Handground takes their design from concept to prototype

Handground took crowdsourcing to the next level when they began working on the Precision Coffee Grinder. The idea was simple: use the power of crowdsourcing to develop a more consistent and sustainable coffee grinder. Thousands of coffee lovers from around the world put their heads together to conceptualize the new machine.

Then they took the idea to 99designs, where 50 3D designers challenged themselves with the task of bringing the grinder to life. After nearly 200 submissions and a tough final round, joakoh was crowned the winner and his visual rendering was 3D printed as their first prototype to help show off their product’s potential for a just-launched Kickstarter campaign!

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Handground founders, Daniel Vitiello and Brandon Warman

We sat down with Daniel Vitiello, co-founder of Handground, to talk more about his online process, what he predicts for the future of crowdsourcing and his experience with the 99designs community.

Tell us about the product you’ve been working on.

The Handground project started as a desire to apply the Kaizen principle of continuous improvement to our morning coffee routine. When we researched how to make a better cup of coffee, we learned that our electric blade coffee grinder was keeping our coffee beans from expressing their full flavor. The recommended upgrade was a grinder with a ceramic burr mill to crush the beans instead of chopping them, to ensure that the beans’ full flavor potential are released.

We started with a burr grinder from a Japanese company called Hario. The burr grinder improved the taste of our coffee, but we were unhappy with the Hario’s mechanics. It was difficult to set the coarseness of the grind and the output was not always consistent. We started thinking of ways to address these problems and other design improvements like a side mounted handle for better ergonomics and a positive gear ratio to speed up the grinding process.

Neither of our backgrounds are in product design so we decided to take an unconventional approach and conduct an experiment using crowdsourcing to drive the design and development of a new manual coffee grinder.

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The Winning coffee grinder concepts by joakoh

What was your experience like working with 99designs? How did you narrow down the finalists?

The 99designs platform makes it easy to manage hundreds of submissions. One feature that we love is the ability to click on the submissions and give feedback about that specific element to the designer.

To narrow down the submissions, we uploaded 70 of the top designs to a Google Drive folder and then conducted a survey through Team Handground. This is a team of people that have signed up on our website, Handground.com, to be a part of our journey and get updates on its development. Each person ranked their favorite 6 designs and we took the top 6 that scored the highest.

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Design submissions (left to right): AljosaM, LASG_1, Vedran Martinek

I’d love to hear more about the designers that you recruited to the site. How did you find them? What was it like working with multiple designers at the same time?

We looked at hundreds of designer portfolios on Behance.net and GrabCad.com and invited the ones that we thought would do well in the competition. It was great to work with multiple designers because it allowed us to explore many different design options at once.

A lot of designers had never used 99designs before, but were very willing to participate in our competition as their first experience. A lot of young designers said they could add their submissions in the contest to their portfolios, regardless of whether or not they were chosen.

Was there any standout work, besides the winning design that you’d like to share?

Yes, the concepts Vedran Martinek produced were fantastic.

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Concept by Vedran Martinek

Did you learn anything more about branding/your brand while running the contest?

We have a specific focus on sustainability and we made that clear in our design brief for the competition. A lot of designers have had experience in designing with sustainable materials before and it was great to get their input on material choice and other design considerations.

Given that you had thousands of people weigh in on the final design, was the winner different from what you expected? Did you find that your community was on the same page or more divided in their opinions?

In the first round, the results were across the board. Early on we loved a couple of the designs that were very simple yet functional. During the final selection, the winning design won with 51% of the total vote.

The winning design did more for us than we expected going into the competition. Our intention was to find a new handle design for our current grinder but the winning design made some subtle changes to the entire design that just hit the spot for both us and our community.

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Photos of the first coffee grinder prototype (via Instagram)

Do you plan on working with the winning designer for follow-on work? If so, could you talk a little about your relationship?

Yes. The winning designer, Joaquin Herlein, is now working with our team to take the project to production. In the past, Joaquin worked to design other coffee equipment for Bialetti, Lavazza, LaCimbali and other iconic coffee companies. We would never have found such a perfect addition to our team if it weren’t for the competition.

Since he joined our team we are moving ahead of schedule and have ordered 3D prints for the prototype.

What are the next steps for you? When do you plan to launch the final product?

For the next two weeks we are touring up the west coast to the biggest coffee cities in the US. We plan to visit coffee shops and meet with baristas and roasters to get feedback on the prototype grinder.

We will then complete a final engineering analysis and design for manufacturing before moving into production. The Handground Kickstarter page is now live (and fully funded within the first 24 hours). Our expected shipping date to Kickstarter backers is August 2015.

Check out all of Handground’s amazing contest submissions here.

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not working with the designer community, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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