By Photographers Sabina Poole and John Herman, University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts
Tag: Product Design
With this Body, I Can Move: Innovating for Every Body
By Sabina Samiee, UO AAA in Portland
“Clearly it is a lack of relevant tools and gear available to [these athletes] rather than [their] attitudes that is holding [them] back….And that’s where we as design students come in with this project.” –Product Design student Jeff Heil commenting on Adaptive Products studio
In an unprecedented studio course and collaboration between University of Oregon adjunct Product Design program instructors, Wilson Smith (‘80 BArch and current Nike, Inc. Design Director), Bob Lucas (former Nike, Inc. innovation designer and current UO adjunct professor in Product Design), UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts Dean Frances Bronet, and Product Design program director, Kiersten Muenchinger, students in Portland’s Product Design program were given the opportunity to work with nationally recognized adaptive sports athletes to innovate functional products specific to physical challenges. The studio, offered winter term 2012, launched the Adaptive Products: Enabling Athletes with Disabilities course and strengthened the cooperative efforts between Nike and the UO Product Design program to develop athletic gear helpful to competitive adaptive athletes who use prosthetic devices and wheelchairs. [See images from the studio and the final review on the UO AAA Facebook page.]
Inspired by the legendary UO track coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc., Bill Bowerman’s quote “If you have a body, you are an athlete,” instructor Wilson Smith recalls beginning the class with that spirit. “We approached the Adaptive Design, Enabling Athletes with Disabilities studio to improve the athlete’s performance in sport,” he commented. Smith continued, “At Nike, we are always seeking to improve sports performance through our product innovations. The students worked directly with highly competitive athletes and approached the design challenge with empathy and passion, producing inspired and compelling adaptive products.”
The 16 students who worked with the guidance of co-instructors, Smith and Lucas, instructor assistant Bryan Myss, and four United States-based adaptive athletes consistently remarked on the collaborative blend of the course as weaving both ethics and ingenuity. The students functioned in teams of four, each student devoting their design innovation to the specific request and physical needs of one of the following athletes: Will Groulx (recently signed to NIKE ), Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby Champion; Gabriella Rosales, UltraMarathon runner; Joel Rosinbum, ParaTriathlete; and Brandon Robins, Elite Adaptive Action Sports Athlete.
University of Oregon students who participated in the studio are: Zoe Blatter, Ariana Budner, Ryan Florentino, Jake Fromer, Charles Hartzell, Jeff Heil, Matt Kennedy, Ian Kenny, Aleksander Magi, Damien Menard-Oxman, Tara Nielsen, Tori Russo, Liesel Sylwester, Greyson Walker, Alyssa Wasson, and Stewart Worthington.
The Adaptive Athlete studio course began with the premise that enabling every body to perform at the greatest potential possible–while comfortable, safe, secure, and with efficiency– is the ultimate goal. The intention to create, via trial-and-error, user-based products that promote ability, and ability without pain, and with plenty of speed delivered as part-and parcel of the entire concept stood squarely in front of the students enrolled in Adaptive Athletes. This would be a design adventure to co-innovate with direct input from the users themselves. As instructors, Smith and Lucas were fascinated by the countless figurations the human body can, and does, take: the idea of making physical pursuits, whether for fun or competition, accessible to all body types and to design equipment that would enable bodies of any description to move and be active served as the focal point of the course. In a very proactive approach, Smith and Lucas advocated for every body being able to move and be as athletic as the individual desires. Considered a fundamental right of the person, Lucas and Smith adopted the attitude that if you wish to activate your body, physical limitations might pose a challenge, but that very challenge needs to be embraced. Both the instructors are quick to note that as human beings, we all function at different levels of athletic prowess, whether we use a wheelchair, a prosthetic leg , are born without a limb, or even with no loss of extremities, we should work with and use that which we have to the best manner possible. Bringing to the athletes access to innovative designs that enable and enhance life experiences and make success more feasible, was a tantamount concept for the studio.
