Digging Design

"Innovation is the creation of the new or the re-arranging of the old in a new way." Michael Vance

For five weeks, BA2 & BA3 have a project together with Svevia, a company working with roads and infrastructure. The students are divided into five teams, and while the BA3 students stay in the same teams the whole period, the students from BA2 change team every week.

The mission is to develop a concept for the working tools spade and iron-bar lever, thinking of the user and the context, trying to be unbiased by any previous concept of how the tools should work. The workers use the spade not only as a spade, but also as a lever, axe, hammer, and even sometimes as a seat. Despite all machines involved in roadwork, the spade is one of the most important tools.

Problems with the shoulders, the back of the head, and the lower back are common within the trade, which is not surprising considering a worker may use the spade for 6-8 hours a day. The reason for Svevia to cooperate with UID is the opportunity to find a solution to one of the working environment problems. Magnus Idhult, Head of work environment at Svevia, said that he "hopes to achieve new solutions in avoiding repetitive strain injuries, with new ideas and angles of approach from one of the world&s best design schools".

Furthermore, since Svevia&s ambition is to acquire more women in the trade, it is important to adapt the tools so that they suit everyone.

During the user study (ongoing during the whole project), the students got the required characteristics of the spade from the road workers: it should be heavy, but at the same time light, it should be long, but also short, it had to be straight, and bent as well, it should be shock absorbed and rigid. Some quite specific and diametrically opposed features for the students to take into consideration.

While developing the tool, the students regularly gets feedback from the Svevia employees working on Strandgatan, right outside of UID. Monica Lindh Karlsson declared that the workers in reality are co-designers, since they are the ones with the vital knowledge and experience.

The real learning for the BA students in this innovation project is the special kind of teamwork that is applied; the teams are interdisciplinary, non-hierarchical, and less structured than a project group, for instance. In this way there is a creative flow in the teams, and the ideas develop continuously.

Read more at Entreprenadaktuellt, P4 Västerbotten,
Västerbottensnytt and Umeå University.