Host university: City, University of London, School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering
Academic partners: Budapest University of Technology & Economics and Brigham Young University
Industrial partner: Black Diamond
Task: Explore and develop Smart Mobile Outdoor Illumination products that enable or expand the active experiences for Black Diamond's customers
Black Diamond Equipment design and manufacture products for climbing, skiing and mountain sports.
Black Diamond (BD) has become a globally recognized voice for conservation and preservation ethics, particularly in Utah, where BD's global headquarters sit at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. They view the Utah landscape as an asset. Whether backcountry skiing in the Wasatch, rock climbing in Indian Creek or hiking in Zion, BD is committed to accessing the public lands and National Parks that make Utah unique.
Conservation and preservation are foundational to Black Diamond. These tenets are part of the mission of BD. We will always strive to protect access to the mountains, crags and desert landscapes where we pursue our sports. - John Walbrecht, President of Black Diamond
Building world-class product requires exceptional design and ceaseless innovation. BD applies these principles to their material selection, manufacturing processes and environmental compliance program. BD products are synonymous with outstanding performance whilst minimizing adverse environmental effects.
Innovation in equipment requires developing new technologies and materials. BD believes that reducing the environmental impact of a product through design, engineering and efficiency is an equally vital part of innovation. Research shows that approximately 60-70% of a product's environmental impact comes from the raw material and manufacturing supply chain. With this knowledge, BD has adopted the best available tools in the industry to responsibly manage the environmental impact and consumer safety of their raw materials, chemistries and manufacturing processes. These tools guide the production of all BD products, whether manufactured by themselves or by an outside vendor.
Black Diamond (BD) athletes participate in extreme activities, in extreme situations. However, they also have fairly common, but thoughtfully designed lighting products, that most anybody could use. If you go camping with your family, walk your dog at night or keep a flashlight/torch in your car, BD has useful, useable and affordable products for the common person. BD illumination products are primarily sold online and through large retail stores – such as REI in the USA.
Lighting at BD is nicely profitable, it enables the company to pursue the lower volume, highly technical products for the extreme athlete, that might not be viable as a stand-alone product line. Expanding BD’s illumination product line will further enable the brand to continue the research and development of extreme products, for extreme situations that they have built their brand around.
BD also has only two smart products in their current product line. Trends suggest that smart products are not going away and that BD should embrace and explore how smart products could expand their product line in a meaningful way.
Historically, BD has been “macho” centric. Extreme men for extreme conditions. They are looking to broaden their appeal by authentically embracing women athletes and experiences. This does not mean “Shrink it and Pink it” but empathizing with real needs and desires of women in outdoor experiences.
BD has also recently engaged with a new CEO who is looking for new opportunities to grow the company.
What type of experiences does a Black Diamond tribal member have? There could be an unlimited number of scenarios, but we will start by suggesting two frameworks to help get your exploring.
First, would be new or emerging sporting trends that align with the BD brand values, but might not be served by their current product line. These are athletes who are using existing products in positive deviant behaviours to enable new experiences. For example - In Munich Germany, athletes have started surfing on the river Eisbach pretty much 24/7. Summer or Winter, day or night, they enable a BD type experience through creative, thoughtful use of products, including illumination. By clamping and locking large lamps to structures nearby, surfers can illuminate the river and extend their outdoor experience long into the night. Understanding creating products to enable unique activities like this one, could find use, usability and desirability by other athletes in others situations.
Second, typically, most BD athletes have some type of support staff that enable the athlete to perform their best. While these other black diamond customers might not be the poster child for advertising or narrative creation, they are critical to the success of every athlete’s story. These black diamond tribe members also enjoy the outdoors, they enjoy cutting edge products, and participating in the BD experiences. Simple outdoor activities with pets, camping with friends, long nights around a campfire while other are climbing long pitches, spending long weekends in a van, all typically need some type of lighting product. Understanding their needs and enhancing their experiences could generate meaningful new products.
Project objectives and goals
The students will engage in a variety of design research methods in various outdoor environments to discover illumination needs and opportunities and Implementation of mobile lighting product proposals.
The topic is broad allowing students the freedom to explore the overall product environment, with expectations that they identify and define for themselves a meaningful theme for exploration and development.
The proposed solution shall be SMART – Specific to the requirements for outdoor illumination, Measurable by surveys of user experience, Action-oriented well-defined steps of a clear project plan, Repeatable for variety of customer target groups and applications and Timely fitting the available timeframe.
Black Diamond will be fully committed in this project with regular design reviews and guiding of students. Reviews will be held with key Black Diamond personnel (who will provide insight to the needs of the end user), together with technical specialists as required. At the end of the project, it is envisaged that full sized prototype(s) will be fabricated which will be audience-user tested and all functionalities could be fully evaluated.
The manufacturing of prototypes will be supervised by the City, University of London staff and realised jointly by the University and Black Diamond; Black Diamond will facilitate the sourcing of components needed for prototype construction. The final workshop will be held at City.