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Assorted Design Case Studies

A list of assorted design case studies are indexed on this page.

See also:
sustainable design cases | cool products | concept cars | dubious products

Case Study: Ajiro Bamboo Bicycle Most of this recumbent bicycle is grown rather than manufactured. Bamboo is a fantastic building material. It grows ridiculously fast (up to 3 cm every hour), has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete, and a tensile strength similar to that of steel. It's
Case Study: Blind Crossing Sign in Newmarket Sometimes, what may seem like a bad idea turns out to have an excellent rationale behind it. <A &quot;useless&quot; street sign? (Courtesy Quinn Bell)> Consider the image to the left. Note the sign at the top of the image, announcing in print that the audible street-crossing signal is activated by holding the button for 3 seconds.
Case Study: COVID Personal Protective Equipment Many different designs for personal protective equipment appeared during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's interesting to study the variety of designs and try to intuit for what kind of user each produce was designed.
Case Study: Drivetrain Complexity A case of one change to the arrangement of automotive drivetrains turning into a radical change. <A conventional front-wheel drivetrain.> Consider a conventional front-wheel drivetrain as shown in . Consider only steering, suspension, power, and braking. Notice how power must be driven from the engine,
Case Study: Engine Gasket A case study of miscommunication between engine designers. In a major automobile manufacturer, the engine design group worked by distributing major engine component responsibilities to individual senior designers. One designer was in charge of each of the crank, block, cylinder head, valve train, etc.
Case study: IKEA toolless assembly IKEA is well known for its easy-to-assemble products. The company recently introduced a further innovation in this regard: assembly without tools. <A piece from the Regissör line.> While not everyone will agree, most people actually do find it easy to assemble IKEA furniture. Nonetheless, a common complaint is that the tools that IKEA provides are cheaply made and not very ergonomic (i.e., they hurt to use).
Case Study: Restroom Door Icons How the tiniest change can completely change the meaning of something as simple as the signage on a washroom door. I was told this story by someone who knew the designer involved. However, I cannot find out any further information about this case. If you know more about it, please email
Case Study: Reverse Vending Machine A Reverse Vending Machine is a device that pays you money to deposit something into it. Vending machines take your money and give you things. Those things usually come in packaging that most people just throw away.
Case Study: The Slide that Led to the Columbia Shuttle Disaster One badly designed slide led to decisions that (very likely) caused the destruction of the Columbia Space Shuttle. This case is based on the article Death by PowerPoint: the slide that killed seven people. On 1 Feb, 2003, Columbia was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center. Instead, it disintegrated, killing all seven people aboard.
Case: the Wood Pencil The evolution of the wood pencil helps understand the concept of balance in design. Consider the design of the wood pencil, a simple design that hasn't really changed, conceptually, in about 500 years. And yet, even a cursory review of its history shows that there were significant changes to the materials used, manufacturing methods, and extra features (e.g., attached erasers) over time.
Coffeemaker Case Study An example of how important it is to see design situations as your users see them. <Our coffee-maker.> My wife and I once bought a nice, new, reasonably expensive coffee-maker for our home. It was made by a reputable company and bought at a reputable store. It was similar to the one in the photo to the right.
Concept Cars Concept cars allow designers to exercise their creativity without risk in the marketplace. Swincar, 2015 <Out-ATV any ATV with the Swincar.> Source: Swincar. This concept is about suspension and tilting. Each wheel has a separate 1 or 1.5 kW electric hub motor, and each tire is independently suspended on a crab-like leg. It can apparently go up/down a 70 degree incline, and across inclines of as much as 50 degrees. The batteries are under the driver's legs.
Cool Products THIS PAGE IS OBSOLETE The new version is here. Some cool products. Wear black and be visible Albedo100, July 2017. <Night-only reflective paint.> Many cyclists get into accidents because, for one reason or another, they don't wear reflective clothing. It may seem a highly irrational behaviour, but that's what human nature is. Design is about giving people what they need while accommodating human nature.
