Whipr SUP Trainer Design

As an agency, we’re fortunate to get the opportunity to work on a wide array of design challenges that span many industries. Sometimes the reward is coming up with a solution to a complex problem we never knew existed while other times it stems from contributing to products we can see ourselves using every day as consumers. In early 2020, we had the opportunity to dive into a challenge that excited us on both of these fronts.

After logging more than his fair share of hours on the water, Luke Tipple started looking for a way to replicate his stand up paddle workout at home and on the road. He found several options but, between being too big and too expensive, they didn’t seem to be a feasible way for users to get a few strokes in before dinner.

Designing a Fitness Product

The first part of the challenge was determining if it was possible to design a fitness product that would fill the gaps in the market while exceeding customer expectations. With existing products on the market that work well, we didn’t want to end up with an overpriced alternative riddled with compromises. To test our early hypotheses about the core resistance unit, we jumped into prototyping and used a number of handmade mockups that proved the underlying mechanics.

To simulate the sensation of a paddle being pulled through water, we explored alternatives like elastic tension, liquid resistance, and air pressure. Taking into account variables like board size, paddle length, user height, and user strength, we landed on an adjustable compact mechanical system that creates the fluid feel of water in addition to the sensation of a continued glide with each successive paddle stroke. Additional rounds of prototypes helped us develop and fine-tune a new proprietary geared flywheel and magnetic induction tensioning system which allows users to make adjustments to suit their individual fitness levels.

Designing the Product Ecosystem

While it can seem daunting to plan the future from the start, it’s vital to carefully think through the long term product ecosystem when the slate is still blank. Future-proofing the design helps keep doors open, eliminates headaches down the road, and ensures that the product consumers invest in early will still be relevant for years to come.

Once we had a working model of the core unit, we started developing a line of accessories to suit the individual training goals of whipr customers. These accessories include a rowing platform and handle, swim paddles, and door-mounted pulley system to simulate a cross country ski workout. With Kickstarter, we benefit from thousands of consumers being able to offer feedback and insight very early on in the life of a product. Being open-minded and having an adaptable design is important as it allows us to be more agile and deliver product features that better suit consumer needs.  

Person working out using whipr ski erg attachment
Person working out using whipr rowing machine attachment

Designing for Kickstarter

Kickstarter has specific project requirements that are important to consider when determining project output. Near-perfect renders are great for websites and social media but, confined to the use of real photography, prototypes are king when it comes to Kickstarter campaigns.

During a more traditional product development process, functional prototypes and aesthetic prototypes are often two separate models but that doesn’t work when trying to demonstrate the product to tens of thousands of potential customers. In addition to giving customers a realistic representation of what the final product will look like, the whipr prototype needed to be functional for video and in-person demonstrations leading up to launch. The prototype was equally important for the manufacturing side of the equation as it put design theories into practice and proved the various concepts we’d been testing throughout the design process.

whipr SUP trainer resistance dial and door anchor
whipr compact product design

Campaign Results

Of course, we’re biased when we proclaim that everything revolves around the product and we recognize that a number of important elements need to come together for a successful Kickstarter campaign. We were fortunate to get a front-row seat as whipr’s founder generated pre-campaign hype and laid the groundwork for a campaign that would reach its funding goal in the first hour. From the initial product inspiration to the Kickstarter video and customer communication, passion, authenticity, and meaning are reflected in everything the company puts out. This spirit can’t be faked and is what we believe is at the core of every great story.

whipr’s campaign is still live and if you’d like to get your hands on one, check out the Kickstarter page here.