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In this article, we look at the flow of a design project from the enquiry stage to the execution part. The protagonist of this series will be Tom, the creator of the brand!

The company is founded in 2017 on the initiative of Thomas Michalski, and its mission becomes to create products for so-called landsurfing, i.e. boards that will give the joy of surfing also in land conditions and, while riding, will reproduce the conditions on the water as closely as possible. In the LONGWAVE range there are five products in different variants to choose from.

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THE BEGINNING OF THE COOPERATION WITH MINDSAILORS

1. Meeting and project assumptions

We meet Tom at our previous office in Concordia Design. He has been working on the idea of creating another line of boards, which he has already managed to partially materialise in the form of the first prototypes. We talk about what the final product should look like and what functionalities it should have. While the boards currently in the LONGWAVE range are selling well and the brand is recognised by enthusiasts all over the world, Tom wants something more. The models so far have been produced in a 'hand made' way - bespoke and small scale, and production resembled "garage".

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There is a need to go one step further and make something completely original. The mechanical components attract attention - currently, the 3-layer bamboo boards are fitted with off-the-shelf parts and Tom wants to look for solutions that will enable a combination of two styles - one similar to surfing and the other, a classic style, for moving around on the board in urban conditions. As a result of the collision of Tom's previous experience (both from the user's side and the manufacturer's side), with the results of the Mindsailors team's research and know-how, the idea to design original trucks for the new boards quickly emerges.

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2 Brief

At the meeting, the main assumptions of the project are discussed and the brief is completed. The document contains the key issues for designers:

  • consumer insight and target users
  • description, parameters and main functions of the product
  • planned cost and scale of production
  • number of designs to be developed
  • a detailed description of the electric board variant
  • possible problems to be encountered resulting from Tom's experience in the production of previous boards

3 Pricing of the work divided into stages

With a comprehensive brief, it was easy to make a cost estimate for the project broken down into individual stages, starting with the conceptual phase, preparation of the chosen design in terms of mechanics and construction (also taking into account the design of the trucks) and the cost of developing production documentation and commissioning the production of prototypes.

Tom accepted our proposal and we could officially begin work on Stage I, the conceptual phase - the part that is usually most associated with the design profession, i.e. sketches and visualisations of new products.

 

MOOD BOARD - AN OVERVIEW OF INSPIRATION

Among the attachments to Tom's design brief was an extensive gallery of inspiration, showing his expectations for the visual part of the new product. We put this together to create a board that was a collage of images from Pinterest, search results from Google graphics and visualisations of surf shop listings.

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Mood board created from client inspiration. Source: Pinterest

Mood board - a collection of images, graphic material, sketches, pattern samples and materials, aimed at conveying the atmosphere of the project under development.

Among the collected inspirations, in addition to classic skateboards, were designs of existing surfboards, ballasts and non-slip pads of various patterns and colours. With a starting point in the form of a mood board, we were able to start work on the first official stage in the project, i.e. the creation of visuals for the new products.

 

TO BEGIN WITH - SKETCHES

To work on the initial concepts, we engaged several designers who had previously studied the brief and the client's expectations. Why did we choose this method of working on this project?

"When we set about designing, we put ourselves both in the role of the client - treating the project as if it were our own - and that of the target audience - wondering whether our idea goes hand in hand with the desire to purchase the resulting product. Our experience shows that the concept that is in the client's head is worth confronting with the ideas of others. This approach brings a lot of fresh air into the project and ultimately leads to new solutions, often not considered at all before."
- Mikołaj Wiewióra, Senior Designer at Mindsailors

Thanks to this method, it was possible to achieve different visual interpretations of the boards, which were sent to the client in the form of sketches.

