The Glif is a simple iPhone 4 accessory with two primary functions: mounting your iPhone onto a tripod and propping up your iPhone at various angles.
Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost We both contributed equally to the design and execution.
Zoe Coombes: It's amazing that this little stick, small and completely void of any trace of the designer's hand could allow you to do so much with what you already are carrying around in your pocket. It's one of those objects that is so blank, and at first, looks almost useless, that when I discovered what it was, I felt like I was challenged to figure out new ways of using it. Connecting my iPhone to a tripod, or allowing the iPhone to sit straight on the desk for some face time is great, but I also think that new standard, creative ways of communicating might be provoked by this stealth little block of plastic – ways we have yet to see.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
When the iPhone 4 was released last June, we marveled at how Apple managed to pack such an amazing camera (video and still images) into their latest iteration. It could truly be used as our sole camera for most situations, but was lacking one key feature: the ability to mount it to a tripod. This became blindingly apparent after shooting some video and noticing how shaky the hand-held footage was. Solutions to mount a phone to a tripod existed in the marketplace, they were typically bulky, cumbersome, or DIY. We saw an opportunity to create something simple, small, elegant, and multifunctional.
This project excited us because we view the iPhone as an incredible tool for creativity, and we were excited to create something that helped enable or extend that creativity.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
As stated above, our goal was to create something simple, small, and elegant. The iPhone is an "always with you" camera, so likewise, we wanted the Glif is mirror this portability. We also, of course, took design cues from Apple, in rigorously privileging usability.
Because we were independent designers with little experience designing for the consumer product world, our main challenge was bringing the Glif to market without going through the usual channels. We wanted to stay very close to our product (and our eventual customers), so we decided to forgo outside investment and distribution, which meant we had to focus on simplicity and efficiency in the design process as well.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
Our philosophy has always been to design things that we ourselves want to exist. The audience for our product is people like us: those that value simplicity and usability.
Making our product simple was not just an aesthetic design decision, but a manufacturing consideration as well. We knew from the beginning the more complex the product, the harder it would be to bring it to fruition. As such, the Glif is a single injection-molded piece of rubber with no moving parts.
We designed the Glif specially for the iPhone 4. While we are sacrificing potential markets by not making the design more universal, this decision allowed us to pare the design down to its essence, and create something that felt like a perfect match for the device.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
Very little conscious up-front research was conducted, although closely following internet and design trends over the past few years certainly informed the design. We used our own design aesthetic as the litmus test throughout.
We arrived at the design through countless iterations. This was made possible (and affordable) by a relatively new prototyping technology: 3D printing. The 3D model of the Glif was created in Rhino and then sent to Shapeways, a company in the Netherlands that specializes in on-demand 3D printing. The 3D prints allowed us to test various rough design concepts in the early stages, and were equally useful in refining our finalized design at the end.
We also received several material samples to help select the final material to be injection molded. It was important to find a soft, gentle material that would not scratch the phone, yet rigid enough to perform the functional tasks.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Perhaps more important than the object itself, our use of the crowd-funding site Kickstarter seems to be a watershed moment in the world of independent product development. No longer are individuals beholden to the whims of large corporations or "gatekeepers" in order to see their product idea brought to fruition. Many have used our project as a template for their own industrial designed projects, and have cited us directly as inspiration.
From the onset, it was always our goal to be as open and transparent about our design process as possible, showing the missteps as well as the successes. Through blog posts, tweets, video updates, etc., we have included everyone in the making of the Glif, and thus created a stronger bond between us and our customers. This signifies a shift in consumer's interest in knowing where their products are coming from, and how they are created.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Because of our relative inexperience with traditional manufacturing techniques, we designed the Glif without much consideration for the artifacts / imperfections of the manufacturing process. With this knowledge in hand, we could have considered these throughout the entire design process, instead of at the end, where it was more difficult to make adjustments.