Cordless Powered Screwdriver Brainstorm This example of situation brainstorming is based on material presented in . Consider the problem: Design a cordless powered screwdriver for use in home or small shop environments. As a result of a situation brainstorming session, a team might end up with a list of statements about the product as shown below.
Dubious Products Some not-so-cool products. You can't skinny dip here inhabitat, 2015. <What could possibly go wrong?> If you're looking to assert your superiority over the “tiny people” at the bottom of society, where better to do it than from a glass-bottomed pool suspended between two building, 115 feet in the air?
Dyson Vacuum Case Study The Dyson Vacuum cleaner may well have been an example of analogical reasoning. James Dyson is well-known for having “re-designed” the vacuum cleaner. He noted that conventional vacuums lost suction when the bags got clogged with dirt and dust. He developed a new way of removing dirt and dust from the air inside the vacuum cleaner by developing cyclonic air currents that literally spin the dirt and dust out of the air due to the difference in density between the air an…
EPH 3rd Floor Washroom Design Case Study This is a case of bad design in a men's staff washroom at Ryerson University. <The outside of the door to the EPH men&#039;s staff washroom.> In late 2007, the 3rd floor of Ryerson University's Eric Palin Hall was renovated to house the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Included in the renovations were the installation of men's and women's staff washrooms. These washrooms were intended to be
Ergonomics, Systems, and Toothbrushes Even for something as simple as toothbrushes, ergonomics and systems can have a significant impact. <What&#039;s wrong with this picture?> Consider the image to the right. It's one of those typical, “squishy-handled” toothbrushes, the curvy shape of which is supposed to be
Hangers Case Study A case study considering the relative advantages and disadvantages of two “high design” clothes hangers. Consider the two hangers shown below. <A spring-loaded hanger intended to not stretch the collar of t-shirts and similar clothing items. Designed by Kim Mo-Sei, Kang Joon-Ho &amp; Choi Yu-Lim. (> <A single-piece hanger for the same purpose. Designed by Rob Bye. (…
Kyoto Case Studies A small collection of mini-case-studies based on my trip to Kyoto in October 2015. While I saw this product in Kyoto, it's not a Japanese product. In this case, the instructions are (partly) needed to offset an awful user interface (UI) design. Can you explain why it's such a mistake?
Ladder Design Brainstorm Consider the problem: Design a way for electricians or other maintenance and construction workers to reach and work at interior heights for conventional job sites in homes. As a result of a situation brainstorming session, a team might end up with a list of statements and questions about the design intervention as shown below.
Orlando International Airport The Orlando International Airport appears to have been designed with significant functional modularity in mind. <A schematic of the Orlando Intl Airport (not to scale). (> MCO is clearly divided along functional lines. In reference to the diagram, the central portion is the
Palm Pilot Requirements Case Study This page is based on an interview of Jeff Hawkins by Charlie Rose, 3 July 2000. The Palm Pilot personal digital assistant (PDA) represented an abrupt shift in how small scale computing was implemented. The Palm quickly captured and maintained for many years the lion's share of the market in PDA devices. Microsoft had already tried twice
Sikorsky S-92 Case Study It's always the simple things that “get you.” This case was recounted by a high-ranking official of the company at a design conference. <The Sikorsky S-92.> Sikorsky (<>) is a world leader in helicopter engineering. One of their products, the S92 Helibus, was the result of a global collaborative engineering effort. While such international efforts are the way of the future, there also exists the danger of making the kinds of mistakes that would…
SSRMS Case Study The Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), sometimes called Canadarm2, is a robotic system that had a rather difficult birth because of some errors in problem specification. The SSRMS was originally intended to service any location in an envelope surrounding the entire core of the
Sustainable Design Cases This page contains a few short case studies about sustainable design. Zero Energy House The Zero Energy House is a single-family dwelling designed and built in New Zealand that literally uses no net energy over a year. In particular, it's a combination of
design/assorted_design_case_studies.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)