It wasn't until I nearly got run over that I realized where my product opportunity was.
I was freelancing for at the time, working hard to create a new product for the saturated but uninspiring nighttime running segment, with a unique look and angle. Not an easy task but then I do love a challenge.
I had a year, and I went deep, I mean really deep. I was going through my traditional approach of heavy ethnographic research, primary and secondary user research, specialist reading and interviews in safety and conspicuity, focus groups and follows. I read up on traffic and incident reports to understand who and why people got hit. I backed up and looked at night time running as a whole, from the runners perspective, putting myself in all their shoes, to see if by zooming out from the solutions everyone else had into the bigger scenario I might find other opportunities, and I did, many.
I studied and met with technology specialists to understand existing and emerging visibility technologies and also looked at cars, the human eye, perception and reaction time. I looked at competitor products to see who was wearing what and to find gaps in the market.
All this was great, and so, when the breakthrough finally came, I was ready to react. And this is the major difference between other research fields and the creative design research process, I believe. You are learning and looking for a base of knowledge, but you are also seeking that spark, the pain point, the one moment that cascades into the opportunity and idea you have been seeking all along where your creativity kicks in and a product idea starts to emerge. Then the research switches over to inform that specific trajectory.
And my spark came that rainy night. I had taken a break from a massive dept of transportation study on incidents, which stated that statistically I should have better odds at intersections.
My pup and I came to one, and as someone blew through the intersection without stopping, for us or the signs, all of the product samples - the reflective, the LEDs, the glow in the dark, all sitting in my study, flashed through my mind.
How mortifying if I was hit when I was working on a visibility project, totally educated, on what is visible but still not kitted out. How ridiculous, I had all the gear on the market it seemed, but I had forgotten to put them on! It didn't matter how epic the safety, if you weren't wearing it!
And I instantly I knew the niche I was aiming for. Thinking back to all the college kids not wearing gear, all the urban runners shunning the yellow vests, it was to design a visibility product which you would want to wear, regardless of viz or not, because it looked great. It should be kick ass and brilliant looking, not be a pill to swallow. You buy it because you love the look, and then, "Oh man, its visibility too?! Sweet!"
And that's when my project kicked into high gear.