Jim has been a product designer for 15 years. He is best known for his work leading product development for GravityLight.
“Product designers play a significant part in shaping the world around them - socially, environmentally, economically and culturally.
I believe in the power of design to do good. Some products simply ought to exist. They 'deserve to exist’. These are the products that interest me.”
Before co-founding GravityLight in 2014, Jim was Associate Director at Therefore Product Design Consultants in London. Across ten years with Therefore, Jim was involved in the breadth of the consultancy’s activities, from winning new clients and managing Therefore's work in the medical sector, to leading product development on some of it’s most significant in-house ventures. Jim worked on all stages of projects with Therefore, for multinational clients and for start-ups, from front end scoping through concept generation, selection of production partners, standards compliance, manufacture and launch.
Leading ‘all things product’ for GravityLight has taken Jim from the slums of Nairobi to the factories of Shenzhen, setting up and training assembly lines in both Africa and China.
GravityLight was designed for off-grid families living in energy poverty, who otherwise rely on dangerous and expensive kerosene for their home lighting. Jim co-founded GravityLight as a social venture, to deliver innovative solutions to off-grid, low income homes. The videos on this site give a picture of what GravityLight is, and what it set out to achieve.
In developing GravityLight over the last six years, Jim has value engineered a highly efficient energy harvesting system and proved its longevity, through the creation of a bespoke accelerated life testing program, designed to yield quantitative data and validate the modelling techniques he developed to project the performance of a range of drivetrain polymers and design variants. Jim’s work has also focused on: human factors, user interaction, concept generation, product safety, technical development and specification, prototyping, testing, industrial design, design for manufacture, selection of production partners, securing supplier agreements and production liaison.
“From initial analysis of the problem, through multiple concepts and numerous iterations, the creation of international supply chains, delivery, and global product launch, GravityLight has been a more rich, varied and demanding journey than I ever could have imagined.
The successful delivery of viable and reliable products that truly answer the needs, expectations, and aspirations of users takes a lot of key ingredients. While the essence of the idea is the critical start point, the approach to solving problems and defining the details is what makes the difference between an interesting 'almost' and a real solution.
Product development also requires a lot of resource, and our challenge has been wider than merely developing and delivering a truly unique and innovative product, it has also been about how to build the resource, support and funding to do so.
As a designer and engineer I am driven by a desire to solve the problems I see. Sometimes just for their own sake - because they are interesting, or hard. The requirement for rigorous and thorough engineering development and verification may not be self-evident - the concept is simple after all. Making the product deliver, delight and surpass expectations, however, has taken a sharp focus on the smallest of details. Small aspects can be transformative, both for better and for worse.
GravityLight is made of many functional bits, in a wide range of materials: polymers, electronics, metals, fabrics, and packaging. Each type of bit is made by a different process. They all need to be developed and delivered at minimum cost, and each needs to work, time and time again.
I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to design and develop a product with such valid aspirations. One of the key measures of whether a product is interesting to me, is how much it 'deserves' to exist. Is it really needed? For me, GravityLight truly fulfils this requirement.”
In order to make GravityLight a reality, the challenges of product design were allied with the challenges of delivering as a start-up, including funding. During Jim’s time as Technical Director, the venture was funded through two successful Indiegogo campaigns, an R&D grant from Innovate UK, and a combination of innovation awards, corporate sponsorship, capital investment and charitable donation …. a lot of pitches!
Designing and engineering GravityLight meant not only building a detailed understanding of the end-user: their needs, expectations, requirements and use patterns, but also finding out what could be done at the limits of component performance, and working out how to do more. The requirements for high efficiency and longevity at low cost were extreme, and posed the greatest challenges of Jim’s career. The innovations at the heart of GravityLight are among his proudest achievements.