Juniors Get Their Feet Wet Designing Shower-spas

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Summary Sentence:

Industrial Design studios re-design a shower-spa.

Full Summary:

This year junior design students gained real-world experience by helping to Americanize a product currently being made in China for Aqualair, a Georgia company located in Dahlonega. Three junior Industrial Design studios under the direction of Professors Kevin Reeder, Florian Vollmer, and Randy Bernard worked with Aqualair to re-design a shower-spa.

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  • Student discusses concept with Aqualiar director o Student discusses concept with Aqualiar director o
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  • Though this shower/spa seems to be more traditiona Though this shower/spa seems to be more traditiona
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  • A design of a shower/spa with a central body spray A design of a shower/spa with a central body spray
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This year junior design students gained real-world experience by helping to Americanize a product currently being made in China for Aqualair, a Georgia company located in Dahlonega. Three junior Industrial Design studios under the direction of Professors Kevin Reeder, Florian Vollmer, and Randy Bernard worked with Aqualair to re-design a shower-spa.

"One of the main purposes of the Aqualair student design project is to Americanize the design so they can be manufactured by Americans and sold here," said Abir Mullick, Director of the Industrial Design Program. "The potential for Aqualair to manufacture in Georgia and create new jobs excites us tremendously. The job creation aspect of this project empowers students by letting them know that design can create economic development and regional growth."

Aqualair's shower spa features steam, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, soothing music, and therapeutic lighting, and multiple shower jets. Alex Suslaev, director of product development at Aqualair, and his team at Aqualair challenged the Georgia Tech students to add new features to Aqualair's current product line, develop a new market using the existing hardware, and envision new markets for new technologies to meet future needs. 

"We decided to work with Georgia Tech because of its reputation and because of Abir Mulick's expertise in the industry," said Suslaev.

Most students don't get the opportunity to design for a larger real world audience. As students the only clients you are typically trying to please are your professor and yourself. "This is a very special project for the ID Program," said Mullick. "It offers the opportunity to work closely with a client and brings in real-life design experience that is so important to industrial design education. While the design studio experience allows students to focus on the academic aspects of industrial design, the Aqualair project overlays important design challenges (production, branding and marketing) that students are forced to consider in the design."

The Aqualair team participated in all phases of the project by providing direction and feedback on each phase grounding the students in the decision making processes that manufactures go through with a product.

"On the Aqualair project, I learned the importance of adapting my ideas to meet client demands," said Betsy Sugg, ID student. "It was, at times, frustrating but also a very valuable lesson."

While the students were not required to build a functional devise, they were asked to create their design based on real world applications and associated limitations of the object. 

The shower-spa project was broken down into four phases: research; concept and development; evaluation; and final presentation, giving the students some practical understanding of how to proceed with a project this size.

During the research phase, the students formed groups and tackled one of twelve research topics which ranged from marketing and ergonomics to production and installation. 

"We started by looking at market research and how you take that information and convert it into a product," said Suslaev. "We looked at what's realistic and what's not realistic. In terms of using the shower spa it was important to understand how to look at the customers needs and turn it into a product that answers those needs." 

In the concept and development phase, the students used the research findings from phase one with the marketing requirements from Aqualiar to develop two concepts each that were presented to the Aqualair team for feedback.

"We obviously saw that they listened and they heard us when we gave advice because we saw that implemented in the revisions of the product," Suslaev said.

Based on the feedback from Aqualair, the students returned to their teams to take the best of all pieces and come together with one design per team. 

"The students struggled successfully with developing far reading ideas that addressed project parameters," said Reeder. "They had to move beyond that safe ground of existing product solutions in order to achieve more innovative design solutions."

In phase four, the students built full scale models of their designs to evaluate the shower for usability looking at issues of seat and control placement. Is the seat too high, too low? Are the controls in an accessible location? After receiving feedback from Suslaev and their professors, the students returned to the drawing board and made the necessary refinement and created the final computer images and drawings.

At semesters end, students presented their final presentation concepts to Aqualair managers, design professors and practicing professionals. The presentations offered a journey from design research, concept generation, and design development to full-scale modeling. 

"As junior students they have done a terrific job of understanding the problem and providing a design response. Even though their work shows great maturity in handling many complex issues, the extent to which these designs will stand up to real-life challenges will be determined once some of these ideas get implemented. It is highly gratifying that the work of our students has helped a local business as well as provides economic development in the region," said Mullick.

For more information on Georgia Tech's Industrial Design Program, visit http://www.coa.gatech.edu/id/.

Additional Information

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College of Design

Categories
Institute and Campus, Student and Faculty, Student Research
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Keywords
ID, Industrial Design, school of industrial design, shower-spas, studio projects
Status
  • Created By: Leslie Sharp
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: May 16, 2006 - 8:00pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:09pm