For the mind mapping/product idea assignment for the sink/basin theme, I started out with three big categories based on location: home (encompassing kitchen (sink), and bathroom (sink)), public locations like offices and schools where there's a row of sinks in one place, and a third location - thinking of a sink in the basement of a friend's house that was originally part of a darkroom, and is now used for beer brewing. I've also used it for dyeing fabric. (I ended up not coming up with any products specifically for this type of sink, but it was on my mind map.)
To get into a "playful" mood, I watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and played some cute games on my phone. I came up with the following broad categories/problems to approach when designing products:
- Kitchen: How can washing dishes be made more appealing? I don't own a dishwasher in my current apartment, and it's hard for me to get motivated to wash dishes.
- Kitchen: My mother's cat will ONLY drink water out of a pitcher or other tall container placed on the kitchen counter or in the sink area - she isn't interested in bowls, or anything placed on the floor. This results in cat hair on the counter, cat hair in the food, cats trying to get into water glasses (my personal recent quest to "drink more water" by keeping a glass near me is frequently foiled by my cat sticking his head in the glass and drinking it, or knocking it over) ... and at the same time cats need to have water available for themselves and perhaps there is a solution that would please both cat and owner.
- Kitchen: Drying dishes. Thinking about public spaces makes me think about other ways that things are dried, like hair driers, hand driers in public bathrooms, etc. Perhaps there's a better product than an ordinary dishtowel for drying dishes.
- Public places: In the sink area of a hotel room, there's often little giveaway bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. What are the ideal containers for these products? Which products should be given away? What will people actually use and what goes to waste? I know a lot of people take them home even if they don't use them during their hotel stay.
- Home uses: Sinks produce water, which gets on anything stored near the sink. What can be done to keep things dry that are stored near the sink (either by design or out of necessity due to a lack of space) that shouldn't get wet?
- Usability: As an undergrad I did a project working with residents of a local assisted living facility. When designing things I often remember the importance of catering to older, mobility-impaired, vision-impaired, etc... users. Turning the faucet on and off seems like a particular frustration to someone with arthritis, for instance - if you can't turn it on, you can't brush your teeth or wash your hands, basic hygienic necessities. If you can't turn it off, you have to listen to annoying noises and waste a lot of water.
Here are ten specific ideas based on these themes:
- Making dishes more appealing: I think of a few homes I've lived in where there's a window above the sink. Being able to look out the window and experience the natural light would make standing at the sink more appealing, but right now I just have a wall behind my sink. How about a fake window that would go on the wall and make it look like you were looking outside? It would be a waterproof material (so not just a poster with a photo of the outdoors) and perhaps be customizable. An advanced version could actually be a computer screen (there would need to be a way to waterproof it - perhaps a sneeze-guard type plastic protector at the base) that would change and perhaps even offer a waterproof touch screen for customization, authentic outdoor bird sounds, etc.
- Making dishes more appealing: I wear big ugly rubber gloves when I do my dishes. They're a pleasing shade of lavender, but what can be done to make them more fun? For the morbidly inclined, a pair with a print that looks bloodstained or like surgical gloves might lead to the opportunity to chase friends and family around the kitchen while making creepy grabbing motions with your "bloody" hands. A print on the fingers that lets you form your hand into a talking animal head might entertain children, and so on...
- Cat products: Mounting a water bottle like a hamster bottle on the wall that then auto-fills into a pitcher or glass of the kind the cat prefers - saves the human the trouble of filling up the glass, and controls the amount of water in the glass at any given time. Securing the glass to the countertop would avoid issues with the cat knocking it over. A sturdy plastic pitcher might also work - my mother's cat prefers a ceramic pitcher that's heavy enough to avoid spillage, but ceramic seems dangerous nonetheless. A cute design and text that says "Cat Water Only" on the side would avoid issues with naive visitors pouring themselves drinking water from it.
- Drying dishes: As a child I was always fascinated by the "sprinklers" in the produce section of the grocery store that turned on and off to keep the produce moist. Something like this could be installed beneath the kitchen cabinets, only instead of producing water it produces air to dry dishes.
- Drying dishes: How about a big metal basket that attaches to your windowsill that you can put dishes in to air dry with the air from outside? Maybe a lid if you want to hang the basket on the outside portion to avoid birds landing on your dishes ... you could hang it inside but the water might drip on the floor...
- Hotel mini bottles: Not everyone needs the products given away by the hotel, and sometimes people need things they don't have in the room, and have to call the front desk or go shopping. How about a vending machine in the hallway that sells the products? Either swiping your room card would give you one bottle per day (to avoid abuse) or the products would be sold for a dollar or two (charged to the room so you wouldn't need change or bills when traveling). Given that they have vending machines for things like iPods, this probably isn't that hard to design. Choices could include brands of shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and maybe even other hotel "necessities" like condoms...
- Hotel mini bottles: As for the bottles themselves, they could easily be made more playful and appealing. Two big complaints I have about them is that the product is frequently hard to get out of the bottle, especially as it nears the bottom, and that the bottles are often hard to tell apart from each other. When showering at 5 AM before an out of town job interview, I don't want to confuse the hand lotion with the conditioner. I'm at a loss right now for how to figure out how to get shampoo to come easily out of a tiny bottle, so perhaps get rid of the "tiny bottle" idea entirely and mount dispensers on the wall in each room that can be refilled easily, much like a soap dispenser in a public restroom. Large letters (including Braille) would label shampoo and conditioner and provide information about the brand and type of the product... perhaps vibrant color-coding would help make it playful and clear, too.
- Usability for faucets: Thinking of playful faucets makes me think of animal shapes - I'm sure "elephant trunk" has been done, but what else has two smaller symmetrical shapes on each side and a longer one in the middle? (Get your mind out of the gutter, this needs to be kid friendly!) I've thought of reindeer/elk antlers for the hot and cold faucets, leaves and a tree trunk, a lamppost with lights (the faucet handles could light up)...
- Faucets: This is so simple I bet it's been done, but plastic, grippy covers for the metal faucets to ease grabbing and turning them with wet hands or when the handles themselves are wet. The hot cover would be red and the cold would be blue - I imagine that older or developmentally disabled users might have trouble remembering which is which and could get burned, so a more visible reminder than a tiny H and C would help.
- Preventing things from getting wet that shouldn't: This feels outlandish, but I'm picturing small platforms that you can put appliances on, like your toaster, that are set into the counter. Flipping a switch causes them to raise up above the surface of the counter at varying heights, and then they can be lowered again for use ... the platforms remind me a bit of a video game. The platforms would be just the right size for each appliance and could be raised and lowered individually, or all together.