sketching, saunas, and snow…. and the Tap is done.

After about eight weeks Umea feels like home and it’s awesome. We’ve finished the first project and are now halfway through our crash course on Alias, and beginning our term project in just over a week. It’s been a few weeks since an update but I’ll be doing my best to post more often as we move into this term project.


WATER TAP PROJECT: DONE!Final Image B - cropped for blog

I’m stoked with how this project came out, both with the final result and that I actually finished everything I wanted to on time. That’s probably a first for me at design school, and a skill I learnt from a year working.

The tap project was a whole lot of fun, we didn’t have a brief to guide us and were encouraged to just let loose sketching and modelling. We also weren’t allowed to use a computer until the final poster layout, it was a nice change of process overall.

Going In

Going into this project I really wanted to focus on visually logical semantics. By this I meant designing mechanics for controlling the tap that intuitively made sense with how people expect the mechanics to actually work. For example by pulling a handle upwards and enlarging the spout opening, it seems to make sense that the water flow would increase.

I also wanted to create an honest design that avoided any misuse of materials, unnecessary technology, or gimmicks.


We started with a two-ish hour group research stage, with my area of focus being how water is used differently throughout the world. Basically my take-away from the research stage was water is universally associated with wellbeing, cleansing, health, balance, and calm. This was an initial direction for me, and furthering these positive aspects I also aimed to create a sense of delight from using the tap.


We really took a very loose approach to the design process with the tap, with my approach basically being sketch, model, sketch, model, and see what happens. I think I’m pretty methodical in my approach so I enjoyed just running with my thoughts instead and relying on this to solve any problems. This is also how I stumbled across my final direction.

Along the way I took inspiration from nature (leaves, waterfalls, rivers, bamboo etc.), from the concept of how a tap is really a valve holding off strong pressure/plugging a hole, and I kept moving back to this focus on logical movements. Along the way I also really tried to tie in a soap dispenser, because it seems almost everyone has a pretty nice tap on their basin, and then just a cheap plastic soap dispenser, and it seems a waste (and wasted opportunity). Unfortunately I just couldn’t make it work without compromising the aesthetics and ease of use of the final design, this is perhaps one area I didn’t truly finish—I still think there is a good solution I haven’t figured out yet.

Here’s a summary of my process from where my previous post left off:





2010-09-23 UID APD1 Tap Presentation 009

After making the second mock-up in clay it became clear it looked a lot better with no top piece at all, so that set me off on the challenge of still integrating a nice intuitive movement. Eventually it ended returning to a top piece that retracted inside when turned off.



2010-09-27 Clay Modelling and Sink 014b

2010-09-27 Clay Modelling and Sink 025

2010-09-27 Clay Modelling and Sink 040b


I’m really happy with the final outcome. It’s a reasonably conventional form factor except that the control lever is pushed into the base to turn the tap off.

To turn it on the user simple taps the retracted piece and it pops out and begins flowing at a medium water flow setting. This flow setting can be adjusted by the user (access to adjustment is inside the basin), but the intention is this means people immediately get the flow setting they prefer to wash their hands with, which is what the tap is used for 90% of the time. It can be adjusted for other needs by simply sliding the lever further up and down, and rotating to either side to increase the warmth (from cold – for a New Zealand market tap cold water is fine for hand washing, and more energy-efficient).

I’m particularly happy with the action of turning off the tap, in that it has a very visual action – you see the tap being plugged. I think the sliding motion also successfully accomplishes this intention of visual semantics, one can imagine sliding the lever up and down is increasing the opening in the valve to allow more water flow. I also hope controlling the tap gives a feeling of satisfaction – it is a very tactile movement.

As for the aesthetics, I think it achieves my goal of a clean, balanced design, it’s not trying to be anything more than an elegant dispenser of a wonderful resource.

apd1_final1c_alastair_alwa0008 for blog

2010-09-29 Clay Model in Photo Studio 006 for blog

2010-09-23 UID APD1 Tap Presentation 072

So that’s my project—if anyone’s read this far I’d love to hear some feedback and criticism!


Tap Pub

We hosted an exhibition pub on Friday so everyone could come and have a gander at what we’ve been up to. Nice way to bring on the weekend.

2010-10-01 UID Tap Pub 020

2010-10-01 UID Tap Pub 021

2010-10-01 UID Tap Pub 024

2010-10-01 UID Tap Pub 123



Right now we’re halfway through an intensive course on a software package called Alias, which is the industry standard for designing cars, and is also one of the main packages used in industrial design (Rhino is the other main software for surface modelling). It’s good fun, although a seriously buggy program and a test of patience until you accept it. Really though I just want to find out what we’re doing for the term project and get into it!



Right now things are reasonably relaxed with the Alias course, so we’ve had plenty of barbeques, parties, saunas, and so on. I’ve joined the gym here which apparently is the biggest single complex gym in Western Europe, it is amazing (and also cheap). The indoor beach volleyball courts will be keeping us sane in winter…Speaking of which, it’s now snowed a couple of times, and is getting seriously cold. Expecting –8°C tomorrow night and some days don’t hit positives. Looking forward to my snowboard arriving!

2010-09-18 Umea 002b

Ume River (Umeälven). This is further down from our campus.

2010-09-26 Umea Marco's Birthday Fika 005

Marco’s birthday fika.

2010-10-17 UID Jaiwei's Tea Party 0072010-10-17 UID Jaiwei's Tea Party 021

Jiawei’s tea fika. (Yep we do a lot of fikas.)

Cheers for reading.


  1. Classic stilts surprise face in that group photo. Looking very nice man, the play on bamboo comes off nicely, the early sketches with the facet peeling off evolved nicely through to the final, the form still hints at it, you can see the evolution. Great stuff man!



  3. wow! Relay great post. Awesome article – “:I’m amazed at how many of these things I actually have.
    The tools you mentioned here are the most important, wich must be present in any property!