Get a Grip

New Design magazine profiled G-Hold's inventor, Alison Grieve, and gives some exciting insight into how the design and production processes worked.

Get a grip

Alistair Welch speaks to inventor and entrepreneur Alison Grieve about what’s involved in taking a product from idea through to manufacture

There is no doubting the popularity of tablet computers. In work, rest, and play the tablet has reached the mainstream. However, inventor and entrepreneur Alison Grieve believes that she has spotted a gap in the market. Whilst we might love watching Netflix on our iPad or reading a bestseller on our Kindle, holding these devices comfortably for any length of time can be problematic. Grieve’s suspicions that there was a need for a product that improved the experience of holding a tablet was backed up by some ‘Google market research’. When she entered ‘awkward to hold’ into the search engine both ‘iPad’ and ‘Kindle’ were amongst the top four suggestions.

This was the origin of the ‘G-Hold’ – a multi-purpose hand-hold that can be placed onto any type of tablet or reader to improve the user’s comfort when holding the device. The G-Hold is available in a ‘Megastick’ version that attaches permanently to a tablet and a ‘Micro Suction’ version that uses nanosuction technology to allow the device to be removed and re-used again and again. Leather cases for the iPad and iPad Mini featuring an integrated G-Hold are also available.

G-Hold’s inventor Grieve is by no means new to the world of holding hands. In 2010 she developed the Safetray, a foldaway hand grip that attaches to the underside of trays making them easier to carry and minimizing the risk of spillages. The product is now used extensively in the events and catering industry worldwide.

Alison, whose professional background is in the food service industry, has no formal design training, but the success of the Safetray has provided the experience and confidence to address the design of a new device for a different market. Like many designer-inventor-entrepreneurs, Grieve began by building prototypes using glue, plastic, felt, and paper – essentially anything to hand on the kitchen table. As the project developed she engaged Glasgow-based product design agency Fearsomengine to do the CAD work in exchange for a slice of equity.

In search of funding, and as a means of gauging user interest, Grieve uploaded G-Hold to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The project was successful, attracting £13,000 – £3,000 in excess of the original £10,000 target. “What’s been really gratifying about Kickstarter is that we’ve had that connection to the end user,” says Grieve. “It is great to have that because that’s how design should start and continue to develop.”

Four different prototype versions of the product (the ‘Megastick’, ‘Micro Suction’ and two leather cases) were uploaded to Kickstarter. “It was really good to see which of those four products generated the most interest,” adds Grieve. “People are really open, Kickstarter is an active community where people will engage with you and put their thoughts forward. It was a great experience but scary because you think if you put something up and it’s a failure, it doesn’t go away. It was helpful to see what people were most into – it was the micro suction device.”

Grieve worked with Yorkshire-based Empire Tapes in sourcing a nanosuction material that would allow the G-Hold to be fitted flexibly across different models of tablet and enable removal of the device as desired. She explains that the company was very supportive of G-Hold’s development in getting access to specialist materials in low volumes – sometimes a problem for inventors and small companies.

Manufacture of the first G-Hold production units is currently underway in Grieve’s native Scotland, at McLaren Plastics in Loanhead. “For first runs being able to do things locally rather than having to fly out to the Far East is helpful in solving problems,” she says. Furthermore, a new experience for Grieve was looking at product packaging. Whilst Safetray was essentially a trade product, G-Hold is aimed at the consumer market, so effective, eye-catching packaging became a necessity. Shaw Marketing and Design of Edinburgh has developed a packaging concept that incorporates a cut-out hand that slides into the G-Hold packaging, not only keeping the packaging secure but also demonstrating the product’s function and how it is operated.

Once the first production units have been received the job of promoting the G-Hold and expanding the business will begin in earnest.

“We would look at licensing into different countries as we grow,” suggests Grieve. “With G-Hold we want to commercialize the product through online and retail, as well as in professional sectors – there is certainly a potential application in the DIY market where products need to be held for a length of time.”

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