Case Study


Challenging myself to expand on my skill set, I ventured into the field of industrial design in an attempt to evolve the experience of a wireless mouse.

Volatas is a concept that features a simple ergonomic form factor, and new method of input for scrolling, and a pristine finish allowing for comfort, durability, and style.

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The idea was formed through my interest in automotive design. I’m fascinated by the innovative design that super-car makers release, balancing between form and function. Not only does the design push the envelope on what is possible, it’s hugely functional in the aerodynamics, downforce, and overall performance in how a car reacts. It was this kind of design that really made me think how different a mouse could be. This inspiration would later be incorporated thoroughly in my design.

Goals

More than anything, I really wanted to push myself to create something to the best of my ability, with the help of the knowledge and experience I have gained through my post-secondary education. Although I entered the program with the mind of creating software, both front-end and back-end, I was always intrigued with product design and appreciated great products. That interest is what sparked this project over something else I’d typically design, like an application or webpage. 

I wanted to create a product that I myself can be happy to say that I’ve made. From the initial drawings all the way to the final 3D renders, every single component had to be done to the best of my ability. Not only that, but the product itself had to be different in some way. I knew that I wouldn't be making the a revolution for the wireless mouse, but I would be satisfied with creating something that is actually plausible, not to mention visually pleasing to see as well as use.

Challenges

Taking on a project like this undoubtedly brought many issues during the design process. Even back to the initial planning phase, immediately there was a challenge on the actual plausibility of fitting functional components into something of this form factor. I really wanted to create something that actually has some realistic attributes, so it was crucial to balance unusual form with function. 

Another challenge lied within the equipment used. Because of this, I had to make some compromises in the quality of the render as well as the actual simplicity of the mesh. Although this computer is a very capable machine, it’s already 5 years old. 

Lastly, this isn't to say I'm some expierence 3D modeler. There is still a great amount for me to learn, and much I needed to learn throughout this project. For actual texture and material assignment on the model, I wasn’t familiar with the system all to well, so it took a lot of trial and error to achieve something I was proud of. This continued to the lightning mechanics of Modo, something I'm also not familiar with. This step of my process ended up taking a huge amount of time to achieve something decent.

Process & Insights

Inspired by the natural arches and geometric angles that many super-cars take on, I began with drawing a series of random shapes, then defining them as a mouse with features like including a scroll wheel, buttons, and more. From these initial sketches, one really intrigued me, which ultimately made me develop that form factor more thoroughly. This very same form factor would eventually move on to be the final design for this project. Once the sketches were finished, I began looking into the ergonomics of a mouse and how it’s grasped in a user’s hand, to improve on the shape. This was accompanied with a series of styrofoam prototypes, which further evolved the final design.

With the styrofoam prototypes and drawn out concepts done, it was time to begin the 3D model. 

Sticking with Modo as it was the most familiar to me, I quickly roughed out a shape using a standard cylinder polygon. I then proceeded to cut out the whole where the mouse would be hollowed out, followed by lower the front end to form the final shape.

With the main body done, it was time to turn my attention to the digital scroll system. Here, I used a combination of photoshop and Illustrator to form the UI/UX. 

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Once I was happy with the UI/UX, I moved the project into after effects to bring the experience to life. This would play a part in when I finally advertise the mouse on my website, as it gives the audience a good grasp on how the system works. Once rendered it, it was finally time to go back into Modo one more time, to start the rendering process as well as UV-ing & material assignment. This is actually where most of my time was taken up. My only computer for all the work I do is a 2012 MacBook Pro Non-Retina. 

  • 2.5Ghz Core i5
  • 4GB Ram
  • Intel HD4000 graphics

It was at this stage where my laptop really showed it’s age. Besides the constant freezing, the actual render time took forever. A tip I can give out to those under the same circumstances, position your object first with all the materials disabled, then once happy with the picture, apply the materials and render. For me, a lot of the lagging was mitigating by doing this.

Once the images finally rendered, it was a matter of composing the layout on how id advertise the project in Adobe Photoshop. Easy enough.

Solutions & Results

Volatas is the result of form and function pushed to the limits of what I believe was possible, without losing what fundamentally makes a mouse.

The main body is one single piece of metal, forged into a curve to mimic an ideal resting position. With this attempt at simplicity, this meant that the actual clicking mechanism would have to be redesigned to accomindate the form factor. With this in mind, the top portion of the mouse is esentially thinned out, to allow for a slight bend while operation. This bend would then come in contact with the base of the mouse, making for an ideal position to actually place the “click”. So to actually accomplish a click, the user presses down on the top portion of the mouese, which then comes in contact with a button locating on the base, triggering a click. 

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Another thing to consider in the design was space for the electronics and battery. This hurdle is what formed the wedge shape of the base. Here, the components could be housed, as well as an integrated lithium battery, removing the bulk that comes with a standard AA battery layout. 

For an extra level of comfort, the finish of the mouse features the upper-half to be made in a series of leathers and fabrics, providing a soft but still robust feel to something that spends the better half of it’s time in your hand. The fabric features on the carbon finish is a syhtentic fibre. This stretchable, yet thick fabric provides great comfort, while still being durable to prolonged use.

Lastly, the thin design meant that the traditional scroll wheel simply had no place on this mouse. With this analog piece of technology already becoming outdated, it was time to update the experience with something so familiar. The digital scroll provides even more pricision in typical functions like scrolling due to the longer field of functional, however it also provides contextual shortcuts that streamline productivity through other applications, based loosely on the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. 

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As a first entry into the industrial design field, I’m sure that there are plenty of improvements to be made to this project. However, it was a great experience nonetheless, and will definitely continue to create projects within this field in the furutre. Thank you for reading; any feedback is welcome.

- See you soon.