Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Mind of a Yoga Mat Designer

Many thanks to Doreen for providing this guest blog!
The Mind of a Yoga Mat Designer 
By Doreen Hing, Owner of Plank Designs
I’m asked from time to time how I came up with idea of creating Plank Yoga Mats. Typically, I give some light, off the cuff anecdote that I wanted to create a cool looking mat, which was the initial goal. However, as a designer, I am trained to create something that adds value beyond an idea’s original conception. So let’s breakdown a product designer’s # 1 tool, the Form and Function tool…
Imagery: When I first conceived the idea of Art Images on Yoga Mats I found the opportunities of imagery to be limitless. From simple graphics, to loved one’s pets, to yoga symbolism and beyond – every image under the sun seemed to be at my disposal. So for Plank, it was important to define what makes a Plank image and what a Plank image is NOT. Here is some of the what Plank images are NOT…
  • Cute like Pets. Pretty like Flowers. Cool like Clouds
  • Gag producing, yoga obvious or generic images, e.g. Lotus flowers, OM symbols or inspirational words like ‘Breathe or Karma’

Seriously does anyone need another version of the OM symbol...
• What a Plank image is…
  • Trompe L’oeil
  • Thought provoking, with several layers of interpretation
  • Ironic, audacious and relevant
  • Gallery Quality images

Making it relevant, or at least audacious...
The Photographer: Due to the art quality nature of Plank’s images, we thus require to use photographers who can meet the design brief and also work with the hidden technical issues that go along with creating high resolution images for large surface areas. For this initial series of images, we used Christopher Harting, whose ironic stills, skills best captured our intentions. For those that maybe interested, the logistical stories behind the visual stories of each yoga mat image, one day I’ll share…
Materials: It goes without saying that for Plank, the base material for the yoga mat has to be made with the latest eco technologies and materials. Of all the materials that are currently available, we used Natural Rubber for its density, natural grip qualities and its ability to breakdown when its time is up.
Grip: As a product developer, when creating a product, we are typically presented with several options that can answer the project brief. It is our job then, to weigh the pros and cons of each suggestion. Here is a typical question from my supplier: “Do I want the mat to be grippy in hot or room temp yoga classes?” Of course, my answer was, “I want the mats to work for all yoga styles.” To which they asked me, but not using idioms or metaphors, if I want Plank to be a Jack of all trades or a Master of None. To which, we choose Mastery. Thus, they presented a grip layer that is activated with the heat and pressure from hands and feet. We saw this an opportunity to create an incredible mastery of Foundations. All training tools work when all criteria are properly applied or engaged, e.g. Fitness Balls or SLKZ Refiner Pro Graphite Golf Club. These tools show you the muscle memory required or else you fail. Thus, at Plank we state clearly, we make no apologies if you slip when using a Plank Yoga mat. We want the practioner to discover and apply every square millimeter of their hands/feet foundations to a PYM, to then witness immediately a power and strength created in their arms and legs.Ideally, once you have gained what we call “Ridiculous Body Awareness” or “Mastery of Foundations” as a result of using a PYM, Plank would love you to take this insight to be able to practice anywhere, on any surface, with or without a Plank mat.
As a designer, floating my boat = creating a product that looks great and is often reward enough. However, creating a product that can really make a difference to an individuals health and well-being, by having the practioners experience more advanced muscle memory, is the most satisfying part of a product designer’s job. Like the iPhone makes the complex functions of a computer and telephone seamless and easy, Plank Yoga Mats makes the complex body technology creating optimum body effectiveness of power and/or self-healing, immediate, doable and real.
Gift worthy: Plank Yoga Mats were specifically designed to create gift worthy yoga products. It was an intentional part of the design brief to create an opportunity for gift buying that could make a difference to people’s health and wellbeing, whether it be a gift to self, or for a loved one or even a stressed out boss.
Choosing a manufacturer: When researching a manufacturer to create Plank’s Yoga Mats, since the concept of Art on Yoga Mats was and still is new to the yoga market place, it was important to find a manufacturer who was had ethical business practices and was willing to investigate and become vested in the concept. Since Plank’s manufacturing partners practice yoga, they already were connected to the yoga community, and for me it was their mindset that set them apart. Their core vision is to care for the environment, their end consumers and their partners. Having worked with many manufacturers in Asia and domestically in the US, you just know when this is just talk or is the real deal. For me, I don’t look for Made in USA or Asia. What matters to me, is, Made with Mutual Respect.
Plank doesn’t mind not being the #1 yoga mat in the market place to service all types of yoga styles and levels. However, what matters to Plank is that we are the number #1 yoga mat to teach. We teach bigger and freer and more expansive poses which are the result of a muscle memory experience that allows the practioner to know what it takes to create truly grounded and real solid foundations.