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Archive for the ‘Concept Design’ Category

Electric cars save cash for city drivers

Posted Friday, October 30th, 2009

 They may miss out on revving their engines at the lights, but urban drivers of electric cars can cut their emissions by two thirds and save up to £3,000 a year. Sound like a fair compromise?

BBC.co.uk, April 2008

Electric cars produce no exhaust fumes, minimal pollution and a third of the CO2 emissions of petrol engines. On top of that they’re tax free, immune to congestion charges, and a full ‘tank’ of fuel costs no more than a pint of milk.

So what’s the snag? Currently, limited range and recharging opportunities, and a lack of driving pizzazz. But could the next generation of electric vehicles change all that?

How does it work? Electric cars use a battery and electric motor to power the vehicle and are charged via a standard mains socket in your home, or at an increasing number of free outdoor charging bays. The average electric car does 60 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 40mph – while higher performance sports cars can do 150 miles and 130mph. There are currently over 100 electricity pumps in the UK – the majority of which are in London. But 250 new points are expected to be added this year across Britain.

How will it make a difference? 1. An electric car run on conventional electricity from a coal-fired generator produces a third of the emissions of a conventional petrol car (64g of CO2 per km compared to 176g CO2 per km) and just over half the emissions of a diesel or hybrid car (104g CO2/km). 2. You can save thousands of pounds a year in running costs
3. If you’re thinking electric car plus green electricity tariff equals carbon neutral transport, you might need to recalculate. green energy

What’s stopping me?
“Max speed, 40mph?” Electric cars are currently best suited to city driving because the average speed of traffic in London, for example, is notoriously just 10mph: 2mph slower than an Edwardian horse-drawn carriage.

“I’ve heard they aren’t safe” Electric cars are classified as ‘quadricycles‘ by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, so are subject to less stringent safety tests than cars. But one report estimates they are three times less likely than petrol cars to be involved in accidents. Insurers certainly think so – electric cars qualify for the lowest insurance category, group one, because (reckons the AA) their likelihood of getting into dangerous situations is much lower than that of conventional, high-speed cars.

“Won’t the battery go flat as soon as I get out of my road?” Current models manage an average of about 60 miles on a single charge so we can make our average daily commute of 17 miles more than three times between recharges, but out-of-town journeys are of course trickier. Upgrading to more expensive lithium-ion batteries can increase range significantly.

“I’d love to help the planet, but I can’t afford such fancy new technology” Actually, electric cars range in price between £8,900 and £17,000 and, based on the UK average of 10,000 miles a year, you could save £800 a year on fuel, £300 in car tax, up to £2,000 from congestion charges and free parking in London, and get cheap insurance too. On the other hand, the current generation of electric vehicles are unlikely to rack up that sort of mileage due to their limited range.

Fuel and maintenance costs are also about a third of the typical petrol car: about 6.5p per mile as opposed to 20p. Even with the cost of replacement batteries – about £1,500 every three to four years – electric motoring still costs only about 11p per mile.

What’s the debate?
Electric vehicles are exhaust free but critics say that they simply shift the point at which the emissions and pollution is generated to the power station. This is true (in fact, electricity generation accounts for a third of the UK’s climate impact) but power stations are more efficient at generating energy than cars, so emission reductions still hold. You may be tempted to switch your electricity tariff to green energy to reduce your driving emissions to near zero – but think twice before making the jump.

New research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in 2008 levels another, less serious, accusation at electric cars: they use more water than fossil fuelled cars. Vehicles running off electricity use about 17 times more water per mile than petrol vehicles because electricity production in power plants requires the withdrawal (and return) of surface water from nearby lakes and rivers. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that one million electric cars account for just 0.3% of the miles driven by light duty vehicles in the US.


Perhaps the largest single design project conducted by Virgin Atlantic Airways in recent years is the design of the company’snew Upper Class Suite. Introduced in response to a direct competitor action (BA’s introduction of the first fully flat aircraft seat-bed), the Upper Class Suite was a totally new concept in aircraft interior design and was designed, engineered and brought into production in only 36 months

Posted Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Design Council

The original requirement for the Upper Class Suite was simple: Virgin Atlantic needed to introduce a flat bed into its upper class cabins. Joe Ferry, Head of Design and Service Design, and his team began by exploring a wide range of different configurations, including the use of seats with separate sleeping areas. Eventually they settled on the concept of a seat and a bed that were in the same space, but separate entities.

During the early concept phases Ferry and his team also spent considerable time with Virgin Atlantic‘s management discussing different seat design features and assigning relative priorities to each, so decisions could be made on what to include and what to remove from the final design.

