Interview with Jim Kershaw at Friday 8th of March 2013: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
JK : Taking design cues from high-end super cars, a legend in aviation, and a dominate ocean predator, the industrial design of IRWIN’s new folding utility knives with BladeLock Technology is engineered for the professional tradesman. While capturing the aggressive edge of the famed World War II P-51 Mustang in overall design, the contour of the knife’s top spline mirrors the profile curve of a sleek Italian super car. The detail scallop in the knife’s blade holder follows the lines of a super car’s air ducts, while the cast iron finger grooves mimic the gill slits of the powerful Mako shark. Marrying these three iconic symbols of sleek design, IRWIN’s new knife program takes hand tool design to the next level.
At IRWIN Tools, we design and develop innovative hand tools and power tool accessories with the world’s professional tradesmen in mind. Our obsession with our end-users and the in-depth consumer research we conduct allowed us to identify the frustrations tradesmen experience with folding utility knives that are in the market, today. With this data, it allowed us to design and engineer the next generation of IRWIN folding utility knives that are compact, durable, and easy-to-use with patented innovative features and desirable benefits.
DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
JK : From day one of this project, we set out to learn what our end-user, professional tradesmen, really wanted in a folding utility knife. Listening to their needs and working side-by-side with end-users to show them the possibilities, through meaningful design, we were able to develop something together; folding utility knives that would meet and exceed their expectations on and off the jobsite.
DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
JK : These new knives will hit the North American market in May 2013, and will roll-out to other parts of the world later in 2013. Ultimately, our goal is get these knives in the hands of our users as soon as possible.
DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
JK : The entire development process, which includes thorough consumer insight/user validation, concept generation, and prototype testing takes approximately 18 months in total; however, the design and ID deliverables were completed in 6 months.
DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
JK : The product design was conducted 100% in-house at our office in Huntersville, North Carolina (USA). As a product development team, we knew there were too many unmet needs in the folding utility knife space, and by working directly with our end-users, professional tradesmen, we created a compact, durable, and easy-to-use solution featuring patented innovation.
DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
JK : These new folding utility knives were designed by IRWIN Tools and will be sold under the IRWIN brand.
DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
JK : Internally, as a cross-functional product development team, we conducted highly inclusive concept reviews and ideation sessions, focused on our consumer insights research and design briefs.
DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
JK : Professional Tradesmen, those in the construction and maintenance repair trades.
DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
JK : The next generation of IRWIN® Folding Utility Knives with BladeLock Technology feature patented technology engineered to keep your blade locked in, preventing the blade from releasing while the knife is in-use. IRWIN’s proprietary BladeLock Technology allows the blade to be changed only when the blade holder is in the 45° position and the blade release button is engaged, allowing the blade to come out only when you are ready to change the blade – never by accident. Backed by IRWIN’s Lifetime Guarantee, these durable folding utility knives also feature a compact, easy-to-use design which includes a liner lock for safe one-handed operation and a 16° cutting angle for ultimate comfort and control. Whether you need the compact durability of the FK100 or the versatility of built-in blade storage and screwdriver of the FK250, IRWIN is the new standard in folding utility knives.
DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
JK : Good ole pen/pencil & paper, as well as Sketchbook Pro and Solidworks software.
DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
JK : The most unique aspect was the way the inspirational elements supported improved ergonomics and a better folding utility knife experience for the user. Designed with nature and technology in mind, the overall product design, and areas like the contour of the knife’s top spline, facilitates the knife’s unique 16° cutting angle and prevents hand fatigue. Unique aspects of design give the user greater control, improved ergonomics and a better overall feel when compared to other folding utility knives.
DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
JK : Several internal brainstorming sessions were conducted with various team members, ranging from Designers, Engineers, Product Managers to Consumer Insights Specialists. Our main focus and collaboration, however, was with the end-user to make sure that we were able to design a product for professional tradesmen, one that met their needs.
DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
JK : Patented technology played a key role in designing these particular IRWIN knives as they all feature IRWIN’s proprietary BladeLock Technology, which allows for the utility blade to be changed only when the blade holder is in the 45° position and the blade release button is engaged. This unique design allows the blade to come out only when the user is ready to change the blade – never by accident.
DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
JK : Yes, from the onset of the project we’ve used several different forms of data and consumer insight research to understand the frustrations, usage, and needs of our core end-users, professional tradesmen, globally. Their experience and keen understanding of their craft, married with our ability to engineer and design tools that extend their capabilities were instrumental in this project. Data was collected from various field visits, prototype testing, focus groups, and panel reviews.
DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
JK : Our primary design challenge was to create an innovative folding utility knife that had several built-in features and additional tools while keeping the design compact and ergonomic yet durable enough to withstand the conditions professional tradesmen work in every single day. After conducting numerous job-site and in-field visits, our team realized that in order to achieve this objective the knives hard to be designed using one continuous spline and a 16° cutting angle that would allow for total comfort.
DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
JK : We’re proud of what we were able to accomplish as an international product development team and wanted to show how being rooted in consumer insights and inspired industrial design could produce award winning product.
DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
JK : I learned to not get emotionally attached to my design. Often times, designers can take negative feedback personally, but in this project I learned that any feedback is good feedback, and in order to truly design a great product you have to detach your emotions and remain focused on the goals.