Aura is designed to provide a cleanable, durable, and user friendly water pipe smoking experience in a form that moves beyond the adverse reaction and stigma associated with traditional bongs. As progressive attitudes toward marijuana use continue to grow in the United States and abroad, water pipes have remained a reminder of the drug's marginalized and subversive past. A look into existing cannabis products reveals the absence of a brand that connects with the mature, style conscious, and forward thinking market that has emerged in the recent wave of legalization in the United States. Designed to appeal to both existing and new users, Aura evolves the water pipe into a contemporary object that is comfortable in plain sight.
Aura's form is driven by a simplified user experience created by grouping the touchpoints of smoking (the handle, bowl piece, and mouthpiece) at the top of the device. First time use of a traditional water pipe can be a confusing and intimidating experience given the lack of an intuitive grip and the poor ergonomics of a vertical cylindrical mouthpiece. A holding place for the hand is created by the branches of Aura's mouthpiece, providing intuitive control and comfort. In addition, the wrist and neck of the user are in a neutral position when smoking thanks to the angle of the mouthpiece. Lost lighters are no longer a problem, as space within the mouthpiece is provided to store one when not in use. While loading the bowl, many smokers will spill small amounts of marijuana accidentally. Aura's bowl is surrounded by a generous platter in order to prevent this. A wide base also allows the bowl to stand upright on a table without tipping or spilling.
The glass components of traditional water pipes are easily broken, requiring replacement of the entire water pipe when an accident happens because they are fused together. Aura is designed for manufacturing from stainless steel, PCABS plastic, and brass components, ensuring minimal breakability. The cost of manufacturing in these materials is also much less at a large scale than traditionally handworked glass pieces. The resin and particulate matter that accumulate during smoking are difficult to access and clean in traditional water pipes, resulting in a perpetually dirty product. Aura's main components disassemble to allow access to unclean areas for hand cleaning. The entire system is dishwashable as well, thanks to these durable materials.
Typical water pipes seek to extend the distance traveled by smoke through the system in order to cool the hit before inhalation, and their tall proportion reflects this. By moving the bowl piece to the top, and extending the downstem to the bottom of the pipe, smoke travels twice the distance of Aura's reduced height to deliver a smooth and cooled down hit. The stainless steel downstem is thermally conductive, thus chilling the smoke even more when ice and water are added to the chamber.
Aura provides an intuitive smoking experience, easy cleanability, superior durability, and style that is comfortable on display in the home.
Our initial research revealed a wide array of opinions and habits relating to smoking, demonstrating to our team just how personal these products are. A water pipe is a display item for some, but many more are hidden away due to their dirty appearance, fragility, and negative stigma. As legalization gains traction, the marijuana market is growing with many new and returning users, many of whom struggle with the uncomfortable position and non-intuitive coordination required to use a water pipe. It was a challenge to simplify the design for these users without also alienating the preferences of veteran users.
The design process involved several beta designs which were presented to an array of users. Much of the pushback on our ideas came from these user's expectations of how a water pipe should function, based upon the ones they already owned. Our team understood that these veteran users would be less willing to relinquish their rituals and routines for a new and improved product, and the design of Aura would need to be informed by their existing standards. Ergonomic models that simulated the experience of using the design, accompanied by visuals that communicated the intended materials and final form, allowed us to continually refine the experience of using Aura quickly and iteratively.
Creation of a de-stigmatized water pipe design that can fit in comfortably with other commonly accepted objects of vice, such as a cocktail shaker or wine glass, necessitated a completely new water pipe architecture. The challenge was to retain the functional characteristics of a water pipe, yet position the identity of Aura in the aesthetic context of well made kitchen or coffee table items. Moodboards and sketching drove the aesthetic development of Aura, followed by simple functional prototypes that validated our sketched and modelled ideas. A finished functional prototype was created by working hands on with a glass blower, and testing of it's performance confirmed that form and function had been successfully merged. It was important to define a brand and image for Aura from the start. Premium, independent, and mature characteristics guided the visual development of the logo, which represents the marijuana leaf in a more refined, calm, and sophisticated manner. This appeals to users making an informed and responsible decision to use marijuana, and communicates to their poise and control. Aura, as a brand and product, is an affirmation of these users choice in vices in the context of psychedelically stylized or overly technical and intimidating marijuana products. Aura represents peace of mind out in the open, a reflection of the ever transitioning social climate surrounding marijuana.