A Case Study: The Collaborative Redesign of the Perkins Brailler

"Good Design" means something different to everyone, especially to an audience that experiences the world through their fingertips. As designers we are accustomed to immersing ourselves into the lives of our targeted users and pulling out meaning, values and aspirations. However, when the targeted audience interprets the world in an unique way, the design team’s methodology need to be flexible, conclusions are never final and bringing the users into the fold of the process is essential.

Through this discussion attendees will hear the development story of redesigning the fully mechanical Next Generation Perkins Braille Writer for the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown MA. This device is the "pen and paper" for the visually impaired community, making it an essential teaching tool worldwide. The original Perkins Brailler was designed in the 1940's, has over 600 moving parts, and has remained the unchanged, extremely reliable workhorse for decades.

We look to tell the story honestly, addressing successes, stumbles, surprises and how we were changed both professional and personally by the experience. This is a case study in blurring the formalized lines between research, design and engineering to create a product that meets the needs of a very adaptable and impressive user group.

Sona is a Senior Industrial Designer at PDT and has worked in all aspects of design from research to development to manufacturing support. She has worked on and led a wide array of programs including consumer electronics, housewares, soft goods, space organization and medical. Sona has had the opportunity to travel to India to conduct research sessions and gain first-hand experience with users in a developing country. She has also traveled to Asia to work with vendors to maintain the integrity of the design. Together all these experiences have helped shape Sona to fully appreciate and understand all the elements it truly takes to bring a product to life and finding a balance between the sometimes separated priorities. She has had work featured in Metropolis magazine and New Design magazine. As well as won several international design awards. Since graduating from Arizona State University in 2000, it is the ability to solve problems through research and design, meet so many new people along the way and the constant learning that drives Sona in this profession.

Lisa Yanz is an Industrial Designer at PDT in Chicago where she explores the connection between front-end research insights and how those "sparks" can be translated into meaningful design solutions. Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 she has gained experience in a variety of industries including medical, consumer products, house wares and soft goods both from a research and design viewpoint. With every new project she aims to bring a fresh perspective and to keep a pulse on what is really important and essential to the end user. She hopes to bring this message to design students through her frequent mentoring work in the Chicago high school and university communities.

Lisa has been awarded several international design awards including an IDEA Silver, a Spark Award and several Good Design Awards, as well has having work featured in publications such as Metropolis and New Design magazines. She is also a newly minted triathlete.

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