Last week, we launched Chirp in Australia. Chirp is the brain of your A24: it keeps track of your trap activity and sends it to your phone from where you can visualise your trapping efforts and those of the trapping community. We chat with Chris, the product designer behind the Chirp cap, and share his design process and the challenges he faced while creating Chirp.
What was your involvement with Chirp?
I was involved throughout the product's development, playing a key role from the conception, idea generation, prototyping & design iteration, testing and user experience phases, through to expertise during the manufacture & assembly phases.
What was the design process behind the Chirp cap?
We had already decided on adding a 'connected’ module to the trap so that it would make life easier for people to get fast, accurate data collection from their A24 traps. The aim was to design something that was as easy for the customer to use as possible and have it fit the current products in the market. We didn't want to disappoint any current A24 customers by making something that couldn't retrofit. The easiest way we could see to do this was to swap out the existing cap and incorporate all of this proposed tech into a new cap. We wanted to make the new cap as close to the size of the old one as possible while trying to make it all easy to assemble (for our production team), replace consumables (battery), and disassemble at the end of its life-cycle. We also had the opportunity to fix a few things. We could quickly make prototypes by using existing off-the-shelf hardware and some 3D printed parts, as well as modifying the ‘old’ caps to house some electronics for field-testing. We have an on-site 3D printer and also a lathe & milling machine etc so making prototypes was relatively easy. It allowed us to put a whole bunch out in the field, learn from them and then make modifications etc.
We conduct a rigorous testing regime throughout the product design cycle, from simulating loads on the computer, physical destruction tests on prototypes, user testing, in-field testing, to temperature and humidity cycling to understand any potential failure modes that we can design out of the product before we hit the molding shop.
Why did you design the cap rather than designing a new trap?
We wanted to be able to add a connected feature to the trap without discouraging those who already had A24’s to upgrade their entire system at a greater cost. Having a retro-fittable cap is a great idea, because it means no-one misses out on the upgrade, and the cost is significantly lower than an entirely new trap system.
Did you face any challenges in designing a product to retrofit to existing traps?
The predominant challenge was designing a system that was both robust in the field but easily assembled/disassembled. It's always a compromise, you can have the thing massively over engineered and it won't fail, but it could be pretty clumsy or difficult to use (or huge etc), and vice-versa. It had to balance the ease of usability and also the technical requirements so that it can last a long time withstanding some pretty harsh conditions.
In redesigning a cap that already had a function for the A24, did you find and solve other problems?
We got to solve a few issues along the way that we found with the old cap. We added a grip texture to the outside so that the cap can be removed more easily with wet, greasy hands, and also made the cap a better fit in general so that less force is required to unscrew it from the trap. Having first hand experience with this issue - being in the bush with freezing cold, wet hands and struggling to remove the old caps, it was a real pleasure to sort this out and make life easier for all our customers.
Can you tell us about the materials, sustainability, recycling?
The materials used in this product are high performance plastics. They need to be able to withstand some pretty serious conditions like extreme temperatures, rain, tree branches falling onto them & also the little rascals of the forest trying to pull them apart. We have designed the Chirp cap to be easily disassembled for recycling. Everything unclips and no fasteners are used which enables recyclability. We recycle plastic components by sending them back to our supplier to re-grind & turn into new products in the future.
What was your involvement in the Chirp App development?
I was involved in the early stages, predominantly when we were trying to understand what someone might want from the app and how to make it easy to use in conjunction with the product. I don't have expertise in software etc, but I do enjoy mapping out the customer journey and seeing how we can incorporate moments of pleasure into their overall experience with the brand.
What do you hope Chirp will achieve?
I hope that Chirp will achieve greater engagement in pest control (on an individual level). I hope that communities can use it as a tool to engage with one another and see the impact they are having on improving the wildlife within their communities. Having a metric of success and a reminder that were all in this together can be very powerful things.
As a designer, what inspires you?
I try to take inspiration from most things around me from both the physical and intellectual worlds. It could be the interaction between light and spaces, a piece of music I'm listening to, a podcast about social injustice, an antique tool or piece of machinery, or a new crafting process I’m learning. I'm always inspired to make better things when I have a frustrating experience with a product or system, and inversely, I'm always super inspired when I've had a great experience with a brand or product, particularly when you might need help or assistance with a problem you've had. These moments can totally make or break a brand for people, so it's so important to get everything right. Adding joy or playfulness is something I think we need more of in the world and I try to incorporate this in my work.