Interview with Nell Bennett, Design Director at Team Turquoise.
Nell, you have a lot of experience designing products. What do you think is special in designing empathic wearable technology?
At Team Turquoise we believe that technology is entering a really exciting transitional era. We have become so dependent and addicted to what technology gives us, but there is a growing need to detach ourselves from our screens and feel that we can switch off. Designing doppel has been a complex challenge because we wanted to design a piece of technology that does not feel like technology.
From the beginning we wanted to design doppel to be a truly empathic product. It has been a fascinating process looking at many aspects of human psychology and product heritage. We wanted the design of doppel to mark it as a groundbreaking piece of technology while also enabling it to fit naturally and seamlessly into someone’s life. Becoming a beautiful object that people love to wear.
Designing a product goes through a long and vigorous process. As the designer you cannot be too precious over your form, not only functional constraints will alter it, but also consumer preference and market tends will require your aesthetic to adapt. Throughout the creation of doppel the design has undergone huge changes. It has been a fascinating process to create a wearable that is technologically new, but inspires trust and joy to use.
Do you have rules when you design?
Yes! We’ve had three basic rules:
1. Show it to other people again and again - you have not got it right until people say “wow!”, and “I just want to wear it all the time!”
2. Build many many prototypes. Everything looks different in 3D. A lovely elegant design on paper can look chunky and bulky in reality. Sketch, model, 3D print. This has been so important for us when making a wearable.
3. Materials - tactility is as important as aesthetics. If it feels beautiful then people will love it and want to wear it. When our first prototypes in the final material arrived everyone’s response was amazing.
How has the design of doppel changed since you started?
In the early days of doppel, when it was a student project at the RCA, we attempted to design the device to be a unique hybrid of sports band and jewelry. We wanted to capture the value and beauty of jewelry, while indicating its technological side through the sport-like material choices. We ended up with an interesting eye-catching design, but we did not feel it was true to the underlying concept. It was an awkward combination that lacked quality and heritage. We wanted doppel to become embedded into peoples lives and have a ritual quality, and the design and materials had to reflect that. So one of our first steps when the four of us regrouped as a company was to redesign doppel, to make a truly stunning product. In an age when watches are worn more as jewelry and as a statement, it was imperative for us to design something that people love even before they try it.
In Team Turquoise you do a lot of the design together. How do you manage that and how do you avoid the pitfalls of “design by committee”?
We have worked very intensively and closely together for a while now and we have come up with a process that works very well. Input comes from many people but one designer has ultimate responsibility to bring all those ideas together in to a cohesive whole.
Step 1: As a team we pick key words and images that should drive the design of doppel.
Step 2: Get everyone in the team to individually select their favourite products that they feel embody the key aspects. See if there are any massive discrepancies (if so then we need to go back and re-focus the key aims).
Step 3: Create a set of 2D concepts driven by the images.
Step 4: Run though the concepts as a group and discuss what works and what does not.
Step 5: Merge the best assets from all the concepts and make a few refined concepts.
Step 6: Once the aesthetic direction has been agreed then a long process of CADing, ergonomics and technical considerations will alter and inform the design process.
Step 7: 3D print the current design and test it for functionality, form aesthetics and ergonomics. Rework the CAD and reprint. In total we did this around 10 times. Until we achieved a great slim form factor and suitable design for manufacture.