Once upon a time… how it all began
By Laura Swann
Where did the idea for the ‘Weather Clock’ come from?
Rob: The initial idea for a ‘Mechanimated’ Weather clock was born in 2013 when I was making some inquisitive searches for a barometer - that might add a bit of charm or eccentricity to a fairly bare set of shelves in my house. From doing quite a lot of digging, I discovered that finding a barometer that did more than point a hand at a ‘Stormy’, ‘Change’ or ‘Dry’ forecast wasn’t possible.
What happened next?
Rob: With an idea for a new product in mind, I approached my sister, Sarah, and asked her for help. We had an idea to reinvent a barometer that would be more contemporary but yet still analogue, with moving parts and cogs – something novel in today’s digital world. We found ourselves at my kitchen table in North London, surrounded by a pile of card, split pins and sticky tape, building what was a very basic exploration of our concept for a “Weather Clock”. Looking back on it, it really amuses us but also brings home how far we’ve come!
How much did the kitchen table prototype change, to become the Weather Clock we know and love today?
Sarah: A lot. But the concept was still generally the same. We went through several further iterations of non-working and working-prototypes. We eventually reached a form similar to what we have now and then refined this over and over so that the clocks would work as effectively as possible. It was this time last year that we finally revealed our ‘final prototype’ to the public.
The artwork on the clocks is really unique, why did you choose the respective artists?
Sarah: We undertook a lot of research in order to find the artists we then commissioned to create the clocks’ artwork. Peter McDermott, who designed the artwork for Tide Clocks and the ‘Traditional’ and ‘Contemporary’ Weather Clock graphics, jumped out to us because he specialises in creating prints in the style of classic railway art of the 1930s and 40s. We felt this was an ideal fit for the clocks, given their traditional mechanics and their station clock style design.
We knew that we wanted the ‘themed’ designs to invoke a sense of fun through playful characters depicted within the artwork. We knew as soon as we saw Michael Mantel’s work that he would be perfectly suited to create that for us. Michael is based in Hamburg so explaining the concept and the clock workings all had to be done over skype but, luckily, he grasped the idea very quickly and did a wonderful job with the cycling, gardening, dog-walking and golf Weather Clocks.
At what point did you realise that you had created a unique and desirable product?
Rob: Coming up for a year ago exactly! It was when we finally got the final prototypes in front of the public and buyers for the first time – at a trade fair run every spring at the NEC. We were thrilled by people’s reactions to them and only after that did we bite the bullet and place orders for all the parts for the first assembly run. 4 months later we did our next show with the first ever clocks on sale and won the award for Best Product In Show!
Did you have any major set backs along the way?
Rob: Plenty! One major one was realising the hard way just how much of a battering any parcel goes through when dispatched with a courier. Sadly, we had quite a few breakages early on. We now send all our clocks with a trusted specialist courier that takes them directly door-to-door to all our customers.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone thinking about creating/designing a new product in 2016?
Sarah: Be prepared for the unexpected and make sure you have good people around you that keep you buoyed and positive when the tricky times crop up, as they inevitably do. An ability to see the funny side of things has helped us enormously!
If you have any further questions for Rob and Sarah then please feel free to contact them on email@example.com. The next blog post, focusing on product design, prototyping and development tips, will re-post some of the answers to the most popular questions. So get in touch!