Rethinking the Hairdryer
Ariane Prin, a Masters student at RCA, shares her thinking and conceptual process behind her Air Hair Project: hair dryer for hairdressers.
As part of my survey, I visited many hairdressers and I was able to observe that they use the hairdryer for approximately 4.5 hours a day but that this was not very well adapted. They taught me that this object has to be smaller, lighter, wireless, that they often use the same nozzle, and that the switch allowing distinct levels of power is useless because they habitually use the maximum mode.
The most impressive thing is the fact that a majority of hairdressers do not use the handle because they cannot be precise, then efficient, then rapid, then have a lot of clients, and earn a lot of money. They hold it by the body of the object even if this is the hottest part. Moreover, at the end of their career, 70% of the hairdressers have wrist and shoulder articulation problems.
This is for all those reasons that I started to work on the ergonomics of the hairdryer. I have made research on different shapes in blue foam and I came back to the hairdressers to decide together what could be the three most adapted shapes.
The fascinating part of her process is what I like to call “design by making”. Ariane jumps head-on into making sketch models from her sketches to test out her form. As you can see, her meaningful design solutions were because she got real quick. Sadly, this sort of “design by making” methodology is almost hardly done these days.
Designers are getting lazy due to the easy access to CAD (yes you!), as CAD is a much “cleaner” way of doing design. I myself am also guilty of this!
Unfortunately, by going from sketch straight to CAD, you lose the opportunity to get in touch with the “feel” of an object, its proportions, its weight, and the ergonomics.
You may say that this should be limited to products like hair dryers of mobile phones. However, if the car industry still sculpts and refines the lines of a concept car in clay, I don’t see why we should give up this crucial step in our design process?
When was the last time you got “real” quick? How early in your design process did you get “real”? You might also be surprised to know that by getting “real” quick you could speed up your design process, as you can get to your design solution quicker and make fewer mistakes or iterations. So why not give it a try in your next design project?