Monday, 14 May 2012
The 1st of May 2012 was a big day for REthinkthings. We were at The NEC in Birmingham for the Naidex national trade show. This is the UKs largest disability, homecare and rehabilitation event, for us, it meant a huge opportunity and change of approach for the launch of the Flo, the product we have been developing for over three years after the idea was originally conceived on the BBC Design for Life show with a little help from Philippe Starck. Although we have strived to keep interested followers updates since this aired in 2009 through our product facebook page it has taken a while to get it into a near perfect functional form for market testing until now, with over 15 prototypes in a range of materials and several changes to the form for strength and aesthetic perfection it has been quite a journey.
We normally go to design led trade shows when launching new products such as Pulse, Tent, Spring Fair, Maison etc, so Naidex was a bit of a new experience with it being market specific for those seeking innovation in the independent living sector. Flo was to be presented to the public for the first time in a finished form and with the resources to have it produced in quantity should trade partners take interest.
The response we got was amazing. When launching a new product there is always the worry if people will actually take to it and even understand it, especially when you have invested so much time and cash resource into it. But people got it, they loved the unusual form, the futuristic materials and its “snake like” personality.
Visitors saw how Flo gave the user more personal confidence through its non medical aesthetic and its new visual language which offered a style statement and a sense of individuality. On the stand, it scremed “touch me, try me” to the occupational therapists, physios, end users and other health professionals as it was so different to anything they had ever seen before. A range of user groups tried it out from youngsters with minor mobility problems to older, and somewhat heavier gentlemen, many of whom were wheelchair users, it worked a treat for most, with a little positioning and practise, some needed alternative sizing of course and this is the next step for us in the products development and the vast range of contacts we made at the show including 5 global distributors, a range of independent retailers and several other healthcare professionals will perhaps assist in making this a reality.
With this being our first time at the show we were interested to see some of the other products on display. The variety of solutions on offer was astounding with things as tiny as a straw holder from a company called reallyusefulthings (made up of product designers who set out specifically to make improvements to life for those with physical restrictions), right up to devices designed to lower a person in a specially designed wheelchair into a swimming pool.
Some of the more exciting designs (few and far between at this show) came from the smaller items, often a simple solution to an everyday problem. A company called ‘Gripeeze’ produce gloves, which give the user a stronger grip on tools, and other handheld daily living devices by incorporating a strap from the palm to the knuckles, allowing those with grip problems to continue living independently and doing the things they enjoy.
Another product that grabbed our attention was from ‘Nathan Smallman of Sculpta.co.uk with his secure grip range, not enough designers, producers and craftspeople consider the independent living market, perhaps because its “not cool” to some, however this attitude seems to be changing as Nathan and reallyusefulthings demonstrate through their work.