Creating a crash pad: Interview with Kevin Jorgeson
The climbing industry is filled with hundreds of products that are responsible for the safety and well being of climbers on a day-to-day basis. Consumers are able to view these products when they hit the floor of the OR and the front page of the company’s web site. However, the conception of each individual product is born from a need that is found by the climbers who participate in our sport. Many people assume that climbers simply are on the receiving end of a finished product, they open their doors to a freshly wrapped crash pad, a new pair of shoes, or a full rack of trad gear. However, innovation occurs and is tested in the field by those same athletes who endorse the products they carry. Kevin Jorgeson and Ryan Held from Asana are currently testing a new crash pad system in the Buttermilks of Bishop, California and Dead Point Magazine has joined the team to follow the progress from start to finish. We won’t deliver a pad to your door, but we will follow Team Asana as they ensure a quality product is created from start to finish.
DPM: So what is the latest product that is being tested?
Kevin: The latest product we are testing is my Signature Series crash pad. I spent 4 days in Boise last month conceptualizing and designing this new crash pad. I’m currently in Bishop for two weeks with Asana Team Captain Ryan Held, testing the hell out of the pad. It’s holding up well, but we have some great feedback to incorporate into the next prototype. It’s only going to get better.
DPM: Why did you feel there was a need for this product? There are hundreds of crash pad designs.
Kevin: Highball crash pads are classically heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable to carry. Asana’s previous highball pad was no exception. So, instead of settling on this fact, we decided to address it head on. We have simplified the closure system by doing away with all flaps. Instead, we have integrated a pack to hold your gear. We have totally redesigned the carrying system to feature everything you would expect out of a solid backpack. All of this was done without sacrificing surface area, quality of foam, or quality of fabric.
DPM: At what point in the creation process do athletes being to interact with the design team?
Kevin: It depends on the company. Asana is amazing to work with. They were very receptive right from the beginning. I began interacting with Asana’s design team after I had spent time analyzing the current pad, how I wanted the new pad to be different, and what exactly needed to change. With these design notes in hand, I worked with Asana to see how to incorporate the changes, discuss the challenges these presented, make some compromises, debate, further design, and eventually, begin to produce. Now that we have a prototype, Ryan Held, Charlie Barrett and I are testing it for a month to see how it holds up. When we are finished, I will go back to Boise to help build the feedback into the finished product.
DPM: What, in your mind, are the essentials to a good crash pad?
Kevin: For me, the essentials of a good crash pad are the foam, the carrying system, the closure system, the durability, and the overall functionality. We can control many of these elements, but there is no telling how hard someone is going to use their crash pad. So, to address durability, we are going to offer a 1-year warranty on your crash pad’s foam. If you wear out this pad in less than a year, we will send you new foam at no cost.
DPM: What is special about this pad? What are the differentiators?
What makes this pad unique is the fact that I have been able to be involved in the design process from start to finish. It’s easy, if not typical, for there to be a disconnect between the designers and the testers when developing product. In this case, the designers and testers are one in the same, so every feature has been scrutinized, tested, revised, tested again, and finally, produced. We made 5 prototypes of this crash pad for the Asana Team to test. We are getting great feedback as we speak, all of which will be incorporated into the final product. When this crash pad is complete, we hope that it will be the most comfortable to carry, easy to use, and durable pad on the market.
To follow along with the 5-part design process and contribute your ideas to the development of this product, visit Kevin’s blog at: www.kjorgeson.blogspot.com or leave any of your comments in the section below.