Studio+Entrepreneurship GDE730 19/20

Module 3 Week 11: Workshop Challenge

The Challenge

How can you ensure a business / creative idea is targeted and researched to maximise potential? 

  • Select one of your ideas from the previous week and develop a clear business outline of your intended audience outlets for distribution or purchase.
  • You may need to evolve aspects of the proposition and ensure there is a clear objective for the next stages of development.
  • Your output will include product development, research insights and production challenges; all of which will come together in the final week of this module.
  • Upload the artefact and evidence of any development undertaken (this might also include brand names and approach to the product’s story), and include a one-page report outlining research, insights and development challenges.

Survival solar light that is also a phone 

Choosing an idea from week 10 

It is immediately clear that I would like to select the first idea, which is about creating a tool that will aid migrants that decide to sacrifice everything and get on a boat to start a new life in a different country. These boats can be extremely dangerous and are often completely overloaded. I heard an interview with a migrant who took a boat that was 7 metres long with 70 people on board – ie 10 people per metre! He told the interviewer that the boat’s engine cut out about 5 hours into their journey and they had to wait until the tide washed them back home again. This is a problem that will not go away any time soon. People will continue desperately to try and flee their country via transportation across dangerous waters and many people will lose their lives due to dehydration, drowning or starvation. In some cases, the boats have been packed so tightly that people have suffocated. There must be a tool that can help them on their quest. 

Product development: LifeShine

Requirements of the tool 

It must be light; they will not take it if they think it is likely to weigh them down 

It must be durable and waterproof 

It must be easy / intuitive to operate so override possible language barriers 

It must be possible to use it without electricity or other resources that people might not have access to (e.g. batteries)  

It must include a means to call for help if something goes wrong during the voyage

Product concept

Having been inspired by the community project of the designer Olafur Elaisson and engineer Frederik Ottesen on the ‘Little Sun’, which is a small solar powered light given to people -particularly living in Sub-Saharan Africa – to help them see in the darkness, I would like to produce a solar charged phone that is also a light. Being mid-ocean in the pitch black is extremely dangerous; if there is a storm and / or you cannot see where you are going, the consequences could be dire. I want these people to know that if something goes wrong, there is a way of saving their lives. 

How will it work? There will be a solar panel on the phone/light meaning it will need to be left in sunlight for approximately five hours before the voyage (4 hours in bright sunlight and up to 50 hours in soft light). There will be a light that will turn green when the tool is charged 100%. 

After the tool is charged, it can be used in many ways. The first is that it is a powerful light: you just have to turn the ‘on’ button and it will light your way. The light will have two settings: a strong light that can allow you to see for up to 10 metres away and a soft reading light that allows you to help you find things that are close by, illuminating the space immediately around you. The latter will not be visible from a long way away, so minimising exposure to other boats that might represent a threat in terms of intercepting their voyage and thwarting their ambitions for a better life. On the other hand, the strong light can be used as a way of signalling to other boats if lives are in peril and this is the only course of action. The two buttons will be clearly marked. 

Walkie talky function

There will also be a walkie talky function that allows the migrants to call emergency help if they need to. If they choose to call the walkie talky, the nearest emergency station will automatically be sent the geographical co-ordinates of the migrants to them so that they can go and rescue them.

The size of the tool 

The tool will be pocket size (around 10cm x 10cm) and will come with a lanyard that can be hung around their necks. The tool will be completely waterproof and can be charged during the day on the boat if necessary.


This tool is a lifeline for the migrants if they really need help. They can use the light as much as they want and can activate the walkie talkie setting if they are in grave danger. They will thus be assisted – and fear alleviated – on their voyage while simultaneously knowing they have a means to summon help if this becomes necessary. 


I will have to create a Kickstarter to begin with and then I hope to develop a simpler solar light that can be used for camping and outdoor activities, the beach or festivals (minus the walkie talkie function). I will sell this light in relevant shops /concessions with the promise that, for each one sold, an emergency equivalent will be given to migrants attempting perilous oceanic journeys. 


I hope to partner with large migrant charities to help organise for volunteers to go and stand on beaches that migrants are known to embark from, so that they can hand them out and offer support and help to the migrants before they begin their perilous journeys. The purchase of a small solar light could save many lives 

Environmental impact 

This tool will send another, different message to any people,  in western and developing countries, who are likely to choose or need to derive light from fossil fuels (but especially Kerosene lamps, which are not only highly dangerous but also have a significant impact on CO2 emissions). Being actively involved in using renewable energy resources, we are saving our environment, one solar light at a time. 