As concepts developed, the team worked with Virgin Atlantic’s engineering function to understand whether particular concepts would be acceptable under safety and airworthiness regulations. It also brought in its first external support – in the form of Design Q, an automotive design consultancy used for its layout design and model making skills, which could help to produce 3D concept models to assist with evaluation.

At the end of this initial phase, Ferry and his team presented their concepts to the board, which gave the project the green light to move forward to the Design Development stage.

From concept to prototype
Once the overall concept was evolved, Virgin Atlantic began to involve more specialist outside design support, including a structural engineering firm to assist with the mechanical design of the new seat and to ensure compliance with the very stringent aircraft safety specifications. They also brought in furniture design specialist Pearson Lloyd, after briefing the agency to produce a hypothetical concept for a competitor product to understand its design language and style.

Ferry emphasises that the Upper Class Suite experience is a holistic approach covering much more than just the seat design, involving not just the cabin ambience but also associated service elements including limousine pick-up, in-flight massage and a range of dining options. The company brought in additional specialists during the design process to achieve this.

Another design agency, Softroom, was used to develop a concept for the whole interior ambiance and specialist lighting design consultancy DHA assisted with illumination concepts.

Pearson Lloyd used its own ergonomic experience to optimise the comfort of the seat concept and used ergonomic data that Virgin Atlantic Airways had commissioned from Qinetiq. Within 12 months the team had built a full-scale dynamic prototype seat for evaluation purposes.

The prototype Upper Class Suite business case was approved by Virgin Atlantic’s executive board and the seat design then underwent an extensive evaluation process. Members of cabin crew were seconded onto the design team to evaluate usability from a crew point of view and frequent flyers even came in to sleep in the test seat at Virgin Atlantic’s HQ. These extended test sessions were augmented by shorter review sessions in which the company’s top 50 passengers would come and assess the new design. Such user evaluation was important, says Ferry, but must be treated with caution as passenger feedback – which can be limited in so far as consumers are only able to react to what they have already experienced – won’t ‘take you to the next level.’

Manufacture
Once the board had approved the seat design, The Virgin Atlantic design team turned its attention to the manufacture of the seat. At this point in the process, input from external design consultants stopped: Virgin Atlantic and the consultants recorded the agreed design in a Detailed Design Specification Document and through it Ferry and his team became ‘guardians of the design’ throughout the engineering and manufacturing process. Here again, the availability of a working concept model was extremely useful, as without it, says Ferry, ‘the manufacturers would have said, “It can’t be done”.’ Manufacturing engineering took 24 months and at the same time the Virgin Atlantic design team conducted an extensive value engineering programme, looking for opportunities to reduce costs without affecting user perception of the product by, for example, ensuring that the leather seat cover designs make maximum possible utilisation of a single hide. The Upper Class Suite was delivered to aircraft in late 2003. Virgin Atlantic continues to use a similar process on other projects and is just completing a redesign of its Premium Economy class cabin.


How design can help your business perform more strongly

Posted Friday, August 7th, 2009

When times are tough and revenues are falling there may be a temptation for business to cut ‘discretionary’ budgets – money allocated to activities such as design, perhaps.

But design is a powerful tool in a downturn.

Design Council
Our research shows that more than half of the UK’s businesses:

  • …are looking to design their way out of downturn
    Over half (54%) of the firms in our survey thought design would contribute to a large or great extent in helping maintain their competitive edge in the current economic climate.
  • …think design is more important now
    Similarly, 53% thought that design had become more important in helping the firm to achieve its business objectives over the last three years.
  • …think design is integral to the economic performance of the UK
    The same number agreed or strongly agreed that design is integral to the country’s future economic performance.

Fortunes can change for any business – large or small – sending a once successful and thriving operation into decline. Shifts in the economy, in consumer sentiment or changes in the marketplace are just a few of the factors that might leave a company in trouble and unsure how to get back on track. Even mighty corporations such as McDonald’s or entire industries like the Swiss watch industry have fallen foul of changes in the market, but both responded through an investment in design and innovation which helped to turn their fortunes around.

What can design do?

There are many ways design can help your business perform more strongly, from improving your image (internally and externally), innovating your products or services, through to enhancing your overall efficiency and saving you money.

Companies of different sizes and from different sectors have worked with designers to improve their performance during challenging conditions.

Castle Rock Brewery
Competing in the competitive real ales market is tough. Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham brought in designers The Workroom to give its communications and graphics a more professional edge. Demand is now outstripping supply and the company’s barrel sales growth has doubled.

