Owning and working on older cars is a somewhat popular hobby among younger men, and I believe it will continue to be so in the future. Although there will undoubtedly be a switch to electric and perhaps even autonomous cars for daily transport, in my eyes there will always be a place for cars with internal combustion engines. I like to compare this with horse riding, which is still practiced as a hobby and a sport, despite the fact that there is no longer any practical use for these animals.
For my own company, Lightweight.Parts, I investigated whether there would be a market for a redesigned intake manifold for certain engines supplied in the BMW E36. These engines were limited in power by restricting airflow to keep insurance and road tax costs low. Existing solutions are available for this, but they are either scarce or expensive. Using the principles of hypothesis driven entrepreneurship, I researched whether this problem was really as big as I had initially expected, whether the proposition I had in mind was an adequate solution for it, and whether the target group would be willing to pay enough to make it a profitable product.
The project ended with a clear image of the target audience, who received the final proposition very positively. Unfortunately the ideal retail price that they were willing to pay for the product was deemed too low. However, it was still seen as an opportunity to go for a smaller part of the market, and thus a smaller total revenue, with a higher price. At that level it was expected to be financially viable, but to fully validate this more research into production costs is needed.
As the greatest part of my master’s was during the COVID19 pandemic, I was already used to doing things on my own. This had not proven to be my strongest point, as I already learned in earlier projects that I really need people around me to talk about my ideas and get feedback. However, for my FMP I really wanted to do something that was close to myself, as I expected that since I really loved the subject, it would be less of a struggle for me to come up with ideas and stay motivated. This was somewhat true, but nevertheless the same struggles I had experienced before still came back, albeit in a less intense way. This has taught me that no matter how interested I am in a subject, and how motivated I am to do something, I still need people around me to perform optimally.
This project also taught me how important it is to know your target audience, as in the beginning of the project I had a totally different idea of who these people were. First I saw myself and my business partner as pretty average examples of this group. However, with each iteration I slowly started to learn that our target audience was a rather budget minded one, who wasn’t driven by aesthetics, but by functionality. This was the complete opposite of what I expected.
Lastly, I learned that a design doesn’t always have to be technologically correct, even if it’s a purely technical product about which the target audience may have more knowledge than its designer. The 3D models that I had made for my MVP’s were for the most part realistic, and all of the functionalities that the target audience could expect were incorporated, but it was certainly not ready for production. With my background as a product designer, this was sometimes difficult for me to let go, but I now see that this is no problem in research applications.
Areas of Expertise
All areas of expertise have been covered during this project. First of all, Business & Entrepreneurship was developed during the whole process while I was building and testing my business model. Working according to the principles of hypothesis driven entrepreneurship allowed me to demonstrate my Design Research Process. This can be seen in particular in how I have adapted the process itself, but also methods, to my needs. I worked on User & Society by using questionnaires to get a picture of my target group and their needs, but also through the interviews and working with experts during the development of my MVP’s. During this development Technology & Realization were involved, as I gathered technical knowledge and used it to build a CAD model that was as realistic as possible. Creativity & Aesthetics was then showcased in the processing of these models into realistic renders that should appeal to the target group. Finally, analysis of qualitative and quantitative data contributed to my development in the field of Math, Data & Computing.