With the increased demand for wireless headphones and other portable devices, many charging solutions are now required to keep our tech powered. We designed Fold, a folding wireless charging solution, in response to a lack of genuinely portable multi-chargers on the market. Fold enables the user to charge up to three products simultaneously. The device can also fold into several configurations, including a phone stand and a compact, portable-friendly stack, to best suit the user's current requirements.
Alongside the functional motivations and user benefits, we designed Fold to explore how the tech world can create more sustainable products while also raising awareness of the environmental impact of electronics. Where other comparable charging mats are built by sandwiching dozens of different materials between layers of glue — rendering them inaccessible for repair, reuse or recycling at the end of their short lifespans — Fold has been stripped back to its most fundamental necessities, creating an almost skeletal aesthetic. Notably, the skeletal form allows the user access to the fastening methods so the product can be taken apart to be upgraded or maintained.
We opted for transparent and translucent materials to highlight the technology contained within. While there is an inherited beauty to this exposure of the inner workings, the real intention is to unveil the technology to encourage maintenance.
Aesthetically, form follows function. The plastic housings clamp together, capturing the soft silicone mat between them. This not only prevents the need for glue, but also creates a safety-compliant tech product — one of the biggest hurdles of the upgradeable electronics industry.
The packaging is equally as stripped-back as the device itself. Typically, most tech products have two layers of packaging; the shipping ('mailer') box and the primary packaging. Fold's recycled and recyclable primary packaging has been designed for shipping, eliminating one level of unnecessary packaging. The interior of the packaging has also been designed to accommodate broken or superseded components, allowing them to be sent back to the manufacturer and facilitating a closed-loop product lifecycle.
Here we have early workings that helped us ensure that the product could be as universal as possible. As a result, both large and small smartphones can utilise the stand function while still being charged.
Crude prototypes made from duct tape (below) allowed us to configure magnets within the device, ensuring no clash in polarity and a seamless user experience.