This neat Australian-made Braille note-taker, the Jot a Dot, is on display in the Powerhouse Museum’s version of Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. I selected it to complement the story of inventor Louis Braille, which came with the exhibition but without any objects.
When curator Angelique Hutchison acquired the Brailler, she also acquired a suite of design process material, which adds greatly to its value as an example of product design. Concept sketches, which sadly are not often kept, are of particular interest as they provide some insight into the designer’s first thoughts on a project.
The sketches below have been reproduced most recently in the book Australia‘s greatest inventions & innovations and the exhibition Australian Inventions, which was developed to complement Wallace & Gromit.
Not all designers begin the process of developing and communicating their ideas with sketches on paper. Some go straight to a computer-aided design (CAD) program, using a mouse or graphics tablet to draw and render a concept. This computer rendering shows one form of the external housing that was considered during the Jot a Dot design process. Note that the keys in the final product are not set into two wells in the housing as suggested in this CAD drawing.
To communicate the details of a product to the toolmaker and production team, the designer also needs to produce accurate drawings showing the working parts and how they fit together. This is one of the technical drawings for Jot a Dot. It was drawn directly onto paper, but CAD programs can also be used at this stage of the process.
In the design of a complex product, it might be necessary to make several 3D models, from an empty housing to test consumer reaction to a working prototype that fully proves the concept and serves as a model for the production team. The prototype below was made using stereolithography, an early method of rapid prototyping (3D printing).
Quantum Technology later offered the Museum a jig that was used to stress test two Jot a Dots at a time. Using air moving through flexible tubes at varying pressure, it operated their keys to simulate years of everyday use. This offer was exciting as there are very few testing jigs in the collection, and it was accepted to round out the story of the Jot a Dot Brailler, a very well resolved design and a very useful product for a niche market.