Wunderman Thompson spotlight the design and development process behind the ground-breaking WaterLight for E-Dina that turns saltwater into electricity and is generating interest from all over the world
A big problem like this needed a big idea. By looking locally, the team were inspired by the Wayúu group living on the Guajira Peninsula in Northern Colombia. They have no access to electricity, but what they do have is a coastline. And so, the WaterLight was born. The team harnessed the ionization that occurs when saltwater electrolytes react with magnesium – that chemical reaction generates energy. The lamp has been developed to give off light and to charge small devices via USB and has been made using recyclable materials.
Designing a product to address such an enormous, global problem that’s also sustainable and robust is a meaty challenge. As is often true in product design, the key to making something with mass appeal is to design around a very, very specific user. So, the team at Wunderman Thompson Colombia focused very narrowly on the needs and tastes of the Wayúu group. And as the product is now live, they are working closely with the community to further refine the lights. And now, E-Dina is receiving enquiries from all over the world and 2022 is set to see the mass production of WaterLights.
The team at Wunderman Thompson Colombia take us through this fascinating design process.
The initial brief or problem set out by the client was around lack of access to electricity experienced by poor and forgotten communities around the world.
We found our inspiration from the Wayúu community in the northern part of Colombia. A rich culture and heritage community with no access to electricity but the benefit of a coastline.
First, we developed several prototypes with E-Dina's technology and started to probe it. From there we found opportunities to improve it and we searched for materials.
We passed through several forms and material before getting to the right ones. After all, the inspiration came from one of the communities selected to test the product.
There are many problems and challenges to solve with these kinds of products. From electrical engineering to the supply chain, even introducing the product to a community that had never had something like that in their hands before.
PROTOTYPE & DESIGN
WL is a technological device, a game changing idea and innovation, but when we were deciding the materials to use and the look of the object, we had challenges deciding what was the best way to make the product more engaging to the Wayúu community.
There was no single interesting aspect to the design and prototype stage. All of it was interesting. The more we advanced in design, the more technical progress we made. Of course, we had concerns about the performance of the device on the real terrain and tough conditions, at the end everything went well.
This is an effort that brings together a huge team of scientists, industrial designers, creatives and producers. The main challenge there was to agree and line up all types of thinking and ways of working.
In terms of the challenges, actually, making this kind of new development is very risky, but we were using already proven technology, so product design and engineering the interior in a proper way, were the main goals. We wanted to make the product commercial and fully functional.
Now that the WaterLight has been launched, we are still doing a lot of testing from many pieces and parts of the WaterLight, trying to solve problems one by one and then put it all together. We are still improving details and for sure the next generation of the device will be better in many aspects.
We’re still learning about the performance from the Wayúu community. Things like the weight, grip and size will be the main topics to look at first.
Now that it’s out in the world, we’re creating a device that can help millions, that can change realities and improve lives. That’s something that goes beyond advertising creativity. It makes us really proud and lets us think about how our business can really change the world by looking to solve real problems.
The client has been receiving a high number of calls and emails from around the world to start massive production of the device for 2022. The product and the campaign were a complete success.