ‘the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory’ becomes evident when you finally reach a solution after multiple failed attempts and it is this journey that keeps the process so fresh and exciting. The Edisonian Approach also has pioneering connotations of ambition and originality, as it is often the case, that the reason why no formulae or clear path exists is down to the simple fact that the problem in question hasn’t been solved…yet. There is no doubt that over the last fortnight I have seen the value of such an approach and relating back to my earlier discovery of it’s implementation in the Dual Cyclone’s inception reveals solid evidence that beautiful engineering design will likely be the outcome.
I was pleasantly surprised on this trip to find that Meadow Road had carried out the last year or so with the motto ‘if it ain’t broke, don't fix it’. Their popular Dumbarton Eggs was my dish of choice on this visit, consisting of poached egg, avocado, cream cheese and hot sauce, and did an excellent job of satisfying my hunger as well as keeping me warm on a frosty Sunday. Nice to take a trip down to the Patrick area for a change of scene, as well as being that little bit further away from the busy city centre. With a very relaxed feel it is the perfect spot for a breakfast visit.