The Grippa makes life easier for customers and bar staff, while making it harder and reducing opportunities for thieves. Moreover it acts as an aid to caring for customers, covering not just loss but tidiness and cleanliness.
How did the project come about?
The DAC Research Centre (DACRC) investigated the effectiveness of anti-theft device, the Chelsea Clip that had been designed and taken to market by a police officer. This clip fits beneath the tables in bars and is so positioned that it is easy for the owner to hang their bag on it, but hard for the thief to stealthily remove the bag. The clip had widely serviced a café, bars and club market, who were desperate for something to help reduce bag theft.
After a visit with PC Ike Gray to Upper Street, Islington, where the many bars had been fitted with 2000 of these clips, DACRC researchers Gamman and Willcocks observed virtually zero usage by customers. Only 3 bags were found to be hanging from clips in a 12-hour period, despite the fact that the cafes, bars and clubs were fitted with them. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police, and Westminster City, Camden and Islington Councils, it was decided to develop a new design of clip to overcome apparent weaknesses of the Chelsea Clip. This was done, with AHRC funds, and trialled within a branch of All Bar One.
A limited evaluation of the impact on crime was undertaken by UCL’s Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, results were positive but to some extent inconclusive due to the modest scale of the intervention.
A second phase of research, was deemed necessary and also funded by AHRC. DACRC developed the designs much further for the second Grippa project and new designs as below were developed, planned to formally trial them in 13 London bars as well as two in Barcelona.
How did our research lead to new designs?
We started with a critique of the Chelsea Clip, which threw up several leads: it wasn’t visible to users, being tucked right under the table away from the edge; it didn’t gape wide enough, and wasn’t strong enough, to take heavy bags; being plastic, it occasionally broke under excessive load. We discussed theft techniques with police specialists, and possible designs with these and with bar company staff. Phase 1 generated some metal clips – Grippas – fitting close to the edge of tables.
Phase 2 began with some detailed criminological research into the nature and patterns of bag theft in bars, which was intended both to inform new designs and to support a formal and rigorous evaluation of the impact of the clips on theft.
The Phase 2 designs emerged through an intensive iterative process with sketches, mock-ups, CAD images, rapid prototypes in plastic, and finally various finished metal products.
The evolving designs, that can be observed in full on www.grippaclip.com were subjected to critiques from police, bar staff and fellow designers; we devoted much effort to fitting in with decor and other requirements. In July 2008 the two favoured designs were installed in two pilot bars in London, two in Barcelona.
Unfortunately the main evaluation stage was cancelled due to the host bar company changing strategy to cope with the recession. Nevertheless the final designs are currently being trial-marketed by a Selectamark security product company and further ventures are planned, including more in situ testing with Starbucks customers in Victoria in 2011.
How does this design approach constitute “social design” or “social innovation”?
The latest Grippa designs include hooks designed to be screwed to the edge of the table or vertical surface, facing the user. There is a version made in one piece and the other features a hinged gate designed to fall shut under gravity and the weight of bag straps which complete the lock. In both cases the principle is to make hooking and unhooking of the bag easy for the user, hard and difficult to conceal for the thief. The hinged version in particular requires a one handed operation to locate the bag and two-hands to release it. The designs announce their presence by being installed in easy to see locations and testing proved that those finished in bright colours, to ‘bling rather than blend’, are identified and used more easily. The bag logo printed onto the Grippas helps remind users of their purpose.
The Grippa is a social design because it can make life easier for customers and bar staff, while making it harder and reducing opportunities for thieves. Moreover it acts as an aid to caring for customers (covering not just loss but tidiness and cleanliness), so as not to jeopardise the image of bars where it is used.
What are the strengths of the design?
The Grippas were designed to sharply discriminate between offender and user, be visible as well as robust, support a wide range of large and small bags, be safe and easy to clean, and avoid damaging furniture, and easy to install; and to communicate their purpose to the user.
What are the weaknesses of the design?
Until sufficient quantities are ordered, the design is currently dearer than the Chelsea Clip. Customers, despite expressing the view that it is a good idea and a good design, still seem to need nudges in the form of visual clear and simple communication to encourage uptake and overcome ‘product inertia’ among this new product genre. New ventures are being explored with Selectamark to create further inexpensive and viable solutions for those bars who won’t pay much to protect customers.
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