In just 9 months, a one page 2D concept illustration was turned into a meaningful product experience for thousands of customers.
In March of 2019, Letterfolk founder Johnny discovered Craft on his way into a bespoke barber shop down the hall of our 100-year-old renovated school building. Letterfolk had an idea for a novel product that could embody hexagon tile floors into a user-customizable product experience. As a full service firm, Craft designed and provided the product and packaging for Letterfolk's new idea - the Tile Mat.
Tile Mat is a floor mat with the appearance of a hexagon-tiled floor. Each hexagon can receive a colored Tile, so the Tile Mat becomes a customizable medium for the expression of multi-colored messages and designs.
Craft designed, sourced, developed, and proved the product and packaging by August. With full quality pre-production samples, Letterfolk lunched a crowd-sourced funding campaign to validate traction. The Tile Mat shot past it's Kickstarter goal in just 7 minutes, ultimately raising over $315k with no advertising spend. Finished Tile Mats were delivered to to thousands by Christmas.
Tile Mat ultimately takes the trend of messages laboriously written in permanent hexagon floor tiles, and empowers a user with a product that captures the same motif in a customizable, revisable, and beautiful door mat. The effortless user-experience is enabled by patented features and unique molding breakthroughs. Letterfolk even provides a digital tool for designing layouts for the Tile Mat to further simplify the user experience and democratization of design. Here is a link to that design tool: https://www.letterfolk.com/pages/tile-mat-design-tool.
The Tile Mat pushes the limits of manufacturing and molding methods. The level of quality and thoughtful packaging touches are consistent with the Letterfolk's premium brand. Tile Mat is now a world-wide medium for expression.
Designed with the goal of inviting co-creation from the end user, the Letterfolk Tile Mat allows consumers to express their own thoughts, messages, and designs through the medium of a welcome mat, either on their front porch or throughout various locations in their home or office.
The mat's honeycomb surface tiles are separated by a shallow cavity and feature a small overhang at the top which allows for individual silicone tiles to be easily snapped over the honeycomb surface, thus allowing the user to create custom, personalized designs that can be easily reconfigured.
The Letterfolk Tile Mat has been a wonderfully successful means to allow users to collaborate together in creating something individual and unique that can be shared with friends and family both at home and via social media.
'Create an affordable, durable welcome mat that will allow for families or friends across diverse age groups to co-create custom designs or messages'
Create interchangeable tiles that can plug or snap onto the mat surface with a satisfying haptic experience.
Use durable materials that will be long lasting.
Create an aesthetically pleasing facade that can stand alone.
Create a digital interface that would allow consumers to experience the product before purchase and plan their own custom designs prior to physical experimentation.
Often in home decor, users are forced to adopt whatever message is designed into the product. The Letterfolk Tile Mat wanted to free users from premade messaging and allow them to express themselves and put their own personal touch or flair on their home decor.
The Tile Mat required the development of new manufacturing processes and stretched both the design team and manufacturer's expertise. Throughout the development process, it was crucial to find ways to maintain the design direction without making compromises that diminished the end users experience. The complexity of the project required constant innovation and problem solving with several specific hurdles.
Hurdle Number 1: Designing for Connection
The concept for the product is simple yet complex. It's a door mat that can be changed. Designing Flexible silicon tiles with a small draft to easily slip over each white tile on the mat required extensive experimentation and testing. This connection point makes use of an overhang in the mold that allows the tiles to stay securely connected to the mat. Not only did the tiles have to be easy enough for a small child to push on or take off, but they also had to be durable and secure enough that they would not lift off if shoes were rubbed or wiped off on the mat.
Hurdle Number 2: The Mold
The tiles stay on the mat by hugging the top of the honeycomb surface via overhangs that are molded into the surface. It is not common practice in design to create intentional undercuts on a molded product and this is often considered a 'sin' of design. Using materials with the correct ratio of give to durability was key to creating undercuts that still allowed for clean mold release.
Hurdle Number 3: Product Interaction
It was important to successfully communicate to users prior to purchase how the Tile Mat was different from other floor mats and to provide a tool to help users create. The Digital Tile Mat online tool allowed users, via the Letterfolk website, to demo the Tile Mat prior to purchasing. After purchase the digital tool then became an easy, fun way for users to test colors, designs, and messages prior to going through all the work on a physical mat.
The Tile Mat has successfully invited thousands of users to co-create and facilitates the design process without owning it. It is interactive while still being analog. It invites collaboration, social connection, and creativity.
Taking a deeper look, a welcome mat is also the first thing people see when they come into a space. Friends, family, neighbors, strangers, the daily mail person, see the message on the Tile Mat and it becomes something they look for, because, this time, it might say something different. It allows a new outlet for communication and connection that has become so much more important during recent times of social distancing. For many, it's even become a way to share messages of love and gratitude while avoiding direct contact.