Chris RoseIndustrial Design & Technology BA
Improving the design of a DIY Workmate
Ron Hickman was a man who improved the lives of millions of people through his inspired innovative inventions. He was the creator and developer of the legendary Black & Decker Workmate. The genius of Workmate is its folding capability, combined with its stability and versatility as a DIY workbench; a platform for holding work securely and a compact frame for storage. It is difficult to image a world without Workmate; over 30 million of these cleverly designed products have been sold worldwide. The Black & Decker Workmate still remains one of the most beautifully and commercially refined innovations of the 1970s, encapsulating ingenuity and engineering elegance through a seemingly simple and effective everyday product. Ron Hickman's original design is a great example of design innovation. This project has focused on the analysis of the original Workmate; its evolved functions, forms and manufacture. The study has also incorporated the careful analysis of newer competitive products, carefully comparing their features and benefits. Many people have provided their insights, aspirations and criticism of portable, transportable, temporary work benches and their comments have been carefully collated and analysed to help formulate a design brief for a new, advanced generation of work platforms for domestic application. This type of product evolves as people's DIY activities change, new materials and manufacturing process allow different design solutions and new markets need to be understood and catered for through innovative new product extensions. The challenge of this project is to find those new innovations and to create a new and desirable product to stand out from the crowd as a truly new, value added work platform for multiple use applications. One of the new areas of design improvement and detail refinement include more versatile and assured methods of increasing the platform height to provide the optimal comfort whilst maintaining a fully stable structure for the heaviest of tasks. New design concepts are also being generated to fine tune feet levelling mechanisms, new clamping devices to allow the secure fixing of more irregular-shaped objects, additional product accessories to facilitate dust extraction and tool storage. The real design challenge of this ongoing development is to constantly balance the aspirational needs of DIY enthusiasts (who have contributed to the research stages of the project), the technical execution of functions, the cost of introducing these new elements and the drive to achieve all of these with simple design detailing. The project continues and my respect for the original Ron Hickman-designed Workmate grows daily.