Exploring the application of Universal Design to develop a novel

travel luggage scale concept



Aug 2019 - Dec 2019


Masters project exploring Universal Design to create inclusive products for mass manufacturing. Travelled to Japan, a country invested in inclusive design, to observe and study for one week. 

How might we create a hassle-free, safe way to weigh luggage for people of varying physical strength?


Most luggage scales in the market assume that people can lift up a 50lb/23kg bag on a hook or strap to be weighed. And there is no way to measure the weight WHILE packing. 

Libera is a solution to this problem. It's a pillow-like inflatable scale and accompanying smartphone app. The scale is equipped with:

- an electronic air-pump that inflates it

- a pressure sensitive valve that records change in air pressure inside the scale and weight on top changes

- a Bluetooth module that communicates with a smartphone to display the weight


Learnings & Inspiration 

from Japan

Through the week-long study in Japan our group visited several research groups & manufacturers practising Universal Design concepts.

1. Role Playing as different user groups at Sekisui House

2. Observing how UD concepts were utilized in Toyota vehicles

3. Experiencing the Japanese concept of 'kawai' 

Photo Credits: Pengyu Chen

Observations, Generating Themes

& Making a Conceptual Framework

Observations on objects, signage & human behaviour in Japan were clustered around UD principles, and interpreted based on my own experience. These themes gave rise to the following conceptual framework that formed the basis for the design exploration.

A few short interviews with travellers

with low physical strength to identify their problems

Conducted three short interviews over-the-phone with friends and family who loved to travel. Interesting habits and anecdotes were recorded. 


Brainstorming Concepts

Aesthetic Framework

Quick Mockups and Prototypes

Using both soft and hard-shell travel luggage pieces I quickly tested out the ideas I sketched. What I learned:

- The bag should be at least 2 inches above the ground for the wheels to be fully lifted

- Balancing soft bags on a thin solid form is not practical

- The luggage 'belt + scale' idea was not practical - travel might damage the electronics

What if the scale was inflatable? 

By talking to a mechanical engineer I learnt that it was possible to measure the pressure difference inside an enclosed envelope of air when bags were laid on top. I then tested out how I could trap air inside plastic sheets and what the aesthetics and interaction would look like.  

What could lift the bag high enough, give an even distribution of weight, but also be compact and light enough to carry around?