Walking your dog can be a soothing time spent with your canine best friend – or a battle for control. A dog’s behaviour is always changeable, on and off the leash. Behaviours include barking on the leash, lunging at the end of the leash, and refusal to go back on the leash. These behaviours are problematic, and were seen as design opportunities for an innovative solution.
EzyTrack is the new and improved retractable dog leash aimed at reducing the pain inflicted on a user whilst controlling their dog during times of high energy with its aesthetic ergonomics, elastic lead solution, and accompanying wireless tracker.
The idea behind EzyTrack was discovered after identifying real issues from walking your dog. A dog has many behaviours that are always changeable and problematic. As a result, I seen this as an opportunity for a bunch of design opportunities for an innovative solution.
My original approach and thought to the styling of the product was too keep it minimal. As Dieter Rams once said, “less is more”. My goal was to try give the product a new vibe compared to the current products on the market. As a result of this I went for a two tone styling of grey and yellow. Originally I wanted the product to be only grey with key components such as the button, only being a different colour. After numerous refinements though I felt it was best to have more yellow to it for contrast, aesthetics, and most importantly, value. When I say value, I most importantly mean the value to the customers needs (I discovered appearance was a key value to a customers choice of dog leash); I want people to look at the leash and think “wow, that’s a nice product”. A key brand that influenced me along the way in refinement of the dog leash were Dyson. They’re styling of products is amazing.
In relation to the accompanying app with the smart tracker, my original plan was to have a second functional button in the dog leash, however seeking feedback from potential users, they argued that “why have it on the lead and not just an app?”, “I use my phone when I let the dog off the lead to run around, an app would be better”. Those were just some of the comments I received, however those comments alone were enough to pivot my original thinking towards a mobile app. When designing the app I had the styling and ease of use as my main focus. As a result of this, I aimed to keep the application as simple as possible by only have three key areas to go in the app. These areas were an audio charging feature that gives the user a step by step guide on how to train their dog into learning the smart tracker tile; a doggy IQ chart to allow users to know how long it would take their dog to recognise the new training feature into their behaviours, and an audio tracker feature that with one click can alert your dog to return to you, the owner.
When making the final prototype of EzyTrack I had to undertake numerous steps to completion. I began by using some hard foam to sculpt out a test piece to use as a mould in a way, to bring forward to vac form with clear acrylic. When it came to vac forming the shells for the dog leash, it was a real pain as it took at least 7 attempts until it was right. This was down to either being too quick or too slow on timing the vac form procedure. This was a very delicate and detailed time of the project as you had to be exact on timing.
After I finally had to successful vac forms I proceeded with sanding down the acrylic so that it would take in grey primer spray paint well. I sprayed about 3 coats of primer onto the shells to achieve the grey finish that I was hoping for. I then next moved onto creating the elastic lead solution and preparing the internals for the mechanism of a retractable leash. For creating the elastic lead solution I just used some bungee chord as it was the most effective in user testing for reducing tension on a dogs tug; this was covered in grey nylon polyester webbing for a more aesthetic feel. When I created the inner mechanism I used 2mm aluminium and built onto it for durability. Once the inside was complete I simply placed everything into place and glued both shells together.
Creating the app was pretty cool. I used Illustrator and Photoshop to design the app pages before bringing them into a test website, InVision. This really gave me an outlook on how a final app would be, the outcome was a smooth user experience.
So far all feedback I’ve received has been fairly positive. I posted it up on my behance and received quite a few positive messages from other design students in other countries praising my design. As of recently, one of my favourite design blogs, Yanko Design, got in touch with me about doing a piece on my project in one of their upcoming online magazine, which to me is pretty cool and exciting. From doing this project the key thing I’ve learned is how important the process of any project is. My process from start to finish all played an important role into my final solution, EzyTrack.