As you can imagine life in a design studio, its nonstop work with our clients, creating and bringing ideas to reality, sometimes working with just a thought and sometimes a maybe or a what-if. But then you impart an identity and bring it to life by adding function, delight, and emotion. While we started as a multidisciplinary studio in 2015, working on a variety of disciplines and projects, we have gradually narrowed down our focus to solve the problem of how we can blend physical attributes with digital experiences creating a connected and delightful user experience. The word “ connected” can be used in various contexts to derive different meanings. While most of the tech world views it as a human connection with technology, we looked at this under a completely different lens. A connection is always human to human where technology could be the facilitator. Tech is seen as an enabler to foster better human connection. Tech products should help create a bond, a clear mental and emotional connection that happens generally with people.

We had some time between client projects and we thought of piloting a few ideas on the product and also the process on how we can better blend physical objects and digital interactions. The process is for another post, as it needs a lot more to think and relate to. These design experiments and studies help us define our processes constantly so we can be ready for a variety of industries and challenges. We have gleaned many insights from such projects which are usually short and a matter of a few weeks where Arun (ID lead), Joel (UX and digital lead), Anil ( Design Engineering and Digital Modeling), and our creative director VT get together to work on some interesting topics. To be very honest, we locked ourselves in a conference room for weeks working on our website in Feb of 2020 when Joel who was working on a few experiments in C4D happened to create a form that looked interesting. This was done to create lighting setups for our work page on www.analogydesign.co to keep it consistent. These lighting setups were then used to render the final product as shown below.

The UX was designed purely with function in mind. We felt that the entire experience should be based on a few critical elements as the user journey was quite simple and straightforward. We tried to eliminate the usual huge logo, splash screen, a full-screen background on the camera view, and other annoying animations that are added to the app just coz we are used to them. We started work initially by sketching out ideas of various interactive elements and zones and animating them to figure out if they can actually be relevant to the product we were designing. We worked around a central circular motif which mimicked the call button on the product to create a large central area with lots of padding and the interaction elements around this while subtly imparting a brand identity and focus on a feature on the physical as well as the digital side and having consumers connect the dots.

The surreal and minimal UI inspired the aesthetic of the product, and the green led indicators were used as glowing UI elements as indicative feedback on the screens. The phone UI elements were designed to match the keyhole and doorknob look with panning interactions that are as intuitive as looking around in a keyhole and the one axis rotation of the doorknob to unlock a device (Mood Board). The calling UI adapts from the pill shape to a circular button connecting the screens with a seamless transition. This is also reflected in the product as the VDP changes its shape during an interaction, via the pop-up screen that rises up when there is a user at either end. Providing an app automatically eliminates the need for another screen inside the house.

The pill shape of the UI was the starting point for us to start creating the object. Arun started to doodle out some shapes and started working with Anil on cad mockups to determine scale, part feasibility, the user flow, and also the key interactions. In Ideation, we believe that ideas should have the most importance, not breaking it up into form, function, or any other values. The ability of a designer to seamlessly blend form, a story behind why and also a value-added functionality is part of the creative brief, and its the basic minimum qualification that we look for.

“ Having Industrial Designers, UX designers and design engineers working at the same time brought out a very different aspect to the project. A lot of debates and arguments were settled with a visual and not with just plain assertions or examples. We do like to dish out a lot of analogies in design debates.” — VT RAO, Creative Director

On the product side, we wanted to go with something simple and clean in terms of form that can be easily mounted, the lines around the button lead you up to the camera lens thereby providing an innovative guide as to how the product works. The product is connected over wifi and has an inbuilt battery so there is no need for a complicated setup journey. The CMF comes with multiple customizable skins to fit onto any type of exteriors such as wood, concrete, or just plain plaster.

The two-way communication was designed to provide a human connection, most video door phones lack an interface and you feel like you are talking to a bot rather than someone on the other side. The VDP helps bridge that gap. The person on the other end can make his video feed available if needed based on whether they know the person or not. This can also be helpful in terms of a delivery order where you might need to give specific instructions, the video feed can assist with that.

It was an interesting experiment as it taught us a lot about how we can work on such projects. We have a whole vertical dedicated to the design and development of physical and digital objects. You can read more about our process and check out our work here for smart and tech-based objects and experiences. We have always had the notion that technology should be humanized for people to appreciate it and enjoy it. Take Apple, for instance, I don’t think we need to explain more.

Keep experimenting, trying out new approaches, and check out the full project here. Give us a like on Behance so we know that we are doing something right. Don’t hold our multiple website iterations against us 😉, show some love.

Of course, by no means is this the end of this, it’s a small attempt to unravel this subject and there will be more on this topic. Stay tuned.

Here are our learnings from this project and we hope it can help you with your next project.

Tips:

  1. Do not take the usual — Research > Ideate> Concept dev > prototype > Render > UX > UI approach. Linear processes have hardly ever given out interesting outputs. When you are experimenting, whether it’s for fun or for a post on Instagram to boost up your confidence, try switching up processes, maybe start with a render setup and think through how the light and shadows are creating interesting form variations, maybe start with a prototype and then ideate on it with sketches. Keep it fresh and switch it up.
  2. Start with UX first and then get to ID. Most ID’ers end up not concentrating on the user journeys and the interactions in a physical-digital product and end up creating unnecessary functionalities which eventually drive the cost and development time. Most ID projects have forgotten processes like a day in the life, understanding users and their needs, pain points, etc, and replace it with mood boards full of product details that are then evolved into beautiful renders and CMF options. It’s not bad, just do it later.
  3. Have a lot of debates in the early ideation. Just a word of caution, ideate with people, right now it might be hard, but ideate over a zoom call or a hangouts call. Do not do it at your desk, with headphones on and listening to music or watching youtube or Netflix. Avoid sketching with the typical Pinterest screen open. It’s utterly useless and nothing fresh will come out of it. Don’t worry we have learned this the hard way after designing some horribly uninspiring products.
  4. Keep a close look at materials and functional details when you do concept work. It should look and feel real so that if it ever gets taken into a real project scenario, you can hit the ground running rather than going back to the drawing board.
  5. With Visualisation; over-communicate, do multiple iterations on the spine of what you are building and refine it so it’s easily relatable to most of the people who are viewing this. It pays to render out a final result once so it’s not that you have to go back and re-render to build up the story again and again. Not good, trust us.!!!
  6. Invest time into motion design (where it’s needed and not to make the app look fancy), with the attention deficit that social media has created, designers need a lot more to bring people’s attention to the work that is done. We have seen good work that is not perceived well coz the visuals don’t match the thought. Do due diligence.