The aim of this project is to design a control for heating pad. The design process involves exploration, research and benchmarks, initial ideation, framing, concept development, prototyping, and proposed solution. The deliverable is presented in the form of a 3D model as well as a demo video explaining the functions and operations of the control.
The target user for this heating pad control is camper, and the context is campsite. Design choices were made to specifically suit this frame.
Throughout the design process, Don Norman’s design principles and terms were used as a guide to consider the opportunities and directions of design interventions, in order to maximize user-centeredness in the specific context.
Before diving into the project, I did some quick sketches to propose ideas of heating pad controls in my mind. The lack of awareness towards the functions and appearance of a typical heating pad control liberated creativity during sketching, and opened up possibilities that I may not see after doing detailed research.
By observing heating pad controls in current market, I came up with the following conclusions:
The control is usually attached to the heating pad
Most of the controls have buttons as means of interaction
Most of the controls have a display
Most of the controls have simple options
Difficult to lose as attached to heating pad
Clear feedback for the buttons and displays
Buttons and icons have clear affordance
Immobility of control due to attachment to heating pad
Most of the control are not visually pleasing
Input process can be time-consuming due to small number of buttons
Equipped with some knowledge of the current competitors, I started the initial ideation of my control. Some of the characteristics that I intentionally considered were:
Attachable & Detachable- these make the control difficult to lose and having high mobility. Magnet was considered to be the most efficient way to achieve these.
Ergonomics- I tried to ensure that the user can hold the control properly especially during attaching and detaching process.
Affordance- the clear icons, buttons, as well as rotary switches all clearly indicates the ways of interaction.
Feedback - the buttons, rotary switches and displays provide feedback for the user to ensure the effectiveness of actions.
After initial ideations, I narrowed my scope down to specific frames. The first frames I chose were physical therapy, elderly people, people with cold hands & feet, and menstrual cramps. Each of the controls was designed to only suit the corresponding frame. In some contexts, I did difficult trade-offs between functions and accessibility, and in other contexts, I thought deeply about the user needs and managed to fit multiple functions on a simple control.
Previous frames served as an experimentation process, whereas three further frames were clinched for further exploration. This time, a design principle was assigned to each of the frames and the proposed design was aimed to reinforce this principle in the largest extent. The frames and the corresponding principles were:
Chronic Pain | Politeness
Target users are generally old - needs politeness towards eye-sight and operation
Campsite | Discoverability
Lighting can be very poor at night - needs high discoverability
No power station - needs battery
Injury | Unobtrusiveness
Target user is in pain - needs unobtrusive, easy, quick access
User may not be in a stable context - needs to be small and portable
Through the framing process, I decided to continue with the campsite context, due to the unique setting and the lack of existing designs. I developed two concepts in distinctive directions. The first one is a minimalist approach (above), introducing lightened touchscreen and digital display. The second one is a mechanical approach (below), intended to maximize interaction experience through the mechanical gears, while lightened display was also included.
For the low usability of the mechanical approach, I decided to further refine the minimalist approach in following steps.
With the aesthetic direction leaning towards minimalism, I pushed myself further on simplifying the interface. Thanks to all of the valuable feedbacks, the proposed interface and an initial rendering are shown on the right. The essential functions and the unique interactions are explained as follows:
Short press to turn ON/OFF screen and long press to turn ON/OFF heating pad - large button acts as signifier
Light ring and vibration indicate power ON - act as feedback
Scroll up and down directly on digits to adjust temperature or time setting - instantly varied digits provide feedback; large digits bring data forward
Tap on icons to choose a function - clear icons act as signifier
Outer ring reveals the battery status of heating pad - the narrow ring acts as constraint to prevent interaction with it
This is the demo video explaining the operations of the heating pad control.
Future Directions & Reflections
Due to the difficulty of charging in campsite, it is necessary to consider the solar power option
Think more about the interface material, in order to make it more realistic and able to be produced
Learned to use 3D modeling softwares - Fusion 360 and Spline
Learned to import 3D model into After Effects and animate it
Experienced a new and effective process of product design - instead of a “traditional” process (user research, competitor analysis, persona, journey maps, etc), the free sketching and ideation process induced more creativity
Received numerous valuable feedbacks from the class, and really appreciated this cohort-working mode