On the 4th and 5th April, Cheltenham hosts the third iteration of its Design Festival.
Between the 31st March and 6th April, we are hosting the @Chelt52 twitter account.
With these two events coinciding, we thought it might be nice to do something of interest, relating to design and the local area and culminating in this first week of April.
How about a competition?
But not a competition with a chintzy prize.
We know that there are plenty of people out there with ideas for products. Not just designers, business types or entrepreneurs. Just people. Some of these ideas are utter rubbish and shouldn’t be given any more attention than a goldfish’s twitter feed. But some are good. Great even. Really great.
But, as we so often find, most of these ideas are left to rot. This can be for many reasons, but when it comes to an idea for a ‘thing’ and making an idea ‘real’, very few people actually know how to do it or who to turn to. Some people turn to patent agents, who charge them every penny they have to protect an idea that hasn’t had a chance to be nurtured and developed into something worthy. Others go to a factory somewhere with a tatty sketch and ask them to ‘make it’, with the resultant ‘thing’ making a dog’s dinner look like a fashion statement.
Some of these ideas – thankfully – make it to somewhere like Square Banana*, where we can treat them with the delicacy and creativity they often deserve. As a previous design boss of mine once said (I paraphrase somewhat) “Ideas are extremely fragile, they can be killed with a sneer. Treat them with respect and build on them.” Most people never have the confidence to take an idea for a product further than the dinner party conversation where they were first mentioned, and often because the person listening didn’t understand the brilliance of it and killed it with a shrug of their ignorant shoulders and a demeaning chortle.
*Square Banana is a product design consultancy. We specialise in creating products for people. We know how to take an idea and turn it into a living, breathing, manufacturable product which can be sold, bought, used and cherished. For a bit more info, have a read of our website at www.squarebanana.co.uk
The other, rather important thing that prevents ideas from flourishing into something real, is money. Good old hard cash. You will have heard countless anecdotes from Dragon’s Den failures stating how they have re-mortgaged their house to ‘follow their dream’ or donated all of their kidneys to ‘fund a marketing campaign’. It takes money to bring an idea into this world as a practical, commercial, relevant ‘thing’. Money that many people do not have. It seems unfair that only people with money or a proven track record should be allowed to have ideas for products. Surely everyone is capable of having a great idea for something?
That’s where we’d like to help.
We’d like to offer our expertise to someone with a brilliant idea….for free!
We would like to help someone take that flash of inspiration and give it some specialist TLC. Sprinkle it with creative magic dust and elbow grease to breathe some commercial life into it. Whatever it may be.
> So, the criteria…
- We would like ideas that have the potential to be physical products.
- We are really interested in the idea itself. The spark. We are very used to helping businesses take intangible opportunities and turn them into product realities, so you don’t necessarily have to know what it might be or how it might look. Leave that to us.
- We are not really interested in products that are of no real use to people or society. There should be a good reason for its existence and it should positively improve the world around us – however you choose to interpret that statement. It can be a tiny little improvement or a massive one.
- You have the desire and ambition to take your idea further. If all goes well, there may be opportunities to take the idea to market, so we want you to want this too!
- Be realistic. We don’t have the capacity to redesign a hovercraft or a space rocket!
- You need to be within fairly easy reach of our studio in Cheltenham. We are passionate about this area and would love the idea to come from the hidden depths of Gloucestershire or the adjoining regions.
> What we will do…
(With our cub-scout salute at the ready) We will promise to help the winning idea with what we refer to as a ‘Concept Design Phase’. This is what we do with pretty much every ‘idea based’ project that we work on. It’s where we take the idea and give it some life. We consider as many aspects of the idea as we can with a view to creating a solid, well-thought out product solution ‘concept’. We will consider how it is used, how it could be made, how it should function, how it might look and how much it might cost – amongst many other things. The resultant output from this chunk of work will be a resolved, visual, product concept that will look deceptively real. It is what many businesses commonly use to convince customers or investors of the worthiness and relevance of their idea before they commit to lengthy development programmes or expensive manufacturing processes. It is the ‘leap’ from hair brained idea to the first semblance of commercial reality. Such a design phase would be worth several thousand pounds under normal circumstances!
> What we need from you…
- An explanation of your idea, as simply as you can manage. This can be as detailed as you see fit, but bear in mind that a really good idea can be described in a fairly simple sentence. If it takes you several pages of 10 point, cross-referenced, legal jargon to explain the fundamentals of the idea, it’s probably too complicated!
- It can be typed, scribbled or drawn. It matters not if the idea is a good one. Just make it clear, legible and understandable.
- Your details. Who you are, where you live and what you do. You can be any age. All that we ask is that you have the time, energy and inclination to come and see us from time to time and work with us to bring your idea to life. We want people who are passionate about new ideas and making something that little bit better.
- You need to send your idea submission to us via email to email@example.com with ‘Mine’s the best idea!‘ in the subject field.
> How will we choose the winning idea?
Once we have received all of the submissions, we will sit down and review every single one. As a studio, we will choose the best idea amongst ourselves, but broadly speaking, we will be looking for;
- Relevance to people and wider society
- Potential (local, national and global)
- Something that gets us excited…that indefinable ‘X’ factor.
Ultimately, we want to work on something that is incredibly exciting, and that we can see huge potential for (in every respect). This could emerge as easily from a dishevelled school pupil, a frustrated accountant, a scientific recluse or a retired shed-tinkerer. The idea is the hero here.
The closing date for submissions will be the 31st March, and we will be sharing what we can (some things need to remain confidential to allow the idea to be developed!) of the most interesting submissions and the shortlisted ideas with everyone via the @Chelt52 and @rbsquarebanana twitter accounts. Following this, we will be looking to meet with those shortlisted to have a chat, before announcing the winner as soon as we can.
We hope to involve the local (and wider trade) press, and would encourage any local businesses that would like to get involved with judging, sponsorship, partnership or any other offer that might give the winning idea even more life than we can, to get in touch. If anyone is interested, then please contact us directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via LinkedIn here.
So I will leave you to cogitate, contemplate, ruminate and deliberate, and look forward to receiving those ideas in due course!
(If you have any questions relating to anything mentioned above, then please add your comment below and we will respond in turn.)