In 2014, d.light partnered with IDEO.org to join d.light’s research team and help with consumer research and industrial design of the d.light A1, a high quality solar light that is flexible, durable, and most importantly, affordable to all. The team sought to create a first-in-class solar light that was easy to use, bright enough for the home, and available in rural areas for just five dollars.
Living on less than $1.25 a day, families at the base of the pyramid can sometimes pay up to 25 cents daily for kerosene to light their homes in the evening. Not only does the dim light of kerosene come at a persistent financial cost, but it also causes serious respiratory problems and is a significant fire risk. For many consumers, solar lanterns are the obvious answer. But, most of the products available to them are simply out of reach because they are too expensive.
Together, d.light and IDEO.org set out to create a solar light that was easy to use, emitted the right amount of brightness, and was accessible to all. Solar light is a safe efficient way to light homes and businesses, and it saves families money in the long-term without subjecting them to the health hazards of kerosene. To compete with the slow-burn cost of kerosene, and gain access to a new group of consumers, d.light’s new design couldn’t retail for more than $5 USD.
Launched in July 2015, the d.light A1 will bring solar light to hundreds of millions of people living without access to electricity. The d.light A1 is the first quality solar lantern of its kind available at a price point of $5 USD, making it accessible to all. The small and versatile design of the d.light A1 is ultra-portable, lighting very corner of a room and providing families a 20% increase in income by deferring costs usually spent on expensive kerosene.
As of February 2016, A1 has empowered 1.51 million lives, of which 87k are school children.
Collaboration & Approach:
As a global social enterprise delivering affordable solar-power around the world, d.light had dreamed of such a product for a long time, but couldn’t bring the cost of parts down enough, while maintaining superior quality, to make it achievable or sustainable with their previous models. They wanted to be sure whatever they built could be affordable and maintain the quality and aspiration of the rest of the d.light product line. It was also crucial that the new solar lantern be centered in the needs and wants of the people they were designing for.
Together with IDEO.org, d.light’s design team worked in Africa and India researching how people would interact with the light, how it would be used in homes and businesses, weighing the most important components of its look and feel, and ensuring that it was bright enough to do the job and feel reliable to the consumer.
IDEO.org shared industrial design concepts with user insights of the product fresh in their minds, making sure it was the right solution for the challenge. The team’s focus was to make something functional at a low cost that met the design specs from d.light and the lighting needs of the new consumers, while still making a fun, beautiful and engaging product that communicates quality and brightness. Versatility of the light was also key. The team played around with a variety of customizations while prototyping in customer’s homes, ultimately settling on a stand that can be hung from the ceiling to provide overhead light.
Meeting all the specs of the design and bringing it to market at an affordable price point was a great engineering challenge for d.light. The d.light team worked tirelessly, leveraging manufacturing relationships, existing product SKUs, and years of human-centered engineering expertise to bring the A1 to life.
Very appropriate user-centered industrial design with focus on functionality and selection of parts and materials for cost effectiveness, making this a transformative product for its target markets of Africa and India.