The Brief

Design a protective case that can be built with soft and hard materials without the need for co-molding and is super protective.

Cellairis has always approached Analogy when they had to solve critical problems with products that need both aesthetic and functional design, which eventually create award-winning products. Here they challenged us to work on a protective case for the iPhone 11 launch.

This project is the property of Cellairis Pvt Ltd. Any distribution or publishing this content without prior approval is prohibited. Cellairis and Analogy have shared a long trustworthy relationship and have provided explicit approval to showcase the work and effort we put in.

CLIENT


Cellairis Inc

SERVICES


User Research
Design Language
Concept Generation
Design Engineering
Product Architecture
Visualization
Prototyping
Production Support

YEAR


2018-19

The Problem


While most rugged protective phone cases on the market are built and designed to be protective, they are also heavily bulky and utilize a costly yet effective manufacturing process called co-molding or over-molding. This process is not only time consuming, but also needs specialized manufacturing processes and know-how to build these products. This not only limited the innovation in how we build protective cases but also prevented us from changing details or the shape and thickness of the soft TPU material which resulted in every single protective case looking like a derivative of each other with the logo of the brand being the only differentiator. Alpha was the code name for the project.

Introducing

The Rugged Case

Differentiating a phone case on pure aesthetics is the norm. With a rugged case, there are quite a lot of complexities that define its characteristics and also why users trust a certain product or a brand. But along with it came a lot of complexities that limited what we could design or develop.

Manufacturing limitations

Skill based

High Cost

Longer lead times

Aesthetics

Protection

Understanding Business, Visual and Functional Challenges


Having detailed conversations with various stakeholders on the client teams from manufacturing to product design departments helped us gain valuable insights into the business objectives and their strategy and channels they intended to launch the product. The visual and functional goals emerged as subsets of the overall business objectives. This helped prioritise the features and also the problems we needed to tackle. From a product point of view, we had to also tackle various details which would help solve problems that users face from a functional and aesthetic point of view.

Corner Protection

Grip Texture

Product Architecture

Speaker grills

Exposed cutouts

Front Face Protection

" Our focus has always been on who uses the product and how it could add value to the user "


Solving for

Corner Protection

Most of the device mishaps happen because lighter cases don’t have enough corner protection. When a device falls, due to the weight of the internal components and its CG, the device lands on one of the corners or a flat surface depending on various factors. But landing on the corner is catastrophic especially with glass and other delicate materials that curve to form the screen or the back.

We set out to create a cushion of air that would flex when the material has an impact on a hard surface. To understand this, we looked closely at footwear, air vents, and patterns that inspired us to create some interesting and functional details that would help the case protect the corners.

Solving for

Grip Texture

One of the main complaints the client had from their consumers was that the soft-touch finish on a protective case or the phone itself was too slippery to hold the device securely in their hand. To make sure we had a strong grip texture, we had to test a variety of surface transitions by 3d printing various patterns. We finally set apart 3 textures that we thought did the job well but were subtle enough to blend into the design of the product itself.

Solving for

Charging Port

Our focus to create a protective case that was also dustproof and all ports and openings were closed yet easily accessible. We also iterated on an approach of keeping the ports modular with a small tie in which could hold a port cover in place and could be either rotated out or hinged on a flap to open up. The raised and protruded out design language to reduce impact definitely helped us gain valuable real estate to add these plugs and hinges on the inside.

Solving for

Exposed Buttons & Openings

A lot of detail went into figuring out how to keep the details such as buttons and surfacing details on the exposed button areas and the open ports as well. These had to match the language of the case and compliment it well.

Solving for

Wireless Charging

Having a protective case be compatible with wireless charging is a must as there are very open charging ports and also the thickness of the material is hard to control.

Our focus was from the beginning to keep the back within the limits of the range of 8-10W Qi-certified wireless charging devices and chargers. After testing a variety of chargers and Identifying an upper limit on the acceptable range and dimensions we created a variety of concepts.

Exploration

Product Architecture

We experimented with a variety of product architectures based on the material combination, manufacturing techniques, IP restrictions, user, and client feedback. Some of the final ones are depicted below.

Exploration

Architecture 1

We set out to create a variety of product architectures that could be adapted and also scaled for a variety of SKUs and variations which would help reduce tooling costs as parts could be repeated in various other products as well as be specific enough to meet the requirement. Our focus on Architecture 1 was to keep it light and also thin and avoid co-molding as a manufacturing process.

Exploration

Architecture 2

The architecture was not shy about its bulk but was immensely protective with a double-walled soft elastomer on the front face as well as a rigid pc construction. The back had the same but with a switch of the materials in order to reduce the impact and increase scratch resistance. The walls and edges were raised so that the high polished clear PC did not touch any surface or have any scratches easily.

Exploration

Architecture 3

This type of product architecture was built to be sustainable and also serve various use cases and personas. The modularity aspect of the architecture was useful to add and remove protective elements based on the use cases for each consumer.

Definition

Concept Development

With a strong base of architectures, we worked on creating a soft and hard combination of materials that would later define how the protective case would be put together in a manufacturing setting. It was crucial to understanding where we would be using a harder material and where we could use a flexible soft one to reduce impact and increase drop protection. Taking the iterations of the various features, we stitched together a variety of concepts.

Final Form

The Alpha

The final concept ended up being a combination of architectures but mainly focussed on keeping the case thin and light. The entire periphery of the protective case has a thicker cross-section than the back and the front screen protector to keep the weight light. The grips on the sides give it a tactile feeling that is ergonomic. The overall rounded form is pleasant to hold and the extruded buttons and covered ports provided dust protection to keep your device clean. In order to cut down bulk the back and the front have large chamfered edges that slowly transition into the back and front surface providing a raised edge to prevent impact and scratches while the hard PC surfaces are used to strengthen weaker areas inside.

Details

Camera Openings

The front and the rear camera cutouts are precision designed to make sure there are no flash feedback on your photos and are chamfered at a 45º angle.

Details

Tactile Buttons

The buttons on the outside are flush and have a plateau kinda treatment to make it easier to manufacture, but the inner profiles help keep it tactile.

Details

Corner Protection

The corner protection mechanism designed creates a significant amount of an air pocket so when there is an impact, the material has enough room to flex without impacting the device and cracking it.

Details

Wireless Charging

The protective case was designed to work with a wireless charger by maintaining the back thickness to be in sync with the standards. We also looked at the orientation of how the case docks in with the charger and potential scenarios around vertical, angled, and lay flat orientations.

Details

Charging port & Speaker grills

The charging ports are secured by pins that hold securely and can rotate to open and close and the speaker grills are raised to increase space internally and reduce impact. Speaker openings are precision cut and are telescoped inward to provide an amplification of sound that is being transmitted out.

Details

Ergonomic Grip

The side grip was inspired by alternating convex and concave surfaces like in a heat vent. The grip was definitive and subtle enough to blend in.

Details

Colour, Material & Finish

The charging ports are secured by pins that hold securely and can rotate to open and close and the speaker grills are raised to increase space internally and reduce impact. Speaker openings are precision cut and are telescoped inward to provide an amplification of sound that is being transmitted out.

The Results

The advantage of a clear design process and working through iterative improvements.

60%

Tooling costs saved

40%

increase in impact protection

3x

More protective than its rival

25%

reduction in bulk than its rival

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