Thistle Hotels
The rise of value chains has meant that hotel groups in the traditional mid-market have suffered. Thistle Hotels is using an image overhaul by designers Navyblue to spearhead a multimillion-pound refurbishment and service improvement programme, and visitor numbers are already rising.

McCain’s
Frozen food company McCain suffered badly following a backlash against poor diets and rising obesity, so it worked with designers Elmwood to rethink the way its packaging speaks to shoppers in supermarkets, promoting the product’s natural ingredients and low fat. Sales have since blossomed to record levels.

HMV
High street music specialist HMV has had to react to massive changes in the way its customers buy music and video titles since the arrival of digital files and the internet. It used design to create a next generation store and whole new brand proposition. Sales at a trial store jumped by 25 per cent.

Ian Macleod Distillers
Scotch whisky drinking is in decline. So family company Ian Macleod Distillers employed designers to create packaging for its new Smokehead whisky aimed at bringing younger consumers to the whisky market. Sales have doubled since launch in 2006.

Design beats the blues

During hard times investment in design can give a business a competitive edge over rivals who are reining in their design and innovation budgets in order to save money. As American Express chief executive Ken Chenault told Fortune Magazine: ‘A difficult economic environment argues for the need to innovate more, not to pull back.’ Similarly, in September 2008 following a crisis in the global financial markets and in the face of an impending worldwide recession, Intel‘s chairman Craig Barrett told Reuters that investment in the company’s products and innovation remained very much on track. ‘We’ve always had the attitude that you have to make that investment in good times and bad,’ he is quoted as saying.

While American Express and Intel are global businesses, with dedicated R&D and marketing functions, the same wisdom applies to a business of any size: when times are tough it is change, dynamism and vitality – not hunkering down quietly – which are the keys to success. And this is exactly where design can help.

As you can see in the case studies above, companies big and small are rising to the challenge of hard times through a conscious investment in design. Their decision to innovate – to rethink and regenerate their products, operations and image – can be taken by a company of any size and in any area. Design and brand strategy can help elevate a firm or its products from the ordinary, the tired or the predictable, demonstrating that the business is alive, dynamic and responsive. And in a declining market that just might make the difference between growth and collapse.

Famed for precision timekeeping since the late 16th century, Switzerland’s watch industry nevertheless ran into crisis during the mid-1970s when Asian companies began to take over the market with quartz crystal technologies. Battling recession at the same time, Swatch (then known as SSIH) became insolvent, forcing its creditor banks to take control. Eventually, in the mid-1980s, CEO Nicolas Hayek took the company private and started a design revolution which was to save the business and put Switzerland back in the vanguard of watch manufacturing.

Design was instrumental in this reinvention. A combination of product aesthetics and reengineering (which reduced costs) gave Swatch the edge, leading it to become the largest watch company in the world, rescued from the jaws of collapse. Launched in 1983, the first Swatch wristwatch was a slim model using only 51 components (versus a typical 91 or more) and was marketed at an affordable price with contemporary design and styling. According to Swatch, the product has gone on to become the most successful wristwatch of all time.

Swatch‘s gross sales reached approximately £3 billion in 2007, but Hayek also claims that the design strategies he developed for Swatch in the early 1980s led to the rebirth of the entire Swiss watch industry, regaining its leading position worldwide since 1984. Data bear this out, with Swiss watch exports growing from around £2 billion in 1986 to £7 billion in 2006, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

While the creation of luxury power boats for a global market may represent design for a wealthy minority, Sunseeker International’s success results from a dedication to design from the smallest beginnings, undertaken in the face of the decline of British shipbuilding.

Formed in the 1960s by brothers Robert and John Braithwaite in a single industrial unit in Poole Harbour, Sunseeker was initially a distributor of Scandinavian boats. But Robert Braithwaite believed there was a potential UK market and so designed and built his first boat. From that start, the company has doggedly maintained a priority focus on design, design management, technology innovation and bespoke building. This combination has helped Sunseeker grow from its single unit to encompass seven sites and a million square feet of production space.

Believing that design is a vitally important part of this success, Sunseeker employs exterior and interior designers to work alongside engineering design, yacht styling and production teams, as well as with customers. It reinvests around 6 per cent of turnover in research and development. This has led to truly global success from a UK base: designed and manufactured in Poole, around 99 per cent of Sunseeker’s boats are now sold to the export market.