Future of the project 

If the idea of these solar lights catches on, I would like to extend the range to include variants that can be used as outdoor lighting in people’s gardens. If everyone’s garden lighting was solar-powered, a lot of fossil fuel could be saved. The more products I offer, the more emergency tools I can provide to those migrants in desperate need of help. 

A Social Business 

This strategy is what you would call a social business model. I am channelling a large percentage of the proceeds from my business into a social cause that I have developed a design solution for. The project is fascinating because there are two sides to it. The first side is producing and marketing cool mini-solar lights that people within our society can buy, knowing they are supporting a good cause. The other side is taking that money and giving it to the migrants who would not be able to afford to buy a solar light walkie talkie in the usual way. In a way, it is transforming the money from the first world into a tool that will aid many developing / third-world countries. 

We will have to work together to make as many people aware of the solar tools as possible by producing flyers and positioning volunteers on beaches to ensure the tools reach the right hands. More traditional graphic design techniques will be used here (e.g. posters and flyers) as these people are not likely to have access to the internet. 

Name of the tool 

I thought of many names including: Ray of hope, bright lifeline, glowing lifeline, lifeline glow but the name that I have settled on is one I think would work best in terms of attracting purchases in first world countries (including conveying their intrinsic social purpose) and being communicative of the devices’ practical function (bearing in mind many migrants will have limited command of English). The name I have chosen is ‘Lifeshine’.  

The most dangerous migration routes: The Central Mediterranean Route

The Mediterranean is where the main migration routes are situated. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers try and cross the Mediterranean into Europe fleeing their homes because of war, discrimination, poverty and paucity of opportunity.  Routes commonly taken include the CMR (Central Mediterranean Route), which is from North Africa (usually Libya) to Italy, The EMR (Eastern Mediterranean Route), which refers to the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece and the WMR (Western Mediterranean Route), which include crossings from Morocco to mainland Spain and crossings into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. 

Looking at figures, the number of migrants travelling on the EMR has significantly decreased in recent years. The CMR saw the largest arrival numbers in 2016, with 181,436 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arriving to Italy by sea. By 2017 there was a 34% decrease of safe arrivals making numbers 119,369. In 2018, it was noted that the number of children travelling on dangerous migrant routes increased, marking 14.7% of all travellers. 92% of these children arriving in Italy were unaccompanied by adults and were left to try and find their way alone. The death rate has increased, especially on the CMR, with it accounting for 88% of the deaths recorded along the Mediterranean since 2014 and only accounting 24% of arrivals. The CMR has recorded around 10,311 lives lost between 2015 to December 2017. In recent years the death rate on this route has increased even further. For every 16 people arriving in Italy, one person has died in the Mediterranean.      

Target country for the Lifeshine tool 

Looking at the statistics, I would like to focus my attention primarily on the coast of Libya in Africa, the starting point for what is generally considered the most treacherous voyage to Italy, during which many lose their lives. Ideally, in time, I would like to branch out in time to other migrant departure ‘hotspots’ but would start with a focus on Libya as I know I can make a significant impact in this area. 


  • Getting this project up and running will be difficult because I need to find a way to fund the prototyping of the tool before I can present it to investors.
  • I need to navigate two different elements: selling a basic solar light to people in Europe (predominantly France to begin with as this is where I live, and I know that there are many people here willing to help) which in turn finances the distribution to migrants where maximum impact can be achieved
  • Reaching out and navigating conversations with and presentations to charities and investors
  • Making sure that there are volunteers in Libya that are willing to help raise awareness of and distribute these products 
  • Finding a manufacturer that can produce my design to an acceptable, reliable standard
  • Shipping the products to the beaches of Libya
  • Pricing the mini solar lights sold in France so that they are affordable and attractive but include the cost of a Lifeshine Tool for migrants
  • Creating a coherent business model based in part on reaching out to and asking advice from people who have already carried out similar social projects. 
  • Not giving up when logistical problems arise as this is a large and complicated project
  • Continuing to believe in what you set out to achieve and keeping in mind the number of lives this project could save  

Design can save lives and change the world! 

Next stages of development

Designing the tool (aesthetics and ergonomics) 

Packaging design 

Presentation proposal for potential investors, Kickstarter and charities 

Ethical production methods 

Business Plan 

Volunteer positioning strategy 

Workshop Challenge Summary