Date: April 2019
Project Type: Individual project
Location: Kodaira-shi, Tokyo, Japan
This was a one-month product design project in my bachelor university, Musashino Art University. In this project, students were tasked to find usability problems with electric griddles on the market and propose user-friendly solutions. An electric griddle is a plate which can heat its surface with electricity and keep foods hot. In Japan, normally, this product is used when more than two people want to enjoy sharing their foods together.
Shara is a new electric griddle which can be separated into four small plates. Each small plate functions as an individual's plate. Once users make food on the electric griddle, they can take a portion by removing their own small plate. By combining the function of heating with the function of individual plates, it enables users to take their portion of food without having to move them from a griddle to a small individual plate.
Students were divided into a couple of teams. Each team were tasked to research electric griddles on the market for two weeks to find usability problems.
Our team conducted observation research in which we invited fellow students and asked them to make food with an electric griddle. We observed and analyzed their behaviours. With this research, we realized that one of the usability problems was that users couldn’t easily move small pieces of food from a griddle to their individual small plates.
Disassemble an existing electric griddle
Second, we took apart a griddle to understand how it works internally. And we also went to two electric appliance stores to research what types of electric griddles exist on the market.
Third, we did brainstorming about room for improvement of existing electric griddles and categorized them into small groups. During this discussion, I came up with a design idea, an electric griddle which can separate into small plates to solve the problem we found during the observation research.
After the research, each student designed products individually. My design goal was to enable families to enjoy a smooth eating experience with a separatable plate design.
I defined how many small plates are the proper number for Japanese families to use for their eating. According to a survey, the average number of people per household in Japan is 2.47 in 2016. Having this information in mind, I sketched the context of use and eventually, realised that four is the proper number since more than five plates will become too big when they are assembled.
Third, I considered colors and materials of the griddle. During ideation, I imagined a scene where each person had unique coloured small plates and could be brought together to become one big colorful plate. Therefore, I gathered inspirational images on the internet to find beautiful ceramic color combinations. Also, I considered the material of rims which users would grip to take their individual portion of food. To prevent users from burning their fingers, I chose wood as the rim material.
Ultimately, I thought about the control panel. Normally, the control panel is attached on the side of a griddle. However, I was concerned that users would become confused on how to use the control panel when separating the griddle plates. I eventually came up with an idea of a smartphone app which enables every user to access the control panel.
I made a 3D rendering of the product for my presentation at the end of the project.
I also designed a smartphone app that allows users to control the temperature of the heat. In the interface, there are temperature presets buttons which automatically set up the appropriate temperature for specific foods.