Without limits: The weird and wonderful world of fantastical one-off design

Posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

What happens when top designers are given the freedom to create whatever they want? Something weird and wonderful, says Sophie Lovell
The Independent, Saturday, 25 April 2009

What we need is obvious, says the great German industrial designer Dieter Rams: “Less but Better” – less junk, less pollution, less waste, fewer “things” altogether and in their place, better, more refined, essential tools for living. And of course he is right. So why do we need new chairs that we can’t sit on, conceptual artefacts that serve no obvious purpose and strange remixes and hybrids? In order to find new solutions designers need to experiment. Now, more than ever, they need to question every given, test every avenue and challenge all our preconceptions if they are to help find new ways of moving forward.

The realm of design, like many other disciplines, is now challenged to fulfil an increasing number of roles: to keep up with new materials; to facilitate our increasing technological dependence; to help make the world a better and more sustainable place, yet also balance all that out with the demand for the trophies of conspicuous consumption and an unquenchable desire for novelty.

Many designers think of themselves as explorers, testing the boundaries of materials, processes and mediums. They are committed to experimentation, and a growing band of gallerists, patrons and curators are nurturing these experiments in the form of one-offs, prototypes or limited editions. Thus the most fascinating innovations in design are now coming from an unexpected quarter: where it brushes against… the realm of art, and of conceptual art in particular. These pioneering individuals are asking some big questions. What is design? What does it mean to call oneself a designer? What are the roles of objects and products? If design is to provide so many solutions, where does it have to go to find new answers?


Grant Assisted design

Posted Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Are you interested in Design Assistance this year? You can apply for design assistance in the following areas:
Concept design
Product Design / development
Engineering design
CAD modelling and visualisation images
• Rapid Prototyping (FDM)
Website design and build
Graphic design
Branding and Marketing

If one or more of these could be of benefit to you please have a look at the full or part-funded options available to you below or call to discuss. Most of these are applicable for Midlands based enterprises:

Manufacturing Advisory Service Assist 1
MAS assists are 50% funded projects intended for all stages of the design process including rapid prototyping. They can’t be used for graphic design or marketing but can be used for websites in certain cases where it provides a link into the manufacturing/ordering process.
MAS allow a single 10 day assist or two 5 day assists per year.
http://www.mas-wm.org

Manufacturing Advisory Service Assist 2
MAS also offer a larger pot of 50% funded money (£5000-£15000) for large projects which will provide strategic change within a company. These projects need to be linked to manufacturing in some way with the aim of increasing jobs, sales, productivity etc within the company. It is open to any company within the west midlands. These projects are intended to be 10-30 days of work over approx 9 month period. Payment from the client would be required monthly.
http://www.mas-wm.org/www/servicesStrategicChange.htm

Advantage Proof of concept fund
This is a Fund for established start-up businesses in the west midlands. It is intended for innovation and product development providing 75% funding up to £30000.
All sectors considered but priority is given to advanced materials, healthcare, Energy, prototyping, transportation and digital media.
Money is paid to the company retrospectively based on invoices. The Fund is limited in the number of awards it can provide each month. Estimated application time – 6 weeks.
http://www.advantageproofofconcept.co.uk

LEGI Assist
Location: Coventry only (post code check req.)
Provides assistance to Start-up businesses – £500 grant to start business, business mentor, hot desk facilities etc.
Support for existing businesses – business coaches, support packages and a onetime grant of £2000, £1500 of which can be spent with us on consultancy services.
We are an approved LEGI supplier and can provide the consultancy services for businesses with less than 25 employees. The grant money can be spent with us on Product, graphic, or web design.
http://www.legicoventry.co.uk

Business Link assist
We are also registered as a business link west midlands supplier. Company’s involved with business link will have access to grants providing 50% or more match funding e.g.
• High Growth Programme – For pre-start and new starts that are going places. Average grant value £2,500.
• Diversification – breaking into new markets. Average grant value £9,000.
• European Regional Development Fund – variety of projects in objective 2 areas – grant value £5,000.
• Creative and Knowledge Industries – media, publishing, software, art.
• Access to Finance – help to raise money through loans, investment and major grants. Average grant value £2,500.
This is currently only within the West midlands but eventually we will be on the National Database of suppliers. Business link assists can be for websites, product design and development, and marketing.
http://www.businesslinkwm.co.uk

Innovation Networks
Innovation Networks provides grant support to West Midlands based SMEs who are innovating with a new product, process or service.
There are two grants available, a £10,000 Revenue Grant or a £15,000 Capital Grant. The grants are quick and easy to apply for. The simple application process normally takes no longer than 2 to 3 weeks.
Innovation Networks has just secured funding for a further 3 years and will be up and running in the near future.
http://2wm.co.uk/innovation-networks/


 
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