The outdoor spider habitat was and invention of my own design. The inspiration came to me one day when walking back from a night out in bath in very early September. As I walked through green park Sainsbury’s bridge, I look up and I notice thousands of spiders in their webs surrounding the lights; I see a couple of moths get instantly stuck in the webs above. As I continue to walk on I think to myself if the spiders made their webs there because of the lights or it is just a happy accident for them, either way clever spiders. I then forget about it. That is until university starts and I take the creative enterprise module, as we were asked to make up a project inspiration strikes, what if I could make something practical that dealt with my hatred for moths and spiders. Spiders are predators after all and I know they eat moths. Using a unorthodox method of approach over the next couple of days I ponder the idea, almost constantly I am at work and I am on the till, it’s quite and I am doodling on a bit of receipt paper and the idea forms in my head and the first design for the outdoor spider habitat was done. Once I get home I drew up the concept in my notebook. The reasoning behind the design was taken from the green park tunnel, I just created the same environment but on a much smaller scale, shelter, lights and a place to make the web.
The initial design was the easy part, I then set out to create a prototype. I had no idea where to start, not being a conventionally practical person I asked the most practical and methodical person I could think of my father. So I drew up a digital design and sent it to him; he then did exactly what I expected of him, ask very practical questions. As the question he asked posed credible to answer I set about my research phase. I know this is done backwards but I have never brought a design from paper to the testing phase before. Knowing very little about spiders, moths, who else is doing something similar and whether or not it was a credible idea, I started to research all of the points my father had raised.
I started by looking at many producers of wild life products; some products had solar powered lights built in them so this gave me hope that I hadn’t wasted my time. One particular manufacture I came across (also the only one to reply to my emails) was wildlifeworld.org, they are the largest producer of these kinds of products in Europe. After exchanging a couple of emails and telephone calls, I agreed to send them my initial design. We then arranged a skype meeting to discuss the product; they agreed that the product was unique (I could not find a product fitting the same criteria in my research). My two persons of contact are, Norman Sellers the marketing director for wildlifeworld.org and Gordon MacGregor who works for Norman on the product design team. Our first initial skype meeting was promising, they gave me plenty of advice, agreed that in principle the product would work. We then agreed upon some terms of collaboration. I would build and test a crude prototype and document the process, once they had proof that the design works, they would provide the financial backing for an official prototype production, for the official marketing photos and mass produce the product and sell it on their already established market place.
One note I have made is that it was difficult to tie them down to figures of ownership and pricing ect. I feel that once the project is nearing completion these terms will be discussed. We have stayed in touch over the course of the project, mainly by skype and telephone calls. This was to give updates on the product development.
As with any project of a similar nature, things going wrong and mistakes being made are part and parcel of the journey. Due to these, my project took one or two considerable setbacks, but on each occasion a valuable lessons was learnt.
The first problem I faced with the first design is that it kept toppling over, standing one meter tall and having a shelter that acted like an umbrella in the wind it would it be blown down very easily. (No spiders ever made a web on it) This meant I then had to go back to the drawing board to redesign the product.
Then with the redesign on of my project, cats were the main obstacles in making progress with my designs. For some reason they were infatuated with the string that surrounded the habitat. On more than 2 occasions I saw cats knocking the structure down. The string was the problem even though it was pegged down cats still liked to swat it. The solution was to change the string to a metal frame.
Another considerable setback in my project was deciding against making my own plastic, along with a few hefty burns from the process. My initial plan was to make my own plastic, in order to mold it myself into the desired shape. However, the process was difficult without high quality equipment, and so consequently I had to abandon the idea. I also lost a considerable amount of picture and video evidence, which I was keeping as a means of showing to my stakeholders the progress I had made. This was a setback in my project, as I had to recreate my original prototype (which got dismantled to reuse expensive parts) in order for any new stakeholders to understand what my project started off as and how it had developed. Another issue I had during the project, which was very much out of my hands was the weather. It’s very hard to get a good idea of whether your project is a success or not, when the weather is as bipolar as it has been this year. Also the timeframe for this project meant that the later summer months, where I believe my habitat would really flourish, won’t be reflected in this blog.
One aspect of my project that I did not consider before my designing phase was the financial restrictions that go along with it. Having never taken a design from paper to the testing phase before, I was unaware about how much your restriction your budget has on the scope of your design. In an ideal world, I would have tried and tested as many design ideas as possible, with the best materials I could acquire. However, as a student with a tight living allowance, this was just not realistic. I decided early on that I would limit myself to 3 design test phases. This would give my project enough scope to showcase my trials and errors, and also allow me to use good enough quality materials to make the test phases worthwhile. It was also important to use good quality materials, in order to attract as many possible collaborators and stakeholders as early on as possible.
Managing my own time
Once I began working with stakeholders and clients, it was important to start managing my own time efficiently in order to deliver concept design and testing results, so that they knew progress was being made, and were consequently kept happy. It was important for me to manage my own time because each test design needed a significant amount of time to prove whether it was successful or not. This meant that testing periods needed to be mapped out in advanced, so that I could work on other aspects of the project, my other assignments and my part time job in the meantime. It was also important to manage my own time carefully in case of any unexpected mishaps or problems. An example of this was early on in the project, cats kept on knocking down my structure, as they liked to play with the string. This was extremely frustrating, as each time they knocked down the structure I’d to have to repair it, and then start the testing phase all over again. However, because I managed my time properly, and had allotted time for any unforeseen circumstances, this was not a tremendous setback in the timeline for the project. Due to the fact that taking an idea from concept and aiming to put it on the market takes a considerable amount of time, managing my time efficiently has meant that I was unable to put the habitat on the market in time for it to be showcased in the project. However I am continuing with concept after graduation, and aim to have it on the market by 2016.
The testing phase of this project was the biggest learning curve I faced, this project is still far from completion; however I have taken it from an initial concept to a fully functioning prototype. I have gained experience with working with stakeholders and I have gained an insight to the amount of work it takes from conception to production. This will be reflected in my appendix. Continuing this project into the future, I intend on bringing this product to market and continuing the working relationship I have formed with wildlifeworld.org.