Yingli SolarAid SM100

This case study features details of our creative process during the development of the SM100 Solar Light which has received European Product Design Awards for both Sustainable Design and Design for Society. The project involved a full creative process including in-depth human centred design research, market research, competitor product analysis, electronics design, and design engineering. The results of our research took us into concept design where multiple phases of sketch rendering and CAD design enabled us to prototype possible solutions with real users on the ground. 

Yingli + SolarAid SM100

Designing the world's first $5 solar light.

Affordability first and foremost

Currently kerosene burning lamps are the sole source of lighting for six hundred million African people living without electricity. Kerosene keeps families locked in a cycle of extreme poverty with almost one quarter of their monthly income spent burning the fuel. To break this cycle we worked with SolarAid, the UK's leading solar charity to design a light that the poorest families could afford. This meant designing a light that could retail for five dollars in Africa. 


Co-created in Africa

Central to our role was gathering deep insights into the lives of our diverse customers. Working closely with charities in Africa we gathered local insights into family routines, the layout of dwellings and environmental conditions. We listened to the aspirations and ideas of people whose personal experiences have shaped a product that is co-created in Africa. 

The SM100 has been rigorously tested on the ground at each stage of development. A trial with nine thousand families in three countries ensures it is the only solar light to guarantee customer satisfaction.

Engineering unique functionality

We made a bold decision pare down the design with a strict focus on essential utility, then our design team explored what could be built back in for free. The SM100 casing features strap slots so it can be used as a head torch or strapped to a bike, a feature unique to the market, whilst a flat base allows the light to be used without the stand. The off-centre pivot also allows the device to fold down small, greatly improving packing efficiency.