I’ve been designing, developing and producing products for what I would consider a long time. It wasn’t what I went to school for, nor was it what I wanted to be as a child (I wanted to illustrate and draw cartoons for a living), but once I was introduced to industrial design by chance in 2002, I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Creating professional 2D/3D artwork for six years prior, my skills seamlessly transferred to this new art form. Since then my skills have expanded, I have traveled to Hong Kong and China to experience firsthand all the stages of developing a product. From managing the sourcing of new components to working with engineers to perfect designs and functionality.
One of my best contacts in China is Alan. Alan owns and operates a medium sized factory in the southern Guangdong Province of China, about an hour or two north of the Hong Kong border. Unlike other Chinese factory owners, Alan was born in Hong Kong and worked his way up the hierarchy chain. He was a factory worker as a young boy where he learned about electrical engineering and specialized in the design and production of integrated circuits. His big break came in the form of sound chips he created for a variety of very successful products featuring the biggest pop stars of the day (Britney Spears, The Spice Girls). His success continued as demand for chips increased with a boom in electronics in the late 90’s. He later acquired his own factory and now employs 800-1000 workers, depending on the season, and produces a broad range of products for many big name brands.
We had already worked together for several years on hundreds of projects, some more exciting than others. One of the most exciting projects was the Theraflu and Triaminic Flowing Vapors Device for Novartis. This particular project was a very large undertaking. Besides learning a whole lot about factory production in China, it also allowed me to be immersed in Chinese culture for several months. Alan and I, along with our combined staff and inspection personal from Novartis, traveled the country auditing factories and third party vendors to ensure that our production quality met with our clients’ high standards. This may be an exaggeration, but in my opinion I learned all I needed to know about fragrance oils used in electronic aromatherapy devices. Besides the time interval controlled fan device we had developed for Novartis, we were also working on a few internal development projects, trying out new techniques of electronically disbursing fragrance oils.
One particular night in April of 2008, I had called Alan to discuss the ongoing production of our Stand-Up Stapler. Alan mentioned that he wanted to begin tooling for a new USB powered fragrance burner, and he wanted me to design it for him. It sounded like a fun project and I was excited to start sketching. It lead to a bunch of concept drawings and after a few debates over email and phone we decided to move forward with a few flower shaped sketches that were well received by our combined staff members.
Although 3D/CAD plays a very big part in almost all of our developing product design projects, the USB Scent Flower™ was one of those projects where it wasn’t as necessary from a design standpoint. Alan had faith in me as a designer and I had a great deal of respect for the engineering capabilities of his factory. We decided on the size and shape based upon a few detailed sketches and quickly began developing our first prototypes.
At this initial stage, we produced prototypes of two concept drawings. The first concept was a flat jump drive styled fragrance device with a circular flower shaped insert. The idea was that this insert could be shaped and colored to look like a flower.
Further options to allow it resemble a fruit, such as a lemon, orange or watermelon. It had a ton of variety possibilities and was also slim with less plastic parts and therefore less expensive. It would also be easy to change the flower shape into any other shape without spending a ton of money in new tooling.
The second version was what we were even more excited about. Although it was less versatile from a customization standpoint, it was more uniquely shaped and visually appealing, creating the look of a flower sprouting out of your USB port.
From a fragrance standpoint it still had an endless array of possibilities, but we were excited to develop mostly sensible and familiar natural and flower scents to conform to the theme created by our flower shape.
So we were happy with the designs of both fragrance devices and decided to tool them both up for small production runs. We then began deciding on specific fragrances we would like to be developed for the devices. Our experience with the Theraflu and Triaminic Flowing Vapors project had put us in contact with one of the best fragrance producers in China. We knew we could rely on their expertise in developing the formulas that would work in our new units. For the flower shape, we decided with Lavender, Chamomile and Jasmine. For the jump drive version we decided to try lemon, ocean breeze and baby powder (evidently popular scents in Asia).
A few weeks later we had our first production run complete. We matched our flower petal colors with the true colors of the flowery fragrances they represented. And since that just made a whole lot of sense, we did the same with the flat device. I sent samples out to a few clients of our in the marketing industry to get their feedback.
We had finally received our first pre-production samples from our factory. They looked pretty cute and the initial reaction from people was that we were onto a very unique and fun product. The flower device concept had at this point also been showcased on Coroflot, where it reached quite a gathering. Shortly thereafter, Kevin Hall -writer at NBC/SyFy Channels tech and gadget blog Dvice – had written an article about it that spread like wildfire through the internet and was translated into tons of languages within a week. It was at this point very clear that if we were to choose one of the devices to proceed with, the truly flower shaped version was it.
It was also evident to us that the concept was good, BUT we quickly realized some concerns. Our flowers were not reusable; the fragrances were not refillable and once the fragrance oil had evaporated it became nothing but a plastic flower decoration attached to a laptop. Another issue was the lack of an universal standard as to the USB port position on all computers. Some ports were vertical, others were horizontal and the rest were just plain upside down. Our flower device was not adjustable, which meant it would only work with the one orientation we chose, eliminating those tech savvy Apple users whose ports were upside down.
I went back to the drawing board and rendered up a new flower product. I designed an aluminum cylindrical refill cartridge with room for at least three times more fragrance oil. If we were about to start from scratch, why not boost the life span and quality of our product! And since it was now refillable, we decided that each product should come with 3 refills. We scaled up our flower significantly and added the rotatable stem to make it universal.
We made a new prototype, tested out the new functionality and we were pleased with the results. We decided to lay low on this new product and a few months went by before I was contacted by Jens Eriksson. I had known Jens since my early childhood in Sweden; he was my best friends’ older brother and a proven entrepreneur and businessman in Europe.
Here are some images of our final version USB Scent Flower™, first shots of plastic injection. This is when we make sure that all parts fits together properly. Potential changes are made by revising the injection mold.
Jens expressed an interest in starting up a company with me and start producing and selling our USB Scent Flower™. I welcomed the partnership and together we founded USB Flower Ltd.
Our product is now available for sale in several countries around the world, including through our own website where we offer worldwide shipping. The response has been great and we look forward to reveal some additional exciting news in a near future.
Above is our current custom website design, although nowadays the sales transaction happens at store.theproductfarm.com.
Shot of finished product plugged into a laptop and smells like flowers!
Retail packaging design have a touch of our website design incorporated into them – yet color coordinated.
Retail point of purchase display – something most retailers want. A good looking retail display enhances your product placement within a store environment – a products one chance to shine!