S’up Spoon – A Design Journey

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Grant Douglas with the S'up Spoon

Over the past year and a half we’ve worked on a great project with a guy called Grant. Grant has Ataxic and Athetoid Cerebral Palsy which makes his hands shake and means that it is almost impossible for him to eat with normal cutlery. We’ve worked with Grant to design a spoon that enables him to eat without spilling food. After a few months of working on the project we realised that the new spoon wouldn’t just help Grant and others with cerebral palsy. It would also improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and perhaps others, such as some elderly people who have similar, although less severe problems. We’ve worked hard to get the S’up Spoon available and are proud that it is now on sale and can be purchased here.

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The S’up Spoon was developed by 4c Design as a pro bono project, through our annual internship programme. Industrial designer, Mark Penver, has worked on the project from its inception to product launch. This is his story…

A little over a year and a half ago, before I became a full time employee, I joined 4c Design as an Intern. Since then, I’ve worked on many weird and wonderful projects, but one of the more interesting projects has been designing a spoon for people with shaky hands.

Each year, when 4c Design take on an intern, they work on a project for someone who needs something but doesn’t have the funds to make it a reality. My challenge began when I met Grant.

Every great design needs a great problem: Grant’s problem was his struggle with adaptive cutlery for his Cerebral Palsy.

I quickly learnt that Grant is a really switched on guy, holding down multiple jobs and constantly filled with ideas. His solution for his own problem was a spoon with a mechanical lid. This would hold contents such as soup whilst he makes the transition from bowl to mouth (which is the most complicated part of eating for those with shaky hands).

Grant had an extra challenge for us: he wanted to eat cornflakes again. He hadn’t been able to do this since he started living on his own.

After capturing photos and video of how Grant both cooks and eats certain foods, it was clear there was a big problem. We went away to analyse how we could help contain food in a spoon and make a one-off product just for Grant.

We had three main goals: function, durability and aesthetics. Our brainstorming session came up with solutions one might expect to find in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. We then took these ideas from the whiteboard to rough prototypes.

Although a lid was the most obvious solution to containing food within the spoon we felt that it was not a durable solution. The more parts you put into a product like this, the greater the risk of it breaking and becoming awkward to clean. While testing our prototypes we discovered that manipulating grip mechanisms or thumb actuated levers requires skill and precise movement – they didn’t work for Grant. Therefore we settled for a solution that solved the problem with form alone.

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This idea was then iterated heavily and we produced another round of prototypes using our in-house 3D printer. This allowed us to print spoon heads of varying proportions and we added hand-crafted foam handles. As a result, we were able to give Grant Christmas presents of his favourite prototypes and he gave us the following amazing feedback:

I successfully used them to eat Chinese with at least two portions of rice as well as a banana fritter and ice cream totally independently, and with very little spillage – this is a major breakthrough as eating rice in a restaurant would just be unthinkable before… I had 3/4 of a plate of soup with minimal spillage.

The prototypes were working so well for Grant that we decided to try and make them available to everyone. We used crowdfunding to generate support and successfully raised enough funding to manufacture the spoon. Thanks to very generous donations the spoon has become much more than a one-off prototype for Grant. It has become a new company selling an exciting product, led by Grant and supported by 4c Design as well as Grant’s friends and family.

S’up Products* launched the S’up Spoon this week at NAIDEX** in Birmingham. One of our fans travelled all the way from London to Birmingham just to meet us and buy a spoon! We’ve had fantastic feedback from the people attending the show:

“THIS IS PERFECT!”

“CAN I BUY ONE?”

For me, it has been amazing to be involved in this project, in particular, seeing how good design of a simple product can make such a difference to a person’s life. It has been great to see how the S’up Spoon has improved Grant’s eating experiences and to hear from him how it has also helped his friends. I’m also pleased to be able to say that Grant now produces less spillage than myself when eating soup!

Buy the S’up Spoon here!

A case study is available on our website here.

*S’up Products is the name of the new company 4c Design have set up with Grant to handle the sales and distribution of the spoon and potentially other products in the future.

**NAIDEX is the country’s largest trade show for disability based products.

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