To achieve this gracefully blended partnership of user and designer, Smith and Lucas crafted the course experience to integrate close collaboration between the athletes and the students. Athletes visited the studio, working in cooperation with the students to create ideas, and provide feedback and concepts. The students quickly learned what was important to the athletes and also came to learn what motivate is a desire to excel no matter what the physical situation. With careers deeply entrenched in design and innovation for athletics, Smith and Lucas both urged the students to rely heavily on the input of the end user, providing ample opportunities for items to be tried on, tested, and used in real-life situations.
Human beings tend to be captivated by movement, the option to have the power to move ourselves, to control our bodies and to have a sense of communicating accomplishments. How we achieve those ends and having the choice to do so greatly effects our perceived quality of life, our self-confidence, our self-assurance—the omnipotent capability to go from doing nothing at all (for example, sitting quietly without movement in a wheelchair) to springing into action with any kind of movement we desire (landing a huge arial jump on a wakeboard). The availability and access to have the equipment, materials, or prosthetics to push one’s limits and challenge the opportunities one has, completes an individual’s combined sense of both embracing the difficult and savoring the victory. The students were infused with a strong sense of enthusiasm to make these kinds of victories possible for the athletes they were working with.
From the onset of the winter term, the 16 Product Design students took their ideas to the athletes and spent hours determining what would be key areas of improvement to equipment, functional products and the existing devices these individuals already use in the everyday and fast-paced world of action sports. Student Jeff Heil comments, “We [had] an opportunity to get the ball rolling with what we came up with and inspire an effort to influence a lot of people’s lives in a really positive way. Enabling adaptive athletes to play their sports is such a unique and deeply interesting topic for design…..I believe design should move us forward.”
And, move forward was what they did. Students together with two of the athletes, Will Groulx and Brandon Robbins unveiled their designs March 14, 2012 during a review session at the University of Oregon | White Stag Block in Portland. Reviewers from Ziba, Nike, Inc., PENSOLE Shoe Design Academy, and others were on hand to critique the designs and help the students move forward in the continued development of their concepts. Crucial input came from the voices of both Will Groulx and Brandon Robbins who took the opportunity to actively engage with the students and let them know how the designs would fit into their lifestyles and athletic goals. It was evident that the lives of these athletes are not determined by what happened to them, or how they were born, but by the path they chose to take, a path perhaps less travelled but forged and fueled by a determination to surpass and accomplish.
From Ariana Budner’s design of the “ALBATROSS” bicycle “Smart Seat” (for Will Groulx) that channels ventilation, cooling, and comfort into the athlete’s ride (Budner cites it as “the handcycle seat that cools the competitive athlete, freeing [him] to focus on the competition at hand”) to Ryan Fiorentino’s “CONCORD” upperbody support system (also for Groulx) that braces Groulx for long-duration wheelchair movement and exhaustive rugby athletic competitions, the student designs epitomized thoughtful design adopting challenge.
Ian Kenny’s “MOMENT Arm” sought to provide athlete Gabriella Rosales with armwear that could “restore, enable, and improve” athletic potential. Kenny’s design concentrated on athletes needing devices to assist athletic performance for below the elbow amputee or missing limbs from birth. Guided by Smith and Lucas, the buzz words around the studio consistently remained “Mobilize Accommodate Empower,” a message that resonated the entire term.
Not only focusing on physical and tangible user-based devices, Tara Nielsen turned to the idea of proactive healthcare. Introducing accessible heat and massage therapy tools for amputees thereby bringing physical therapy and wellness needs into the power and control of the individual.
Zoe Blatter’s “XDRIVE” gave his athlete, Brandon Robins, a tidy and compact package with towel storage, alcohol spray, lubricating ointment, and a screwdriver—all essential tools for an athlete with a prosthetic lower leg to keep himself comfortable on a day spent on the mountain snowboarding.
Student Jeff Heil addressed the importance of athletic training: his “AIRBound” dynamic board sports training system “is an aid to athletes in their transition from injury to competitive performance.” Heil’s ingenious design looks a little like a thick rubber air-inflated snowboard complete with bindings: he used air filled bladders to enable balance, jumping with and bounding off so the user could test and redefine physical limits without the fear of further injury.
