Getting Your Hands Dirty: The Practical Side of Design

Getting Your Hands Dirty – The Practical Side of Design

Getting Your Hands Dirty – the Practical Side of Design

The world of design has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Once, design studios were filled with drafting tables and cork pin boards. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find Cintiq tablet monitors atop open plan desks, manned by smaller, more integrated teams. And instead of today’s precisely-accurate prototypes – 3D printed in hours, it previously took weeks to hand make models and in comparison these were a poor facsimile of the final design. As times change, so too do the ways we design and create – but has the practical, hands-on element of design been lost to time?

Robert Pataki, Melbourne-born designer of the world’s first PowerBoard says there’s not enough emphasis on “getting your hands dirty,” in the design world. Over the years, funding cuts to university workshops and an influx of design students has changed the way designers have learned to operate – putting more emphasis on the virtual elements of a product rather than being grounded on its physical constraints, materials or production processes. Kate Bisset-Johnson, senior lecturer in Industrial Design at Swinburne adds to this, claiming that students have become “seduced” by Computer Aided Design (CAD), which can trick you into believing the ultimate product will work, because CAD looks so finished and complete.

Take, for instance, touchscreens in modern cars. In theory, they’re aesthetically clean, technically advanced and allow you to precisely control all of your car’s functions from one point.

However, in practice these systems require direct attention and multiple inputs to perform any task. For example, in older cars selecting heating or music was as clear and simple as turning a knob or pressing a single button – a far cry from navigating through today’s multi-level menu options to turn the fan up or down.

While you’re driving a car, this is counter-intuitive, not to mention potentially deadly. Obviously, the designers of these early touchscreens were more enamoured with the technology than truly improving the user experience.

At Cobalt, we know the practical, and not the theoretical or digital, has to be at the core of every design. Safety, simplicity, and ease-of-use are paramount to the user experience. You could spend days and days of looking at a design through a computer screen – and while it may look fantastic, that doesn’t mean it’s going to perform well – if at all.

According to Warwick Brown, one of Cobalt’s Principals, “the importance of the three Ps (physical, practical and production) within the design process is paramount. Good theories have to work in tandem with tangible evidence, and we’ve spent over twenty years balancing these two over every project.” Both Cobalt’s designers and our engineers are in our prototyping workshop as often as each other, creating an integrated team which produce great product outcomes. Simply put – we know how to get our hands dirty and make products that work as good as they look.

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LaunchPad: Your idea starts here

Here at Cobalt, we have over 20 years of experience undertaking projects of all kinds. We’ve created exciting products in the fields of sports, consumer goods, research & development and even automotive design. We don’t just know how to make good stuff, we know how to run successful projects- and it all starts with the initial brief.

We’re excited to finally announce our latest project: Launchpad. Launchpad is an interactive questionnaire for potential clients (like you), to tell us all about your idea in an organised, targeted way. Are you an individual or an organisation? Is your product an improvement on an existing item or a new idea? Are you planning to manufacture and sell the product yourself, or licence it to an established company?

Launchpad not only saves you time and energy in pitching your idea, it’s designed to give us exactly the information we need to know precisely how we can best help bring your project to life. The information you provide helps us to form the backbone of a creative brief, and lets us know what tasks are necessary for the project. We get an idea of the grand scheme of your project; where your idea is at right now, and how you see it coming to life – or rather, how we can help you bring it to life.

If you’re on the fence thinking “it can’t really be THAT simple,” try it out for yourself. Simply follow the on-screen prompts to tell us all about your big idea, and we’ll show you just how we can make your vision a reality.

(Consulting Cobalt about your idea will not compromise any future IP applications. You can safely discuss your idea under the protection of our Confidentiality Policy).

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Hong Kong Business of Design Week

The 2018 Good Design Awards

A night to remember

The Good Design Awards is the design world’s night of nights, bringing together top Australian and international design talent to celebrate world leading designs. The event showcases successful projects across fields such as architecture, communication, digital, engineering and many more. It’s like The Oscars, except the prize is given to the people who made a really cool product and not multi-millionaire Hollywood superstars.

Cobalt was thrilled to be judged Best in Class in the Product: Automotive & Transport category for our work on Victoria Police’s third-generation Alcohol and Drug Testing (ADT) vehicle. Previous winners have included the Tesla Model X and the Mazda MX-5, but it was the ADT’s exceptional safety features, workflow considerations & improvements on previous iterations that secured Cobalt’s accolade.

The jury for the awards noted the design gives “the public confidence in the police presence at any major incident, or testing site,” and that, “the Alcohol and Drug Testing vehicle meets, and in places exceeds, the original project brief in terms of local design and material content, cost and delivery timing,”

Alongside the Best in Class achievement, Cobalt also received a Good Design Award® for the Dermapen 4, which was recently revealed to the world at the AWMC Anti-Aging Conference.

This isn’t Cobalt’s first outing to the Good Design Awards – last year we brought home a Good Design Award for the Maton Guitar Case, and before that the Concave Boot kicked the exact same goal. Other Good Design Award winning products include the Agilent 4300 Handheld FTIR Spectrometer and the 5100 ICP-OES Spectrometer in years prior.

Bringing together the best of the best

The Good Design Awards is a prestigious event for Australian designers. The GDA is recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design program. GDA accolades are a unique point of difference for design agencies in a crowded market, thanks to the rigorous judging process of actual products rather than images or concepts.

The event was held on the 17th of May at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where Cobalt principal Jack Magree proudly accepted the award, representing our group along with Mark Matthews-Frederick, Libby Christmas, Graeme Marshall and Marcus Krigsman. It was a wonderful night full of celebration, networking and admiration of our fellow designers- and of course, there was the afterparty, too.

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