Most products solutions are not what you think. Most briefs are not what they should be. Most design process are not linear, easily defined or predictable.
It was your normal paradoxical industrial design brief for Bortz Product Design - starting out as “design a wallet that will act as a child resistant medicine container” and morphed into “design a child resistant lock for wallets and bags.”
The design had to be difficult to open, but easy. It needed to be small but easy to grip. It had to be locked and unlocked with no key and locked by simply closing the wallet. It had to be strong, pass a Standard and look really good.
The Juno team had a clear goal in mind, but pretty different approaches to what or how the end result should be. On the one hand it was all about performance and fit for purpose and on the other it was about style. This was to be a wallet that was not only a fashion accessory, but a safe secure medicine safe.
We took the approach that to securely close a wallet, a zip would be the most secure as it completely seals the opening as compared to a buckle or clasp. So the lock design had to prevent the zip slide from being opened.
Developing an easily assembled and manufactured lock was only part of the challenge. The critical part was creating a lock that required a “trick” to be unlocked. A method that would challenge kids dexterity, but allow adults to open the lock easily.
Our solution was to create a mechanism where the unlocking occurred by pulling a release on the outside of the bag which transfers the motion to a locking tongue inside the bag. The tongue is pulled out of the way of the zip slide and the zip slide is able to be opened.
The basic unlocking action requires the button mechanism to be pull back. So we created a feature that prevented the button mechanism being pulled back unless they were squeezed together. But just squeezing the buttons together, will not unlock it. Further to this and probably the trickiest thing is that the zip slide could not be pulled open at the same time as the buttons are pulled back.
Concepts were generated and then little rough prototype models cobbled together to test the principle. Early on a very rough model was produced that became the basis of the final design. But the road there was not that easy or straight.
We had a viable concept, now needed to make a manufacturable design. The design had to be small and this posed the challenge of how to make it strong. Initially we thought that pressed metal for the unlocking assemblies covers were necessary. This approach created awkward designs that required slits being cut through the zip for the top mechanisms to link. In trialing these designs and having to assemble them prototypes onto wallets, it became clear this would be a nightmare in full scale production. Maintaining tolerances, creating durable slits in the zip, fixing the lock parts to the bags and achieving repeatable working units just did not happen as planned.
With this new knowledge and returning to the basics, a far simpler, more forgiving and easier to assemble design was developed. Using wire meant that no special metal pressings were required, only simple metal pins and a basic hoop were used in the critical strength areas. Using high quality engineering plastics meant that strong, small complex parts could be injection moulded and easily assembled.
The new design was far more forgiving in assembly, it transferred the unlocking motion through a section of unfastened zip and required a few screws to hold the lock in place. This design meant that it was not only limited to use in proprietary made bags, but could also be retrofitted to #8 zip bags.
We spend hours opening and closing the lock thousands of times to test its durability and function and ironed out some small but niggly issues. Pins were lengthened, buttons made more ergonomic and detailed QC and assembly instructions produced.
We tested this on many unsuspecting people in our offices, on the street and at a trade show. Once adults got the trick they easily opened the wallet, but at same time kids were stumped and after a frustrating few minutes would give up.
We ran a second pilot run of 1000 units some of which were put through their paces in Standards testing which it passed. Now was the time to take the product to market.
The result is the missing link in child medicine safety. No keys, no codes - just a clever industrial design, which resulted in a patent pending locking system developed through distilling the brief to its essence and building from there.
Bortz Product Design - Industrial design consultancy.