In autumn 2015, students of the Department of Design collaborated with Sinituote Oy on an Industrial Design course that is part of the Bachelor's Degree Program. The company presented its own screw-free product line, which is a bathroom set attachable with suction cups. The sales of the products were insufficient and the company representatives said they felt that the design of the product was out of date. Each student designed his or her own suggestion for a new design or product idea in the screw-free series. At the end of the course, Sinituote decided to buy the rights for two student works, of which another product, designed by Annukka Svanda, was developed further and is now a completely renewed screw-free product series that will be published in January.
“This kind of cooperation with companies is exceptional--that our school's course work becomes a finished product in which the company invests a lot of money through further development. I think it is an admirable achievement", says Lecturer Simo Puintila from Aalto University.
Annukka Svanda told Aalto University communications about corporate co-operation and the design challenges.
What kind of challenges did you have with the design task?
"The task was very clear from the point of view of product design, because the expectations of the company were precisely defined: the suction cup was the only part that had to be preserved. Communication with the company during the project was also easy. The challenge was to have functionality, production and customer-oriented design language combined with the challenges that bathroom creates, such as moisture, general decor and that the design would be fit for the next twenty years. There was also need to maintain the style of the company and add a modern approach to the product."
How did co-operation with the company work and what did it give you as a designer?
"During the course there was a clear assignment, intermediate critic and final evaluation. After the course, the company bought rights to the product I designed and hired me to renew the entire product line on that basis, and here we clearly worked according to our agreement. The contract of employment model by the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo was of great help in what the contract includes and what not. It was exceptional to have access into a real product design process already at this stage of studies. In addition, I will be much better informed of which factors affect the product design in the company and which parts in the process the designer should seek to influence."
What new does the product you designed offer?
"The challenge was, as always, to define the necessity of the product and what new it could offer to customers. The advantage of a product attachable with a suction cup is that it will move with the resident and directly respond to a specific need with a smaller amount of material than, for example, a whole cabinet. The product is also recyclable plastic and aluminum, and in some products the plastic part also acts as a separate independent part. The customer can purchase the components of the product as needed: small shelves suitable for a small space, and a bigger pot can be, for example, attached to the kitchen window for herbs."
What do you think is particularly successful in your design?
"In my opinion, the product has been successful in its own series. Even though it is a cheap product, its simple design language allows it to be combined with all kinds of bathroom decorations and tastes. Although the cost of a pressed plastic product is high, this product offers more versatile marketing opportunities than usual. The modular product can be sold individually or as a package and in different colors. The boxes can also be sold separately for other purposes as they can be stacked, for example, as a storage system. The customer can also be involved in coming up with ideas for versatile use, for example with "Your own screw-free" Instagram competition."