May 17, 2013

WhiteBoard is known for its product development, industrial design, engineering, prototyping and package design; but only a few clients know about a little secret in the back of the building called Purespeed R&D.  Purespeed is a race shop dedicated to the support and fostering of club racing and the spirit and camaraderie that go with it.

On March 1st, some of the WhiteBoard team, with the help of Purespeed, decided to take part in the “24 hours of LeMons” at Gingerman raceway in late April…only 6 weeks to prepare.  However, with WhiteBoard’s design, engineering and prototyping at our disposal, anything was possible.

Now maybe you’re thinking to yourself “Don’t you mean Le Mans?”  Well, no, the premise of this race is to purchase a $500 car (or less), install a roll bar, along with a small list of other safety equipment, and prepare for 24 hours of driving fun.

On March 10th, after scouring many ads on craigslist, postings on local car forums, and asking a team member’s grandmother if she still needed her ’78 Cadillac, we found our stallion: a 1990 Audi 90 Quattro with a dented rear quarter panel and a Menards tail light replacement special.  With just over a month before the race, there was a lot of work to do and weight to remove.  It is remarkable how much goes into a car, and the amount of excess wiring, cloth, switches, and general weight that can be removed.

After three nights of stripping the car Overhaulin’ style, we shed almost 30% of the car away – a whopping 900 pounds, equivalent to 1,800 Big Macs!  Working nights and weekends to get the roll bar and other safety equipment installed, the days quickly rolled by.

Before taking this car 600 miles across the country, we had to test our work at the PDX at Dakota County Tech College.  After an hour of white knuckle racing next to a brand new Corvette and some teenagers borrowing dad’s car for the weekend, our lemon went sour.

In a burst of white steam, the car overheated.  After a few arguments, calls to some specialists, and a trip to a metric auto parts store, we replaced a thermostat and timing belt.  Back in business with only 3 days to spare, it was time to pack up and hit the road.

We arrived in the late hours of the night and found a spot in the back of the race track. We plugged into the outlet and got some shut eye.

After a chilly night in this unusually cold spring, many teams were up bright and early clearing their cars of a dusting of snow.  As the sun rose over the horizon, you could see the collection of cars parked in the paddock.  The level of expertise of each team varied considerably.  Some teams came with million dollar RVs and a support team of technicians.  Others with the shirts on their backs and a U-Haul trailer just long enough for a Geo Metro.

Our plan was to put a driver in for one hour at a time.  But, just like rules, plans are oftentimes broken.  We placed our first driver in the car and sent him to line up in the pit lane.  We were placed between a 240 Volvo “school bus” and a Honda Civic “helicopter.”  Extra points are awarded for creativity and styling of your car.

As the race goes on, most of the lemons start to sour.  The starter in our car quit working.  We had to push start it every time we left the pit.  After 100 laps (about 200 miles), we were getting some shuttering in the steering wheel.  We had destroyed the control arm bushings and everything was holding on by a thread.  We also kept swapping tires to anything that still had tread.  The car was feeling the stress of this enduro race.  After a few more laps, the car finally spun out into the grass.  We tried to push start it once more, but it had breathed its last breath.  The difference in tire size from front to back had caused the differential to grind up and turn to dust.

We packed up the trailer and watched the rest of the race.  It was a successful weekend that any car enthusiast would have enjoyed.  That was the best 250 miles this Audi had ever seen.  Every car deserves a send off like this.  You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy the sport of racing, just a desire to get your work gloves on and have some fun.  It also helped to have the resources of WhiteBoard and Purespeed at our disposal.

WhiteBoard Product Solutions – whiteboardps.com

Form Follows Reality™

Our Approach: Form Follows Reality™ You have heard the phrase “form follows function.” It was coined by architect Louis Sullivan in 1896 to emphasize how a building’s design should always reflect its intended purpose. It has since been adapted by product designers to guide product development. We at WhiteBoard Product Solutions believe that function is only one of the essential requirements for a truly successful product design. Our mantra is Form Follows Reality™. Form Follows Reality is rooted in the original appreciation for function, often one of the most important realities, but it also understands that there are other factors that determine the success of a product. Every project has multiple requirements, constraints and needs that must be defined to enable a product to succeed in the marketplace. These are the realities that inform the decisions that drive the design process. Form Follows Reality recognizes that function, aesthetics, cost of goods, timeline, R&D budget, tooling investment, manufacturing capabilities, distribution channels, merchandisability, and a product’s competitive environment are sometimes competing realities that need to be identified and weighed against each other to drive a project to achieve success. How does WhiteBoard do this? We collaborate with our clients to identify and rank each project’s most important realities. We listen. We question. We challenge. We ideate. We define. Once a project begins, we use those ranked realities to drive the decision-making process. And we make sure that every member of the team understands how those realities fit into the end result. That means marketers, engineers, manufacturers, and designers are all working toward the same goal from the very start of a project. Say we are designing a retail product that our client wants to sell in large quantities. Along with a variety of other factors, we will determine at the start of the design process how many units will fit on a 12-inch shelf. If reducing the size of a product or its packaging by just a fraction of an inch can make the difference between five or six products being displayed, our entire team works together to determine the most successful solution. If this collaborative approach sounds like common sense, it is. But it’s also too frequently missing in product design, where departments often operate as separate fiefdoms and lack of communication between each department can lead to late-stage changes that escalate costs and delay schedules. By following Form Follows Reality, iconic product designs can be created that not only meet or exceed our client’s needs and expectations, but succeed in the marketplace and quickly become industry standards. WhiteBoard