Purposeful and Obvious Design: Part 2


In my last blog post, I wrote about how choosing ‘different’ design can pose some risks in market adoption. The same has been true in the connected lock market.

While the bLock is a solid padlock that looks and feels like the traditional lock, there have been other locks that have tried to bring a wildly different look to market. For one in particular, their downfall has been in the creation of a lock that is too different — people had to be told it was a lock. The essence of the product got lost. Even if the design and function of a product work well, people need to understand what it is. If they can’t identify with it they won’t buy it. When a similar product came out a few months later, that had similar technology and similar capabilities, it fared better with consumers to a large degree because it looked like a lock. For industrial design to work it has to bridge the understanding of what it does and what is new.

The bLock represents a new way of doing something that you already do, but better. We had to create a design language around this product that represented this concept. At first glance, it is a solid, sturdy, traditional-looking lock — but the LED and blue insert on its body suggests that there is more to its purpose and capabilities.

Our design choices for the bLock and the bbotx suite of products were also influenced by the fact that they have been created for the enterprise. In this market, buyers are much more functionally driven, and it was important for us to have products that were close to what they would traditionally buy. Our challenge was to get people to adopt it by communicating what was new, and useful, without raising doubts about its ability to function.

At the same time, we have also made the conscious effort to make products that are aesthetically pleasing. We have put in the same amount of energy into the technology that we have into the aesthetic design of our products, as well as packaging and branding. As a new brand, it is important for all of these elements to come together and build trust for your brand from your users.

The foremost example of a company that has kept all of these elements working together is Apple. Everything they do is easily recognizable as part of their brand, as opposed to one of their top competitors, Samsung, which is more generic and does not have a united identity. We want bbotx to be like Apple in that sense — that we have a distinct look and feel from our products to our branding that makes our clients trust our company.

At bbotx, there is a real company culture that is dedicated to design. We are working on creating products that are deliberate and obvious, but also aesthetically functional and progressive. Every design decision stays true to the design language that has the company’s goals at the core: secure, useful, and obvious.

Our CEO Paul Hanson has a great perspective on design as well, which I completely agree with:

Design needs to find the compromise where things express their purpose and function through their appearance, they need to enhance the brand, but they also need to add to our lives by being comfortable and attractive. This last point is an interesting dynamic between what is the current standard of attractive versus what the brand is trying to express. Good aesthetic design isn’t really timeless, but it can stand outside its own time and not fail.

The early design choices of a new company can influence its direction, especially when designing new products. Design choices should always have reasoning behind them, and any company making these decisions has to find ways to support their chosen design language. Whether you are creating a product with a traditional look, or going with a vastly different aesthetic, you should make sure that these choices support your company goals, that your target market will understand your choices and that each choice has a purpose.

Author: Scott Wilson

Scott Wilson works on the industrial design team at bbotx. He is an award-winning industrial designer and has over 15 years of experience in design and new product development.

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