Heather Hippo, is an inflatable seating product that evokes playfulness in all ages and is designed to be used for temporary outdoor events. Available in 19-inch and 24-inch heights, it caters to both small children and adults. With the goal of reducing transportation costs associated with temporary seating I explored inflatables.
Using a rectangular vinyl dunnage bag as an air-tight bladder inside a sewn canvas exterior has advantages over a labor-intensive process of heat welding air-tight seams to match the external shape. An inflatable bladder is stronger, more durable, and longer-lasting. Dunnage bags are designed to withstand forceful impacts even under extreme use conditions for the hippo.
Heather hippo, weighing only 2.5 pounds, can reliably support multiple times the weight of a large adult. Additional weight was added to the feet to prevent wind-induced migration.
Heather hippos can be inflated in 3 seconds and deflated 40 seconds to pack at 6 percent of its inflated size. Designing sustainably should not overlook transportation, which has a significant environmental impact comparable to the materials used in production. I try to prioritize reducing shipping weight and minimizing package size from the initial concept stage of a product.
I selected the hippo shape to explore the limits in shape that a dunnage bag could conform to. The stubby legs of a hippo offered an opportunity to push the boundaries of inflatable form. In sketch models, I investigated how intricate convex shapes could create concave forms. The hippo’s short legs were perfect to demonstrate the strength of the two layer method.
After a hipporific incident, I identified the main danger to a hippo's lifespan as the risk of overinflation. I designed a custom fitting between the air supply and the hippo's inflation por to prevents overfilling by automatically detaching from the bag when the hippo is fully inflated, in case users disregard the "do not overinflate" warning as I had.
The inflated hippo, unlike its semiaquatic sub-Saharan counterpart, thrives in various environments. Durability was a key driver in this project. The canvas exterior provides extensive protection for the inflatable bladder from sharp objects and is waterproof.
Heather hippo’s canvas exterior protected it against serrated knives, pens, markers and curious canines. Material choices also reflected consideration towards mold growth if hippos were stored in wet conditions.
Although the hippo's material production processes are not sustainable, it emits less CO2 than both natural and plastic alternatives.
Sustainable design incorporates replaceable parts to address situations where repair is not feasible. Repairing a leaking dunnage bag is challenging for consumers due to the specialized equipment required and difficulties in identifying the source of a slow leak. A suggestion to cut out the port and recycle the majority of the vinyl would be printed on the bag itself.
Replacing the vinyl dunnage bag is made accessible through a zipper. It can be detached from the canvas exterior and swapped with another. The zipper end tucks into the chin as a precautionary feature for curious hand. While the hippo is fully inflated, tension on the zipper cover prevents the zipper from being opened.
Repairing damage to seams can be done using a home sewing machine. This reduces waste in manufacturing and offers consumers an accessible option to repair product wear.

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