This blog will document the design journey, influential thinking and key research that have brought me to this final hood design outcome.
From the very beginning, my design concept incorporated the idea of having a hood form that would allow for the baby to feel in an enclosed dark pod. The main rationale for creating this dark enclosed pod was an attempt to replicate the womb conditions. " An unborn infant, says Dr Als, is basically peering through a fog of amniotic fluid into a dark cave. It’s possible that a bright light might filter through to the womb but, to the infant, it probably means the difference between dim and dimmer." (Cornell, 2016) In the graphic below you’ll see the initial sensory observations made of the experience within the womb vs. the sensory experience outside of the womb.
My initial designs did not see the hood as a separate element; moreover, the pod was more of an inclusive mattress, foam former or tunnel. At this stage, the design was concerned with creating a multisensory zone.
As I started to create more designs through sketching and overall shape consideration, the hood started to become a separate element. The major changes took place as I took the 10 sensory elements and merged them into five product components. It was at this point that the product became modular and the idea of an additional hood with internal lighting was born.
I was now considering how the hood could be made and began by researching pop-up tent technology as I felt this would be an easily usable option for mums and would provide a quick and effective pod or dark space. Below are the key images from my research, having visited a few camping shops I observed the tents were created though the use of memory metal which is held in place by fabric pieces and loops. I purchased a pop-up unit with similar technology; from here I de-constructed the product and altered the fabric pieces and metal framework to fit with a pop-up hood design for Snuggle.
Unfortunately memory metal does not stand up to bending and reforming and quickly lost its memory. As the general design of pop-up tents and sunshades do not have retractable sections and a key design feature within Snuggle was the ability for the mums to part shade and also fully enclose their babies, the use of memory metal and pop-up tents technology was no longer applicable, so my search continued.
I then turned my research towards a more familiar form to mothers; the pram, creating a hood with an archetypal form would allow my product to be instantaneously familiar to customers. Aware of the type of customer this product is aimed at I began researching the forms off popular pram hoods. In line with my research bugaboo are considered the pram of choice for new mothers "Now one designer buggy has received the ultimate endorsement. Kate Middleton has joined the Bugaboo Brigade." (Kemp, 2013) I, therefore, purchased a Bugaboo sunshade to observe the material choice and manufacturing techniques used.
I then took my research and development into the workshops of MMU, initially starting on the laser cutter I was able to cut x6, 7 mm arch supports for the fabric hood, cutting from plywood, gave the arch supports more strength, however when I took these pieces into the woodwork department and began to explore the use and rollover, I began to hit problems. As you can see from the images below they all lay flat the mattress almost has a halo also, the plywood was of insufficient depth to take a bolt to hinge on.
Having discussed the available 'flexible' wood options I decided to use at 3 mm ply, cut to a 20 mm depth. These struts were then bent around the mattress, allowing me to measure the length each strut needed to be. I was then able to explore different forms and shapes working with different combinations from 4 through to 5 and eventually finalising with six struts. The final design gave the hood an inclusive feel reminiscence of the forms from bugaboo prams and the archetypal pod shape. The use of plywood next of the white material is also inline with the look and feel I have discussed in the ‘aesthetic blog’ using natural woods rather than formed plastic keeps to the natural organic feel this product intends to convey.
During a design critique with my lecturer David Grimshaw, he felt an inclusive hood was not necessary. I took this on board, however, felt offering a completely enclosed mattress hood with breathability would keep to my initial design agenda and create the sensory environments initially intended.
Having finalised the struts and the overall form of the hood I approached the contouring expert Katie, she was able to assist me in creating a pattern piece and selecting the correct materials for final prototype.
As you can see from the images below we started by, first measuring the hood to creating accurate dimensional drawings, from here Katie showed me the techniques used to take measurements from a 3D structure to inform the pattern piece dimensions. We used this pattern piece to further understand how the fabric then fit the three-dimensional form. Exploring cutting the fabric on the bias or along the grain led to a number of alterations of the pattern pieces, tweaks were then made using a curvature’s tool – this tool allows you to draw curves achievable in fabric, once completely finalised, I cut x5 sections and made an initial Calico White prototype.
Now confident in the knowledge that the pattern piece was correct Katie and I went into town to acquire appropriate fabrics. We chose fabrics for their breathability, Cotton content and aesthetic look and feel. The final fabric swatches looked fantastic when placed alongside the plywood, this palette creates a none gendered neutral look. To read about this please visit the ‘aesthetic blog’.
While spending time with Katie I learnt about pattern cutting, designing for 'on the grain pattern pieces', key information for pattern pieces, how to measure from a 3-D form onto your 2D pattern, and finally, Katie was able to advise on the type of stitch needed for each section.
Having returned home with a fantastic prototype, one of the seams has unfortunately misaligned in the final seam. I had not allowed enough seam allowance and it is now slightly wonky. I will address this and alter the pattern pieces. There is also an element of hand stitching required for the section that surrounds the bolts of the hood when looking at manufactured hoods this is something that can be created on the machine.
If this product were to become manufactured, I feel the hood struts will end up being made out of a High Density Polythene, “Can be moulded into almost any form due to its excellent moulding qualities, is rigid and hard.” (Polyethylene, 2016) this would be a safety, weight and durability point of view, however, I would be keen for the plywood look to be maintained in someway.
Cornell, C. (2016) Baby’s view of the womb - today’s parent. Available at: http://www.todaysparent.com/pregnancy/being-pregnant/babys-view-of-the-womb/ (Accessed: 21 July 2016).
Polyethylene (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene (Accessed: 6 September 2016).