Anti X1 by Mats Lönngren. Gold Award, Professionals and Enthusiasts
Following periods at the École nationale supérieure de création industrielle in Paris and the Köln International School of Design, Mats Lönngren received his Master’s degree in Design and Architecture in 2010 from Aalto University’s School of Art in Helsinki. Since then he has done a traineeship at the Nokia Research Center in Lausanne, worked for five years as an industrial and concept designer at Pentagon Design Oy in Helsinki, and since 2015 has held the same post at Aivan Oy.
We asked him three questions about his Ahti X1 project, which won the Gold Award in the Professionals and Enthusiasts category.
1. What problem does your project offer a solution for and how does it work?
Ahti X1, the connected lifejacket, focuses on safety and man overboard (MOB) situations at sea. Ahti X1 is a novel lifejacket concept, which allows the lifejacket of a person who has fallen into the sea to be tracked. The concept aims to address three main problems relating to MOB situations: first, preventing accidents; second, locating the victim; and third, retrieving the victim from the sea. The goal is to improve the overall safety of both individuals and groups by addressing the chain of events related to MOB situations.
Ahti X1 is based on two components: the lifejacket and its companion mobile application. The lifejacket builds upon existing automatically inflatable technology by adding further safety-enhancing features. The built-in ability to track the lifejacket is its main novel component, bringing a new layer of safety assurance at sea. Once inflated, the lifejacket reveals a set of gripping points that help to lift the victim. The simple, seamless design of Ahti X1 encourages the user to wear it at all times. Lightweight and comfortable, it feels natural to wear it on board.
The key feature of the mobile application is its ability to display the victim’s position in relation to the vessel and to track his or her location over a period of time. Once the lifejacket is inflated, it automatically creates a time stamp and sends its location to users of the application and AIS-equipped chart plotters within a specific radius. When tracking the victim, relevant information such as time in the water, distance to the victim, vessel speed and direction, wind data and water temperature are displayed. The application also provides an overview of paired lifejackets that can notify the user in case of malfunctions, low battery levels or required component updates. Learning material and a training mode encourage the user to view and practise safety procedures aimed at preventing MOB situations.
2. How did your design process unfold? What steps did you take and what challenges did you face?
This concept did not exist before the Braun Prize and the competition in itself sparked the design process that led to the development of Ahti X1, the connected lifejacket. So the design process began with the exploration of potential ideas for projects for the Braun Prize.
The combination of physical and digital is of general interest to me, and I quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted to explore a concept that would address the user experience in a holistic way. This meant developing a physical solution combined with a digital interface, aimed at a better, more efficient and simplified product concept.
The area of safety at sea became a starting point for a brainstorming process that soon resulted in the basic idea for the design. During the design process, several aspects were found to be fruitful and were developed further, such as the basic functionality and form of the lifejacket, the choice of materials and production methods, and the features of the mobile application as the primary interface for receiving notifications of malfunctions, tracking the lifejacket and learning about the rescue process.
The concept is complex and multidimensional, and deciding where to draw the boundaries of the project in order to provide a focused and relevant solution required careful consideration. Research, concept development and detailed design work were all vital in coming up with an end result that is equally refined in all areas. Ensuring this level of refinement and paring back ideas to the essential aspects were some of the main challenges of the design process.
3. What are your criteria for “good” design, and what role do you think design will play in the future?
Good design is characterised by solutions that are simple, functional, relevant, long-lasting and appealing. The theme of the 2015 Braun Prize ,“The Extra in the Ordinary”, is well chosen because good design can be a radically different solution or an inventive redesign of an existing product. Good design is, at its best, extraordinary.
Building upon aspects that are common and familiar make solutions recognisable and instantly usable. Good design is therefore also calm, obvious, unobtrusive and even invisible. Ahti X1 is, in my view, a good example of the further development of a product that everyone is familiar with, while several features of its functionality have been reinvented.
When it comes to brands, the key challenge is to deliver a coherent experience that spans over physical products, services, interfaces, and spaces. Good design in this case is characterised by coherence, continuity and familiarity. The key challenge is to be inventive and to continuously develop new solutions within these boundaries.
Design is becoming increasingly indispensable. Various aspects of people’s daily lives are influenced by designers and the physical and digital solutions that they provide. Brands and organisations are finding that design is becoming an ever more crucial element in remaining competitive and this trend is probably set to continue into the future. Design as a profession has diverged into new fields and designers are likely to have a wide range of skills that allow them to work across many domains.
As the world becomes more complex, there is increasing demand for simple and meaningful solutions. In the future, good design will still be characterised by the aforementioned aspects, but additional value will be found through greater emphasis on holistic thinking and consistency across solutions. Good design is not applied to a single product alone; rather it is a way of developing a product strategy and a holistic offering. Ideally, it is an integral part of organisational culture and a key competitive asset. This mindset can be used to tackle a variety of challenges, and ideally design will expand further into new areas and contexts, resulting in inventive and desirable solutions that are created with the end user in mind.