A black rubbish bag, filled to overflowing with carrot peel and milk cartons. This is the sight that greets many of us when we open the door of the cabinet under the sink every day. However, Kvik only started to realise how irritating we find this aspect of our everyday lives after a team of designers confronted the company with comments from a group of private kitchen users.
The well-known Danish kitchen manufacturer had long been keen to involve users strategically in the development of new products, but was unsure of the best way to go about it. Niels Stendys, Category & Store Design Manager at Kvik, therefore contacted Design2innovate in early 2014 to schedule a design consultation. “We chose the consultation as a kind of ‘dress rehearsal’ with regard to what involving users might lead to,” he says. As it turned out, the ‘dress rehearsal’ was so successful that the company subsequently took the opportunity to find out even more about the design process through an actual introduction to design comprising four bespoke workshops held during the spring.
Show me your rubbish bin “As early as the second day of the introduction to design, the six participants from Kvik were given a ‘homework assignment’ whereby each of them was to arrange a user observation test. They each had to find a family and ask them to take three photos of the things they liked about their kitchen – along with three photos of things they were less happy with,” relates Pia Schytz, Design Consultant at D2i.
The pictures they collected made it abundantly clear that all aspects of handling and disposing of kitchen waste were viewed as an everyday pain – as the designer calls it – in kitchens all over Denmark: both because the bin bag itself is hard to access and because having the bin under the kitchen sink is neither ergonomically appropriate nor hygienic. This was something of an eye-opener for the Kvik participants, who used the subsequent meeting to come up with the first, rough prototype of what has since become a special ‘waste module’ for the kitchen. The new module is easy to access, simple to keep clean and frees up space under the sink.
“The designers gave us all kinds of tools to help us interpret data. The biggest surprise was probably finding out that we could access such useable insight on the basis of input from such a small group of people,” says Niels Stendys. The best possible innovation Another idea also arose from the meetings with the designers.
The starting point was an assignment intended to find inspiration from completely different sectors. A trend from the automotive industry, where film is used to make it simple to change vehicle colours, led to the development of a similar system of film for kitchen cabinet doors. The new system opens up all kinds of opportunities for changing the colour of a kitchen without having to replace the units. This idea has since been applied in practice as well.
The partnership between company and designers was thus surprisingly fruitful, and Pia Schytz explains that this is largely due to the fact that Kvik came into the working relationship with an extremely constructive attitude: “To start with, they sent along six people from different departments. An interdisciplinary team provides the best basis for innovation because all the participants can contribute their own personal knowledge; this inevitably results in solutions that make a big difference,” she says, adding: “And they were really ready to accept change from the moment they arrived. They were prepared to try something new and weren’t afraid to lay all their cards on the table. This made our work as designers a whole lot easier.” Niels Stendys, Category & Store Design Manager at Kvik, also has a good feeling about the working relationship: “We had more than enough to get to work on after our workshops. Once we understood how to work with the emphasis on user needs, we started to make some big changes. And we have seen how this helps us to hit the target much more often when it comes to working with innovation.”