As instructor Wilson Smith enthusiastically beams, this is an all things bright and beautiful approach to design: anything is possible, and once you know your limits, you can potentially soar way beyond them…. with the right equipment, but more importantly, with the right attitude. As stylishly tattooed, baseball cap-wearing Brandon Robbins, (a former professional wakeboarder who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and now is a competitive adaptive snowboarder) proclaims, with a gregarious cheeky grin and while hungrily gazing at his student teams’ designs, “It’s all so great, so great…I just want to try it all!”
Watch UO School of Journalism student and UO News reporter, Dustin Turner’s report on Adaptive Products | Adaptive Athletes.]
[The Adaptive Athlete studio student work is on exhibit in the Jacqua Center, on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.]
Special thank you to co-instructors, Wilson Smith of Nike, Inc. and Bob Lucas, as well as the students and athletes Brandon Robins and Will Groulx for their enthusiastic participation and willingness to discuss this studio and the projects. Thanks also to Portland Store Fixtures for their generous lending of the forms to display student work on final review day.
Product Design is all about positively modernizing the things we use. It addresses the way we envision what we use and how we use it, how we transport ourselves, how we get our stuff from point a to point b, improving objects we use everyday, and pushing the limits with pioneering yet always better and more useful products. This summer a group of UO product design students, all with diverse and fascinating backgrounds, gathered under the direction and guidance of instructors Christian Freissler and James Molyneux to produce this year’s standout success story: an entry in the 2011 Oregon Manifest bike design challenge. Their creative vision, their months of dialogue and discovery, and their research delving into the history and function of bike design and production has yielded something truly remarkable: The Campus Bike. Read on for the whole story……
24 September 2011
by sabina samiee
In a city that is already teetering on the verge of velophilia, things escalated this weekend with a special competition of innovation and spirit to find a modern utility bike. Bike designers nationwide converged at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland’s Pearl District for the annual 2011 Oregon Manifest. Sponsored by Levi’s this was no ordinary fete. Designers, craftspeople, and students have been working since February 2011 to create a new bike for the modern daily urban bike rider. The goal was to develop an integrated Tool for Living and “ a bike not yet seen on the retail floor.” You can get the full scoop on Oregon Manifest from their website.
So it was that on the morning of September 23, 2011, the PNCA Commons became a seafull of the big, the bold and the beautiful: gleaming bikes corralled for photo ops and public scrutiny. It was a plethora of colorful sparkling metal, and black polished circumferences of tires, sparkling roulette-like spokes of wheels, pristine components and parts soon to be sullied by September 24’s planned 50+ mile Challenge Ride. Not to mention droves of hipster bike people….everywhere.
The order of the day was predominantly large-scale, prodigious-looking and commanding, chockfull of features and accessories enough to fascinate and amaze even the most jaded bike enthusiast. Bikes with side carts and extra wheels, bikes with clunky wooden shelves, bikes with grand metal frame baskets, bikes with briefcases, bottles, and contraptions to carry everything from a child, to a pizza to a chicken to an endless supply of tools and instruments and gadgets: it seemed nothing had been forgotten or overlooked. The PNCA Commons had been transformed into a bike lover’s dream—a candy store of velo delights.
But in the midst this beautiful and bright bicyclette cacophony of metals and rubber, wood and plastic, there stood, very upright, casual yet dignified, something neat, sweet and petite. If good things come in small packages, the brilliance of the UO Product Design team is not to be underestimated. Their Campus Mini Velo Bike, a model of efficiency, simplicity and diminutive structure, stood out not because it overwhelmed the competition but because its design was so refreshingly….pure, well-thought out, and crafted to satisfy the “Everyman” (let’s just say, every person). This bike’s bantam-like frame did not lack a sense of strength and fortitude—and, indeed, the steel frame painted a sprightly white and keen green, had been welded to produce a structure able to withstand height, weight and duration of any user perched atop two 20” tires. Even the bike’s tires presented a model of consideration: they are airless, utilizing a technology whereby tire inflation becomes an unnecessary inconvenience and thing of the past. The small nature of the tires (at a significant 7” below customary bike wheel diameter), allows greater use of the storage space incorporated into the velo’s frame. From the top of the tires to the handle bars, it is roomy, with space available to tote pretty much anything one would want to take on a bike. This bike is all about the convenience of attachments (such as rear and front lights) and the conspicuous absence of obvious gadgets.
