Three questions for: Daniel Becher, Product Designer at Edelrid
Carabiners are an indispensable element of climbing equipment that is crucial for safety reasons in the event of a fall. As a result, they are subject to strict standards and yet, at the same time, have to be light to carry and easy to handle. These parameters set the creative framework for product designers like Daniel Becher who is a member of the development team at Edelrid. We asked him three questions about his work.
1. What is the development process for a carabiner and who is involved?
The first step is to define a needs assessment. If the project is then approved and the framework conditions are fixed in the form of specification sheets, project plans and a market analysis, then the development process can begin. Usually in Edelrid’s development department, a developer (engineer) and a product designer work on a project together. The specification sheets already have precise suggestions concerning the target group, requirements, production process, price, etc. With the Nineteen G carabiner we set ourselves the goal of coming in under the magic mark of 20 grams and developing the lightest carabiner in the world – with full rigidity of course. This means that the carabiner is developed as part of a climber’s personal safety equipment (protection from falling) in accordance with the technical safety requirements of the European standard (EN12275) and it must pass testing like every other carabiner. In accordance with this, the developer works out appropriate designs for the feasibility, choice of materials, production process, timeline, etc. of all the carabiner’s components that then provide the product designer with a framework. Often several designs are produced and solutions for existing problems sought which are then commonly discussed with the whole team. If the limits are defined, design concepts can be worked out from which one, or several, are developed and tested using prototypes. Initial models using the specifications are ordered from the supplier by the developer from the favoured and developed designs in the final material so that they can be validated and tested in the company’s own laboratory. If no further amendments are necessary, the final models are produced in order to have the product certified.
2. Which processes are you, as a designer, involved in?
Several designs are produced using mood boards, sketches, drawings, mock-ups and prototypes taking into consideration the market analysis drawn up by the product manager, the technical research carried out by the engineers involved and design-focused research I have devised. The favoured design is elaborated in several drawings that serve as a template for developing the 3D model. At this point, we often have to make small adaptations to the design which cannot always be assessed on a two-dimensional level during the preparatory work with drawings. Now SLS and/or CNC prototypes can be produced using 3-D files that we evaluate together (regarding design, ergonomy, dimensions and intuitive operability to prevent the product being used incorrectly) and, if necessary, optimised (for weight, production process and so on). Alongside integrating the manufacturer’s logo, strength properties and standard designation, packaging, the instructions for use and product photos for the various colours have to be produced.
3. How relevant are aesthetics for a product whose technical properties are crucial to the user’s safety?
Even though a carabiner is primarily designed for its function and in accordance with technical and safety requirements, the aesthetics are enormously important to us. Edelrid’s Nineteen G carabiner epitomises lightness and yet generates confidence with a minimal use of materials. The tested safety of personal protective equipment should be formally perceived as such. We would like to differentiate ourselves from our competitors with a line that can be combined across collections, in an intuitive design that appeals on an emotional level, and attract attention as being an innovative producer of climbing and mountaineering equipment.