In this blog I will explore the bicycle lamp.
- Product Analysis
The product analysis at the beginning of the project was all about getting to know the product and the different components. Because of the teardown and questioned if all parts were that necessary. The product itself is relatively simple, that is why it would have been useful to disassemble other (maybe higher segment bicycle lamps) as an inspiration. Later on I found out that it is all about the customer’s perspective. The bicycle lamps have a low value for them and that is why these lamps are currently used, the way they are used.
The targeted user in my case was everybody was rides the bicycle in the dark and does not want to invest in high segment bicycle lamps. This target group needs to buy bicycle lamps because it is mandatory. Since this is such a wide range of people, I looked at what their true value is: always access to working bicycle lighting for a low price. Based on this I started redesigning the bicycle lamp.
- Circular Design Challenge
At first I totally eliminated the idea of repairmen by the user. This is because I already thought the value was too low to let the user do an activity to regain value. At the moment it is already possible to replace the battery whenever this is necessary, and that barrier is already too big. But when I looked at the problem: the bicycle lamp breaking down prematurely, there we only two options possible. Or the bicycle lamp should not break down (long life model?) or the bicycle lamp should be able to be repaired when broken down. I actually made a combination with these two. The bicycle lamp will not break down because of the rain because the entire product is waterproof. The weakest component that “breaks down” is the battery when it is not charged anymore. I could chose for a system that the user could recharge it themselves but why would they? This bicycle lamp has no value for them. That is why the “repairing”, or charging lies at the company side. A low barrier customer touch point needed to be designed to enable this flow.
I did not change my circular design challenge throughout the process because it touched upon the actual product with this challenge: the product breaking down prematurely. This was also the main aim for my entire redesign.
- Circular Design Strategies
The circular design strategies were a starting point for the redesign and I already got stuck here. Circular Economy is about systems thinking and we stayed way too long in our tiny scope with this product. I missed a starting point where the different systems were analysed and where the value creation needs to happen. What I am trying to say is that starting at the Circular Design Strategies is actually way to concrete while I personally prefer to stay at a high level of abstraction. This way I can overview the entire design problem in a more holistic way. It would have been more suitable to start at the business model side of things, and more even that is to concrete for this stage.
I did revise the outcomes because the designing we did at this stage was only used as an inspiration for the next stages. Within the next stages – after I chose my business model – I used the circular design strategies again. I was a help to already start thinking about the possible solutions for the product, but we narrowed it down too much and it felt very restricting.
- Business Model archetypes
This was actually the part where I felt more comfortable with because I already knew that it was inevitable to change the design again after the business model decision. The design of a business model is crucial when creating a successful flow for the product and that is why it is important to start with this instead of the circular design strategies. When I looked at different business models I was able to make more drastic changes within the design – since this needs to support the business model. Also the service needed to be designed. Since there were so many product changes at that stage and a service needed to be design – we actually needed more time for this to work this out in more detail.
I used multiple design strategies eventually to support the circular business model. This was coincidence because it everything is interconnected – to make it work the problem needed to be approached on different levels. I also felt the need for a part about service design within this framework. Not all services are circular and especially when those logistics are powered by fossil fuels: could that ever be more linear?
Because of all the different flows within the business model, I had a hard time in calculating the financial part. There is no clear point of value created and no clear point of where this values is disappeared. It is also really hard to calculate the costs of a service, especially because of the labour, logistics and location.
- Final Concept Design
I made the decision to add more (critical) materials to the product. These materials actually will support the performance and lifespan of the product very positively, but is this circular? Since the materials are easy to extract from the product and the materials stay in loops, this could be circular. But is it still when we take into consideration that sometimes the product will not return? Financially this is alright because the deposit will thereby also no be returned, but if we look at the material level we will create a leakage of for example lithium, neodymium and copper. This will be eventually less than the amount of lithium that leaked out of the linear system, so what is more important?
It is possible to have different variants of this bicycle lamp. During this design challenge I wanted to go all in for this specific direction and see what the design, energy and material consequences were. I could have decide to use a different connection to attach the bicycle lamp with the frame of the bicycle but it would have caused a less successful flow of products between the vending machine and the user. Because this flow it where the most value is created from a circular point of view (re using the entire product) I wanted to give this a high priority.
There is also a significant difference between the bicycle lamps and their performance. For the little 2W bicycle lamps (cheaper than 5 EUR) the view is mostly like this:
And the high end bicycle lamps of 45 W, often working on induction or are attached to the battery of electricical bicycle give the best view:
In the clustering this performance difference has been taken into account. During the project I will only focus on the low segment bicycle lamps.
In the Performance model the user buys hours of light or light per bicycle ride instead of the bicycle lamp. This is actually the ultimate access model where fulfilling the value for the user is more important than the product itself. This could be implemented in a system where there is a record of the amount of use of the bicycle lamp. Based on that, the user is charged for it. This would mean a lot of data and tracking to enable this system. A weak part would be during the summers when people do not need bicycle lamps that often, the profit will drop immediately.
The Gap Exploiter model would be the most challenging business model in getting the bicycle lamp circular. Because of the low value of the bicycle lamp, it is hard to create a system around it where the user needs to take action in some way. In a lot of cases it would be easier for the user to just throw the bicycle lamp away and buy a new one. The Gap Exploiter model would be designed between the bicycle lamp end-of-life in the user’s perspective and a new product for a new user. This systems would demand higher quality bicycle lamps that would be designed to last longer so they can actually get a second or a third life. But the major challenge would be activating the user to not just simply throw the product away and seeing the value of putting energy into an action that gives the product another life.