Q&A with Kimberly Chow, Designmatters at Art Center College of Design
In some parts of the world, public health dilemmas arise from the difficulties citizens have in finding ways to wash their hands. A project at the Art Center College of Design gave rise to one simple, elegant and potentially powerful solution for the clean hands problem, Balde a Balde. We talked with one of the student designers about the solution and how it came to be:
What was the initial inspiration for Balde a Balde?
The initial inspiration for Balde a Balde came from watching how challenging it was for children to properly wash their hands. Some of my early concepts involved a more elaborate sink system, but eventual I pared it down to a simple, clip-on attachment so the solution could be affordable, save space, and add value to items they already owned. Seeing the unexpected ways women used the product during field testing really drove me to focus on a more comprehensive solution.
Tell us about some of the early iterations of this solution that weren’t quite right. In what ways did they fail to meet your objectives?
I tested an early version of Balde a Balde that was composed entirely of off-the-shelf parts with families in Lima. They loved the general concept, but a few of the elements were detracting from the experience. The existing clip didn’t hold on to some of their containers and would constantly slip off, causing frustration. The valve was also difficult to operate with soapy hands and didn’t let through enough water. In response, I designed a clip and valve specific to the way I saw them using the product.
At what point did you engage with NGOs to develop and design this solution?
Our NGO partner, Un Techo Para Mi Pais, and their social entrepreneurship arm, Sociolab, were involved since before we even stepped foot into Lima, and we continue to consult with them to this day. Un Techo connected us with leaders in the slum communities, and assisted us with translation, consulting and networking with local organizations.
Has the Peruvian government taken any interest in this project?
We have not reached out to the Peruvian government.
How did the need to rely on phone and video feedback impact the way you thought about your user research?
Our aim was always to find solutions based on co-creation. Constant contact and feedback through phone and video allowed the families to alter the direction of our solutions in order to develop a product they valued. Video let us to see problems they were encountering, but not vocalizing, with our prototypes. Phone calls allowed us to immediately connect with the families and helped to maintain those relationships.
To what degree was durability designed into this product?
I’ve continued to develop the design since winning IDEA, with durability and affordability in mind. Since September I have been working with the advanced development team at the headquarters of Rubbermaid Commercial Products, whose engineers have graciously offered their engineering expertise to address these issues. I’ve since reduced the number of parts in the product, reassessed material selection based on durability, and simplified many of the elements of the design. I’ve also redesigned the parts to be easily disassembled for cleaning, and replaced existing seals with common, off-the-shelf gaskets.
In what ways did the research and design of Balde a Balde inform the work on GiraDora: Safe Agua - Washer and Spin Dryer?
Both projects arose from the same class at Art Center College of Design, called Safe Agua Peru. All the research was collectively shared as a class before we began to define our specific opportunities. Thus far, we conducted all our research and testing as a team, and continue to represent each other at business development conferences and events.
What are the next steps for the Balde a Balde?
Our work plan is constantly changing as we continue to refine our business model, and as new opportunities arise. Currently we are focusing all our efforts on making a viable core product with Balde a Balde before starting to develop add-on products. Since IDSA we’ve run additional testing in Chile and plan to launch large-scale pilot testing in Peru and Colombia later next year. Our core product is still designed with add-ons in mind though, and we are currently in contact with a filtration company as a potential partner in the future.