In front of us there is a small white object with rounded shapes, which lies surprisingly well in the hand. Its curves and surfaces are not very unusual at first glance. However, after a long contact with KeyFob we are sure that its shape is not a coincidence. In addition, six precisely detailed silver buttons and an ascetic LED indicating the operating status of the device. So much in small piece. Less is more, the best designers know it. Creating a utility object in such a way that it does not scream with its form, remains as simple as possible and user-friendly at the same time – it is definitely not an easy task. Especially in the technology sector, which has high expectations of design.
Design must be coherent
FIBARO is one of the few technology companies on the Polish market that has an in-house design studio exclusively for its own brand. Every year, several hundred projects and sketches of utility products are prepared here, some of which are deployed to production. FIBARO is famous for its approach to the design of functional forms which had become the worldwide trademark of the brand. The whole design process is supervised by the CEO himself, Maciej Fiedler who pays special attention to the final shape of the products that will be put into production. Its role is, above all, to give opinions and maintain full consistency between the individual lines so that at the end of the day we can talk about the FIBARO family of products.
I, in turn, take care of the Design Department. I have been connected with FIBARO from the very beginning. The main assumption behind the work of our designers is to create unique patterns and blocks, which have not yet been implemented by the competition. This is not an easy task, given that the electronics industry has been operating quite well since the last century early 1960s . Reliable research is therefore a particularly important task and allows our designers to define historical trends and preferences, as it happen with The Button, which has been hailed as a retro pearl by the American trade media.
The starter blocks
However, the whole game starts when the concept of a new product is introduced to our department. FIBARO is one of the few companies where everything starts with design. This is the approach where product design takes precedence over technical matters, that ensures that the product will ultimately look as it was originally intended to be. But there are a lot of questions here… How do I encapsulate the chips, mechanics, sockets, and buttons to create a convenient and practical device? How to ensure that its form is durable enough and meets strict technical and legal standards? How to make the device intuitive to use and ultimately provide the best possible user experience? These are questions that designers, CAD designers, engineers, technicians, graphic designers and test teams need to answer. It is nothing more than a team work, full of challenges, mutual learning and striving for perfection. The award is the satisfaction of customers and the quiet satisfaction of the creators, that in homes of millions of people all over the world there are products of the highest quality with a small dedication from Poland… Everyone deserves a good design.
On average, there are 40 rejects per realised product at the conceptual stage. Taking into account products that do not enter into force due to business reasons, we obtain a number of several hundred projects, drawings and plans implemented by the FIBARO’s Poznan design team. It is a true forge of ideas that ensures the brand’s recognition and certainty that only the best projects will be put into production.
FIBARO employs several conceptual designers who, depending on their style of work, start designing directly in graphic programs or traditionally, sketching the first shapes and solids on paper. The result is several dozen concepts, from which the 3 best are selected. One of them will be a winning project. Final appearance of the devices, however, is a combination of many ideas and the effect of a clash of several concepts, which complement each other and fit into the assumptions of the project.
FIBARO designers are mainly inspired by organic shapes, i.e. those that occur in nature. Organic design is mainly a motif from the world of fauna and flora. It’s very difficult to define this style and it’s probably its greatest advantage.
There are usually no straight lines, planes or angles that characterize competitors devices. Organic design is in a way contrary to the requirements of technology. Usually we are dealing with rectangular circuit boards, square components, straight sockets, and symmetrical circuits of transistors or contacts. The challenge is therefore to place these components inside asymmetrical shapes so that they can be produced by injection moulding.
Focus on detail
We draw on all the shapes and details that we encounter every day on our way. Ability to focus on the precise placement of details in the project structure determines the quality of FIBARO products. Working with details is very important not only because of the attention to detail, but also because of the desire to differentiate from mass production of all Far East countries. Usually, details are also the most difficult elements of applied art to counterfeit. They require special attention at the production stage and while selecting components. A good eye easily distinguishes the original from a counterfeit.
Once the design is finally known, the prototyping is based then on 3D printing. In the first phase, low-level printing is used, which is only supposed to make the designer feel the first physical contact with his piece of work. Only after the surface has been roughly sanded, painted and varnished, the mechanics such as buttons, sockets and other components can be integrated into the prototype in order to assess the overall quality of the user experience. It is at this stage that the functionality of the buttons is tested and additional elements, such as contacts and mounting elements, are adjusted. Last series of corrections need a very detailed 3D printing with advanced equipment used in professional prototyping. In fact, thanks to modern technology it is possible to assemble a fully functional prototype that does not differ much from the final product manufactured in the factory.
The winning design goes to the CAD department, which deals with the technical aspects of the design, and tries to put all the technological requirements inside a small chassis. CAD specialists create it on the basis of technical guidelines received from R&D departments and aesthetic guidelines from the Design department. The challenge here is to install LEDs and lighting in such a way as to achieve the right light intensity, shading and masking. However, the most difficult is to enclose with organic circles, planes and curves all the electronics and mechanics necessary to achieve fully functional device.
Although most of the devices offered by FIBARO will not be used every day, designers are very interested in building an experience connected with unboxing. Therefore, all packaging is made with attention to the smallest details, so that unpacking is associated with an unique and valuable experience. This philosophy pays off, as FIBARO’s products as the only Polish brand are available through official Apple sales channels, which pay special attention to both product design and purchasing experience.
The final product is the result of many weeks, if not months of work. Although FIBARO could design simple products with not demanding shapes, it does not take shortcuts. Form is important, as all the teams involved in conceptual and developmental work know. It is the spirit of this idea that makes the whole team play one goal and, if necessary, work on the final design longer than expected. What counts for us is more than just functionality. We know that our products are paving the way for the emerging IoT industry – we want to be associated with innovation not only in the technological sphere.