The story of SPARK begins from a cross-pollination between music and design. This multidisciplinary birth allowed us to create a new product that opened a new category in itself: energy generating percussion musical instruments.
Spark is a music percussion instrument that generates power through its use. It uses kinetic energy to generate electricity. As the shaker is played, a magnet runs through a solenoid and produces a current that is then stored in an internal battery and can be used to power a plug in LED light or a mobile phone.
As a product designer it was very exciting to be part of a project that originated from an unlikely yet perfectly in tune pairing or music and energy and the challenge was to create a product that would be able to communicate both as a musical instrument but also as an energy generating electronic product.
The purpose since the beginning has been to empower people. In Kenya, where the project was tested, 75% of the population have no access to electricity, so they often use Kerosene lighting, which is expensive, toxic and has been linked to house fires. So, our product would provide a clean and safe alternative.
The project is also about bringing people together through music. The act of playing music is in itself an act of connectivity and community-building, so the process of designing the shaker began from the idea of a global heart as a starting point, as trough music we bridge boundaries. But Spark is also about energy and power, so I decided to use the language of a flint stone referring to the first spark that gave rise to an amazing new source of power. I felt that Spark was doing the same thing by creating a whole new category of energy products, so the flint stone in the size of a human heart gave us the starting point to begin to tell our story of power through music!
One of the largest parts of the initiative is education, and through our testing in Kenya we realised the huge impact we could have through creating educational assembly kits of Spark. This would demystify how electricity is generated and it will allow children to learn about energy through assembling their own shaker which they can use to have light and further their study time at home.
These kits are currently being developed and we believe they will expand the scope of the impact where it’s needed most.
Since the beginning of the journey, there was a lot of clarity around the core values for the initiative, and we wanted to stay close to them as the project was taking off and gathering more and more momentum. These core values are, one, to celebrate life on our planet with respect, responsibility and through innovation, two, the empowerment of people and communities, and three, inter-connectedness of the global community.
We are living in an incredibly exciting time and many old boundaries seem to be either completely breaking or are becoming incredibly flexible. We have never been this connected before and the access to information is instantaneous; more and more social entrepreneurs are rising to challenge the way business is done emphasizing the social good and a positive, nourishing impact on the environment; we are living in a time where national boundaries are blurring and we will hopefully begin to take responsibility as citizens of the world. Furthermore, the way we work and collaborate is changing too. People have many talents and skills and new work/business structures are able to use and encourage them. A new way of living on this planet is forming, with new values and priorities, and Spark is born from this new vision.
I believe that projects like SPARK will have an incredible longevity as they are about more than a product or a service they also embody the spirit of the times and are at the forefront of a new paradigm
Diana Simpson Hernandez
Founder of Designers for Humanity