A project inspired by an old hollywood illustrator that lead to the creation of a clock specifically designed for people with a condition called spatial neglect.
Submitted PDF + Real life Clock Prototype
Key Things You Learned:
How clocks work, quartz mechanisms, gear engineering
How to bring the look and function of the clock with a constructivist aesthetic.
Compromising on something that doesn’t look as great as it could, but it does the job the best.
Woodwork + 3d printing skills + prepping files for laser-cutting
Vinyl cutting & very meticulous hand work.
Designing for real people: getting and implementing feedback from the experts.
Peii Chen – Rehabilitation Specialist at the Kessler Foundation
Angelo Carofano – Clock maker and enthusiast.
Giancarlo Wellons – Mechanical Engineer
The idea was bounced back and forth between myself and the expert at the Stroke foundation. I tested different colours and got her advice on whether it would work. I also tested lots of different materials to get the weight just right for the quartz mechanism to handle, but still be rigid enough.
Influencing your Future:
This was my first proper product design project. I really enjoyed getting to grips with materials and I let them lead me onwards in the project. This project is valuable to me because there is some true potential for good here, and I think its really important for designers to stay away from aesthetic self-indulgence. I will definitely keep using this hands on/testing approach for my future projects, and keep looking for complex problems that can be fixed with simple design solutions.
My initial design for the clock was based on the way spatial neglect patients draw it when they are asked to represent the time. They squeeze all the numbers on one size due to their lack of attention to the stroke-affected side, unknowingly leaving a big white space. In wanting to design a clock that would enable the patients to read the time easily, I set out to create a working physical copy of their representation of the clock. To do this one thing was necessary: to slow down the clock mechanism to exactly half the speed. Through my research, I found out this could be done in one of two ways: either by altering the mechanical gear chain inside the motor, or by rewiring the electronic component of the quartz mechanism, neither of which turned out to be particularly easy for a beginner like myself. Nevertheless, I learned the basics of gear engineering and figured out the math, also with the help of an Masters Mechanical Engineer from Imperial University.
The solution to the problem turned out to be theoretically quite simple, but practically almost impossible. I just needed to find a single gear, double to diameter of the driving gear of the motor, which had the same size but double the amount of teeth. By inserting that into the gear chain, it would force the whole thing to slow down by half. After having bought and tested 58 different gears off the internet, the possibility of finding a gear that was as small and as specific as I needed faded away quickly. I considered 3d printing, but that wouldn’t have worked because of the insanely minute scale of what I needed to produce. On top of that, I would’ve had to produce another contained for the gear mechanism that accommodated for the insertion of the new piece.
So I moved onto my second option, which was electronic. Having been learning about Arduino’s in the last few weeks I was excited to test something out but, still in conversation with my engineering expert, I soon realised that, even if the software and code was correct, it would have been difficult to produce the clock as a standalone object, disconnected from the computed software. This would’ve have prevented it from being hung, which ultimately defeats the purpose of having a clock and of the project altogether. So that didn’t work either.
These problems had arisen from the initial design choices I’d made almost instinctively, so I decided to go back and revise. Eventually I came up with some new ideas, one of which seemed more promising.
I decided to think of the clock in terms of its most basic components, re-thinking how it could work. Instead of having the hands move, could I have the numbers move instead? In this way, the hand could remain fixed on one side, the numbers moving around it, making it always visible for stroke victims with spatial neglect.
This direction would enable me to still use the quartz mechanism I had without having to spend all my remaining time learning a new skill (while this would have been great and surely useful in the future, it really worried me in terms of achieving an appropriately finished outcome). I swapped each of the hands on the rotating central rod of the mechanism with three separate discs. These would rotate at the same speed of the hands, but they would indicated the numbers instead.
I first cut a prototype out of mount board, just to figure out how everything would work together and how I should lay out the numbers. I quickly used some Letraset transfers I had lying around.
Everything seemed to be working okay, except, since it wasn’t cut too precisely, the discs were touching in parts creating friction and altering the speed. I thought that maybe my material choice was unsuitable, so the next day I tried cutting up some plastic to see if that was more rigid.
Although the rigidity worked better, the material was just too heavy for the relatively weak mechanism. The motor wasn’t able to turn it, especially when upright. So I went back to mountboard, but this time decided to try laser cutting the shapes to have them fit the rod perfectly and not move around. I digitised my design and put it into a suitable Illustrator file for the machine to be able to process. I was worried that given the thickness of the material and the detail of the shapes I’d drawn, it wouldn’t work. Thankfully, I was wrong.