Innovative Principles of the Designs of the Year 2014

We routinely return to TRIZ as one of the many structured innovation tools that we apply to the problems we solve at Cambridge Consultants.   I find it extremely useful to support innovative product development.  The TRIZ 40 principles of innovation give our engineers fresh perspectives on the problems they are solving and I always try to share interesting examples of products that embody the principles as it helps our engineers to contextualise them and bury them into their subconscious for future application. I recently went to the Design Museum’s ‘Designs of the Year 2014’ exhibition and thought I’d pull a few interesting and fun designs from the final 74 which exhibit some of the 40 principles, just to give a little inspiration for you....

The Bradley Timepiece, TRIZ Innovative principle: Another dimension


Created for a bomb defuser who lost his sight in Afghanistan, the watch features two ball bearings that tick round the face and side of the watch. The use of the side of the watch is a great solution to helping to remove ambiguity from feeling two ball bearings on the same face, and it exhibits a ‘breaking free’ of the psychological inertia of a time piece being presented to the user in one dimension. The watch (available for pre order) has become popular with non-blind who want to be able to ‘feel’ the time under the table in a meeting.

Aerosee, TRIZ Innovative principle: Feedback / Self Service


A crowd-sourced search and rescue octo-coptor drone designed to save lives in the Lake District mountains. AeroSee’s contribution to search and rescue operations comes directly from members of the public who can become ‘virtual search agents’ - joining live operations from their mobile phones, desktop computers and tablet devices. The octo-coptor drones can also respond rapidly and get much closer to e.g. an injured person or suspected body in the mountains to survey and investigate – people can also communicate with the drone and operator via its microphone and camera.

There are three engineers within about 5 metres of my desk who independently have hobbies involving building and flying quad, hex and octo-coptors with camera equipment mounted on them (one of the engineers is one of the UK’s best competitive RC helicopter 3D flight pilots too!). The Aerosee is just one of hundreds of applications of these unmanned craft being trialled, their ratios of ability:cost:controllability are phenomenal.

 Nest Smoke Alarm, TRIZ Innovative principle: Feedback


People provide a lot of 'feedback' to their smoke alarm when it goes off after they burn their toast, but the alarm normally ignores the hand waving and flailing tea-towel and carries on beeping regardless. So as you’ve probably heard, the Nest alarm can be de-activated with a wave of the hand. But take on board the nice design lesson here of looking at how consumers use existing products and seeing how, through some relatively cheap sensors, you can interpret their actions and make a more intuitive product.

Luffa Lab, TRIZ Innovative principle: Blessing in Disguise


The luffa you may have used in the shower at some point in your life comes from the dried out luffa fruit, which looks like a cucumber (something I never knew). The team behind Luffa lab have set to work to find alternative applications for luffas which it turns out, have many useful properties such as antimicrobial, biodegradable, lightweight and are highly absorbent. They created a range of applications including a medical leg and an arm splint made of compressed luffa. One of the lessons of  the ‘blessing in disguise’ principle is to always ensure that you understand and map the properties of the system elements in your problem, because you ‘ll always identify more opportunities for solving your problem than you thought you had as a result.

Clever Cap, TRIZ Innovative principle: Discarding and Recovering


The best form of recycling is reuse at the point of consumption, and Clever Pack’s ‘Clever Cap’ (Screw bottle cap that fits and seals on standard bottle threads)  is the perfect embodiment – providing not just one follow-on use for the cap which would otherwise be discarded, but infinite uses through its Lego compatibility.

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I highly recommend a visit to the design museum if you’re in London to catch this exhibition and cast your vote for your favourite of the 74 designs (closes end August), and you can read more about the work I do at Cambridge Consultants on consumer product development here.

Iain Smith

Iain is a facilitation expert and chartered engineer with 15 years experience in the field of user centred design & research, systematic innovation process, mechanical engineering design and user requirements capture/elicitation.