School Tablet Design Inspired by "Discoveries" Made Through Observation in the Field (Part 2)
ARROWS Tab Q5 Series

School Tablet Design Inspired by "Discoveries" Made Through Observation in the Field (Part 2)
ARROWS Tab Q5 Series

Posted: October 4, 2021

The aspect the designers considered most important in a school tablet that aimed for "not disrupting the lesson" was the improvement of the tablet's solidness and its ease of use in the classroom. In Part 2, Kohei Nakajima describes what discoveries the designers made during their observations in schools and how they realized the concept of "not disrupting the lesson," as well as the "sangen-shugi" that lies at the heart of his design style.

Takeaways from Part 2

  • Achieving "not disrupting the lesson" with solidness and function
  • Sangen-shugi—genba, genbutsu, and genjitsu—lies at the heart of design.
  • Future product designers will need the perspectives of curator (the role of gathering, sorting, and editing information to give it meaning) and producer.

Achieving "not disrupting the lesson" with School Design 360°

As he described in Part 1, the concept that Nakajima recalls that they placed most value on in the product design of the ARROWS Tab Q5 Series (hereinafter referred to as "Q5 Series") was "not disrupting the lesson." So, how did he achieve this concept in the course of actually designing the product?

Nakajima explained the features of the design. "We adopted a new design concept of 'School Design 360°,' which achieved a space-saving design that would fit on elementary schoolchildren's small desks and that would be less slippery to hold and harder to drop.

School Design 360°

Specifically, we covered the four corners of the tablet with a 'School Grip' and used a less slippery material for the back, thus achieving our goal of making the tablet less slippery to hold and harder to break even if dropped."

They also emphasized the fact that the way tablet devices are being used in schools is completely different from what they envisaged, which they discovered during their observations in the field. In schools, tablet devices are being used not only for Japanese and math lessons, but also for science and art classes. "In science experiments, tablets were being left near the taps, and in art classes, they were getting wet from water being splashed on them when the children washed their paintbrushes." Nakajima described how they incorporated these discoveries from their on-site observations. "In schools, when a tablet breaks down, it will disrupt the lesson, so we made them more robust by adding waterproof (including chlorinated water) and dustproof features."

School Face: Screen glass is protected with a molded frame design

Nakajima further explains the path his team had to take to incorporate these various new features into the design. "Before asking the relevant people in schools, who will be the users of the product, to assess our design, we made sure to gather objective data and obtain the understanding of the relevant departments in the company. For example, for CMF (color, material, and finish), instead of merely a sensory evaluation of 'less slippery to hold,' we used measurement devices to quantify how much the friction coefficient had improved compared to previous models as a way of clarifying performance, and we also considered the balance with scratch resistance and resistance to finger marks."

Nakajima, Design Center

"Dependability" or ability to use at school with peace of mind is the design concept for school tablets

Meanwhile, many other features that aim for students' "ease of use" have also been incorporated into the Q5 Series. One of those is the Pencil-Pen, which has the same hexagonal cross section as a pencil to make it easier for children to use the correct "three-point support" pencil grip and a felt tip. The designers asked sales and planning division staff who have children to test these pens to see what shapes and materials felt close to writing with a real pencil.

Pencil-Pen: A special material was adopted for the pen tip to improve the feel of writing on the screen sheet, and innovations were made with the shape so children can write on the screen with the correct grip. The designers had children actually use the pen and checked whether they were actually able to hold it with the correct grip and write on the tablet.

Nakajima comments, "With the Q5 Series, we emphasized 'solidness' so as not to disrupt the lesson and 'functionality' that would feel easy to use, no matter what the kind of situation it was being used in. Also, to ensure we could offer the product at a price to meet the budgets of local governments and schools, we prioritized 'dependability' over luxury for schools' peace of mind, such as selecting a bumpy texture that will keep looking good even without having to apply costly coatings."

Sangen-shugi always at the heart of product design

Sangen-shugi, literally the principle of the three gens ("actuals")—actual place (genba), actual object (genbutsu), and actual situation (genjitsu), always lies at the heart of Nakajima's product design. "Visiting those 30 or so schools really helped to bring our design concept together. While we may not always be able to visit the actual place, even if we are unable to, it is important to work with the engineering design division and others to make a prototype that comes close to the actual object and to place what we envisage into the actual situation," comments Nakajima.

"To put sangen-shugi into action, it is important to observe who usually uses the product, where, and in what ways. While a specific theme is sometimes decided before conducting these kinds of observations, on the other hand, it is even more important to cultivate our powers of observation in our everyday surroundings to increase our stock of observations. For example, if, when we see someone in the street holding a smartphone in an unusual way, if we don't have a regular curiosity to notice it and wonder why that person would be holding it that way, we won't be able to discover anything when we actually go out on field observations.
Excellent products are things that are tailored precisely to the changes in the times and technology. They should not be too little or too much, and it is the job of the designer to achieve that balance." Nakajima, whose observation antennae are constantly up and who is passionate about studying the design of competitors' products, describes the criteria for excellent design as "ingenuity."

Various ingenious design aspects incorporated, including ARROWS Grip

Product designers will need the perspectives of curator and producer

On the other hand, Nakajima explains, "My impression is that product designers also have a new role to play beyond that of just design. That role is to think about the design from a more bird's-eye view. In this day and age, it is difficult to differentiate with external appearance, such as color and shape, and functions alone. What product designers need today is to take a comprehensive view of changes in lifestyles, users, technologies, social trends, and the like and to make proposals in response to such changes from the perspective of a curator and producer."

Similar roles and perspectives will be important for the advancement of digital transformation (DX) going forward. "When advancing DX, the touchpoint between people and digital technology is the product. In the design of such products, in addition to color and shape, we also need to take a more bird's-eye view and propose things that will enable customers to create new value. As a product designer, I want to work together with Fujitsu members in other divisions to create and offer new experiential value to customers and society through design." Nakajima's gaze as he talks is fixed firmly on the future that will be opened up by product design.

Top of Page