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Lighters are not versatile and troublesome to use. We designed a single lighter, versatile enough for an array of different situations.


Lead UX Researcher and supporting designer  


Collaboration, Empathy, Presentation | UX Research, Prototyping


Design spaces, survey 


Traditionally, a user would need to interact with two different components:

  1. The spark wheel

  2. Gas valve.


Spinning this wheel creates a spark against a flintstone inside the lighter, and pushing down the button opens a value that releases fuel. Since both actions must be executed consecutively, this process can be complicated to perform and understand for inexperienced users. 



For this project, we decided to focus on the ignition component of a lighter which is complicated and uncomfortable.

Our goal is to simplify the process of safely igniting a flame for a multitude of use cases.


How might we design a lighter that is easy to use and understand, feel safe, and preserves the essential qualities of a lighter such as portability and protection against accidental usage?


  • Lighters are used in multiple contexts 

  • Lighters need to be safe 

  • Multiple people use lighters in different ways 

  • Lighters need to be portable 

lighters_mindmap copy.jpg

Data Collection

Since our mind map illustrated that lighters have a wide range of uses, we interviewed a total of 18 users, with each interview consisting of three segments: screening questions, live demonstration, and follow-up questions. The demographics of our interviewee group were college students with varying degrees of familiarity with lighters, ranging from experienced smokers to complete novices who had never used a lighter prior to being interviewed.

Lighters Interview-1.png

Interview Methodology 

Each interview consisting of three segments: screening questions, live demonstration, and follow-up questions. 

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Screening Questions
  • When was the last time you used a lighter? What was it for?

  • Do you prefer a particular type of lighter? Why?

  • Describe your past experiences using a lighter.

Live Demonstration

a long-reach stick lighter




traditional lighter

Follow-up Questions

We asked users follow-up questions after completing the demonstration portion of the interview to learn more about users’ preferences and what qualities they value in a lighter. These questions included:

  • Which one would you use in the following situations and why?

    • Indoors

      • Candles/birthday candles

      • Stove

    • Outdoors

      • Campfire/BBQ

      • Smoking

  • What features do you think a lighter should have? What is most important to you (rank it)?


Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 12.38.25

Spreadsheet of the raw data


Distribution of ability 

  • 50% of users encountered while using the traditional lighter.

  • Two main problems which caused difficulties.

    1. 22% physically incapable of activating it

    2. 28% only spin the spark wheel or only click the button.

Physically Incapable 

About 22% of the users had the correct mental model of the lighter, in that they understood that both the spark wheel and the gas button had to be used in order to successfully create a flame.


Despite their understanding of how to properly use it, they were physically incapable of activating it. Consecutively spinning the spark wheel and clicking the button was difficult to execute because of the velocity and the pressure required. 


The design that was meant to provide safety actually interfered with intended usage instead. It prohibits quick, actionable usage and prevents the ignition of a flame, hindering its functionality.

Wrong Mental Model

In addition, 28% of users had the incorrect mental model and only interacted with one of the two components necessary to spark the flame. We classified this error as a knowledge-based mistake because users lacked knowledge about the mechanisms and steps needed to start the lighter.


The users would either only spin the spark wheel or only click the button. The design itself lacks signifiers that state that the spark wheel must be spun and the button quickly pressed right after. 

Ease of Use Vs. Safety 

Half of the interviewees struggled with using traditional lighters and 28% expressed the desire for the flame to be further away from their fingers, with 11% feeling that the flame was going to burn them.


We are defining safety as the distance between the user’s fingers and the flame. Ease of use is defined as the relative intuitivity of the lighter and the difficulty of using the mechanisms involved in igniting the flame.

The ideal lighter design would fall towards being easy to use and providing a safe distance from the flame, with consideration for the possible dangers of unintended usage and protecting against it. 

Versatility Vs. Portability  
Design Space 2.png

Only 11% of users described the traditional lighter as their preference due to its portability because it is small and compact.


Its compact design results in a flame within close proximity to the users’ hand. This makes small, accessible objects such as cigarettes easy to light but restricts its versatility in lighting hard-to-reach objects such as candles in a confined jar and dangerous gas stove.

The design space suggests that the ideal design should preserve the portability of the traditional lighters while providing versatility in how individuals use it.

Our redesign needs to be safe and easy to use while guarding against unintended usage.

How might we...

How might we design a lighter that is easy to use and understand, feel safe, and preserves the essential qualities of a lighter such as portability and protection against accidental usage?



We first began ideating various solutions based on our problem statement and design space. These ideas included motion-activation, a fingerprint scanner, and an extended nozzle that functioned like a lightsaber.


Being creative without constraint allowed us to gain insight that eventually led us to our redesign ideas.


For example, the idea of a lightsaber is a one-step activation that resulted in instantaneous feedback, with the laser shooting out of the base with a click of a button.


We converged on the idea of incorporating a nozzle on the lighter that extends in a similar fashion that the laser in a lightsaber extends.


This compressible nozzle that only extends when the lighter is activated addresses the issues of safety and portability, as it provides a safe distance from the flame for users while maintaining a compact design.


In our first prototype, we converged on implementing a slider that would be used as the main mechanism to unlock the lighter and extend the nozzle, with a button that would be used to ignite the flame. The nozzle extending as the slider is being raised would function as a feedback mechanism that would notify users that they took the correct action.


In addition, the activation method would be a simple button on top of the lighter. This addresses the ease of use of the lighter because the button provides physical constraints in regard to the number of actions the user can perform. It signifies to the user that it only affords to be pressed down due to its slight protrusion.


In order to use our redesign, users would still need to first push the button inwards in order to slide it upwards. This was designed to protect against accidental usage and deter unintended users (such as children) from being able to easily ignite the flame.


This action is signified to the user by the protrusion of the button and further guided by the physical constraints of the slider; the intrusion of the slider path signifies that the slider only affords an upwards or downwards motion. By having a restricted path of motion, users have an ease of use and intuitively know what to do.


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