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New LONGWAVE board - sketches, concept stage

Already at the first meeting, Tom signalled that he was keen on a minimalist design and that the unique selling proposition for the new products, in addition to the proprietary truck system, should be the elements that distinguish the LONGWAVE line from other manufacturers' offerings. Thus, proposals for designs in flashy and intense colours were rejected in favour of a subdued, strong but unobtrusive design, focused on details and enhancing the charm of natural bamboo wood. After receiving initial feedback, we were able to move on to the next stage within the conceptual phase, namely 3D modelling.

3D modelling - the process of creating and modifying three-dimensional objects using CAD software.

 

RENDERINGS - REALISTIC 3D VISUALISATIONS

Sketches are an intermediate stage in the conceptual design process. With an initial outline of what we wanted the product to look like, we set to work creating 3D models to realistically reflect the look of the future boards.

We focused on guidelines for a minimum number of decorative elements and a play of details. The design included the use of bamboo wood, which, in addition to being an environmentally friendly material, has very good resilience, which is beneficial for the handling of the board.

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We also focused on the distinctive finish of the edges of the boards, which, in addition to their aesthetic qualities, were intended to have a utilitarian function - lying well in the hand, increasing comfort. We proposed two types of edge, differing in profile shape.

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The new line of LONGWAVE boards was created with the use of eco materials in mind. The recommendation was to use the aforementioned bamboo wood, which Tom had been using to manufacture his existing worktops. Implementing the production of two types of boards - one 140 cm long and the other 100 cm long - would result in a significant reduction in waste.

We decided to go in this direction and also designed a shorter plank pattern within the same product line.

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A NEW APPROACH AND A COMPLETELY ORIGINAL SOLUTION

When we started work on the design of the new LONGWAVE branded boards, we assumed from the beginning that activities would take place in two areas. One concerned the design of the top, and the other concerned the trucks - the mechanical structure that enables the board to be ridden.

From Tom's design brief, it was clear that the board was to be geared towards landsurfing, i.e. enabling a surf-like riding style. Its longer variant had the potential to be a so-called 'longboard', on which much higher speeds are usually achieved than on classic, shorter skateboards. When planning the development of the truck for the new LONGWAVE boards, we assumed a phase of testing solutions available on the market. During this phase, we noticed one common feature - all the trucks tested did not allow us to enjoy riding at higher speeds. This was due to their design - they were very wobbly and had a lot of twistiness. The challenge was to design the new solution in such a way that it would provide the user with more than just a reproduction of the movements typical of surfing. Our aim became to create a system that would allow the user to switch into a mode that would allow higher speeds on a suitably rigid structure.

 

TRUCK WITH TWO DRIVING MODES

The tests were successful and the results showed that a truck with two different driving modes could be designed and manufactured. Knowing this, we were able to tackle the development of the kinematics. Seeing that not everything was yet invented in this matter, we started to work on a compact solution that would integrate the spring and the new bracing method into the truck itself. The challenge was to design an easy-to-use system to switch from a landsurfing style of riding to a more static one suited to urban conditions. The lessons learned from this stage led us to the first concept that met the requirements of both riding styles.

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Outline of the shape of the truck - top and bottom views

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Output version, Iteration 1, Iteration 2

 

PROTOTYPING AND TESTING THE NEW SOLUTION

After drawing out the kinematics in SOLIDWORKS, we moved on to testing on a functional prototype. We started with a 1:2 scale 3D printout to check that there were no collisions and that the assumptions developed in virtual space would work on the physical object. While the first tests were successful, due to the drawbacks of the plastic print technology, the truck was not strong enough to be safely tested further. As a next step, we decided to make a 1:1 scale prototype from the target material.

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LESSONS LEARNED

While the conclusions of the testing phase were optimistic, not everything worked as we expected. The truck structure proved to be insufficiently rigid, so we modified the geometries of the key components and then carried out a strength analysis to ensure that the changes had the desired effect.

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Stiffness test - original and current version of the truck

By using the finite element method, we were able to reduce the weight of the body while maintaining the intended stiffness of the entire structure. The result is a board with a new truc that turns better than the boards we have ridden so far.

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