Subtle in stature but powerful in concept, the Campus Bike was rolled before the panel of judges who were already emitting quiet ooo’s and ah’s at its neon green and white frame and its curious seemingly absent extraneous add-ons. What ensued in front of judges, Tinker Hatfield (famed NIKE designer chosen by TIME magazine as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century), Rob Forbes (PUBLIC BIKES), Joe Breeze (Breezer Bikes) and Bill Strickland (Bicycling) could only have been described as a clever, humorous, and quite entertaining presentation designed to instruct as well as demonstrate.
As one student narrated, others approached the bike, in turn, and made use of its different very well-integrated features. The students effectively used the bike as it remained stationary with the intriguing spring-loaded, fully retractable kickstand making it entirely upright and solid on three weight-bearing points. Six-packs of beer, books, groceries, locked compartments, and the rear-carrying device were secured by an internally retracting zig-zaging bungee system that can, apparently, also securely carry something odd-shaped like a soccer ball. The team silently made use of all these features even securing a latte paper cup while the judges looked on amused….and impressed. This was a clear demonstration of practicality and utility.
It bears mentioning that the Campus Bike has features that are the culmination of months of brainstorming by the UO team. Everything on this bike from the 3 speeds, hub gearing, belt drive, and disc brakes to the concept of low maintenance (no lube necessary, hence no visits to the bike maintenance shop) to the disappearing internal chain system (no more oil marks on pants or pants’ fabric caught up in a messy chain) to the moisture-sealed frame and components (no rust or corrosion) make this bike shine. And while there is a great diversity to the backgrounds that this team shares, (one student came with absolutely no previous knowledge of bikes, some are seasoned and experienced bike riders, and some work, study and play in creative fields such as photography, videography and woodworking) one feature they have in common is an interest in and passion for product design and the innovative pursuit of things that make life better and that can make living and transportation a viable, accessible, pleasurable, and sustainable concept.
The Campus Bike was designed with the consummate University of Oregon student in mind: a person who needs to travel relatively short distances, be comfortable even in a rainy downpour, have cargo options, and exist as a “microcosm” of the real world. Practicality and the “campus story” (deemed a life of study, books, visiting friends, transporting food and drink, being mobile, and being happily on-the-go) was of tantamount consideration. But by designing for this ubiquitous student, the UO team hopes they have made something “small, approachable, and friendly” says student|designer, Teressa Hamje. The Campus Bike is something that has the realistic potential to prevail and provide a snappy comeback to the bikes we know and use today.
This is the little bike that could….and, if the bike design community has anything to do with it….would and should be carrying its vision and the practice of simple, efficient, accessible bike design well into the future. The Campus Bike will perhaps influence bike design and the formulation of more practical, usable bikes for a brave new world of eco-minded, efficiency-concerned, regular folk. Maybe the Campus Bike just goes to show, small is the new big.
[Winners of the Oregon Manifest 2011 will be announced today, the 24th of September at 6pm (PST). This blog post will be updated to announce the results. We wish our UO team the best!]
The UO team is comprised of students Jeremy Androschuk, Teressa Hamje, Adam Horbinski, Ian Kenny, Heath Korvola, Matt Raphael, and Scott Warneke under the instruction and guidance of Christian Freissler and James Molyneux and with direction from Kiersten Muenchinger, Program Director and Associate Professor for the UO Product Design program in both Portland at the White Stag and in Eugene on the main UO campus. The UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts in Portland is led by Administrative Director, Kate Wagle who is instrumental in bringing courses such as Manifest Oregon to the University of Oregon in Portland. The Oregon Manifest project was a part of The Summer in the City program.
The UO team is indebted to the assistance and hands-on fabrication expertise of Dave Levy, owner of TiCycles Fabrication.