HomeCube

Industrial Design for Home Automation

An IoT device designed to fit the needs and aesthetic sensibilities of less tech-savvy households.

My Role:

Product Designer

My Responsibilities:

Design Researcher

Product reviews, product comparisons, survey construction and data collection.

Industrial Designer

Brainstorming, concept development and sketching.

Physical Prototyper

CAD modeling, 3D printing, form and finish testing.

Electronic Protoyper

Electronic component sourcing, assembly, and testing, program design.

UX Designer*

Information Architecture, Wireframing, Interaction Design, Prototyping

*Jump to this part of the project, here.

Design Brief:

HomeCube was born of a realization that home automation products tend to alienate potential customers by valuing flashy looks over good design. These products tend to attract early adopters with sleek aesthetics and the latest tech but neglect average homeowners needs and preferences. There is a clear opportunity for an IoT product with a pragmatic user interface, comfortable design language, and accessible price point. 

Solution

Homecube

Simple, Comfortable Form

Most home automation products look more at home on the Starship Enterprise than a coffee table. HomeCube uses a simple form and comfy color palette to fit in a standard household.

Straightforward Interface

HomeCube is designed to configure via an app and communicate via basic tools like email, notification, and text messages.

Streamlined Featureset

Rather than requiring a proprietary hub and peripheral equipment, HomeCube does everything a user needs with a single device.

Product Research

Before diving into concept development, I got my bearings in the home automation market. I uncovered some troubling data indicating some serious problems within the industry as a whole and some intriguing opportunities for improvement.

Digital media consumption is correlated with negative mental health effects.

Distraction serves a crucial role in human life and doesn’t need to be eliminated or a source of guilt.

The relationship between technology and health is complicated and a nuanced approach is required to improve it.

I distributed a survey via social media with questions targeting people’s digital media consumption habits and their comfort level with them. Responses were very diverse and revealed age and gender trends present in the way the population uses their devices.

A note: Due to the academic nature of this project, my access to a maximally diverse data set was somewhat limited. While I attempted to gain insight about the experiences of people from all genders, races, and backgrounds, most of my data comes from white and straight people. As a result, I intent to test the final product with this in mind if the project moves forward.

Using a screener survey, I selected 5 participants for a diary study. These subjects filled out a special form when they used their mobile devices at different times of the day. They recorded the type of media they consumed, as well as their emotional state before, during, and after the session.

I interviewed 5 people regarding their personal experiences with digital media and their relationships to it. These subjects had a wide variety of backgrounds and habits around social media, gaming, and communication software that yielded nuanced results.

Google Digital Wellness

-Difficult to access and too easy to bypass.
-No functionality on desktop.

Freedom

-Heavy-handed blocking can prevent productive use of restricted apps and sites.

Space

-Requires user to act on results of usage analysis.

Market Analysis

Current products on the market suffer from various issues detailed in reviews and editorials.

Product Comparison

I investigated the functions and design of three product segments of the IoT market, learning the strengths and weakness of each. The biggest takeaway was that products tend to do one thing rather than have multiple functions, and require investment in “hubs” and other infrastructure to maximize their usefullness. 

Primary Takeaways

Home Automation products often don’t connect with users due to poor user interface design, high pricepoint, and SKU proliferation.
Most products are designed to accomplish a very specific task and don’t play well with other products or brands. 

User Research

I investigated the functions and design of three product segments of the IoT market, learning the strengths and weakness of each. The biggest takeaway was that products tend to do one thing rather than have multiple functions, and require investment in “hubs” and other infrastructure to maximize their usefullness. 

PHOTO JOURNALING

I asked several survey respondents to take photos of various items in their homes in order to gain perspective on the aesthetic their households possess, which I used to inform HomeCube’s design. 

Industrial Design

Persona

From the results of my research, I built a persona to distill the findings into a resource that would the development of the product.

Mood Board

I found that the best way to get inspiration for the aesthetic components of the product was to look at the real-world environment it would be used in. I built a mood board of interiors that look lived-in with an eclectic combination of furniture and styles. From this I discovered some form and color pallet ideas.

Feature Brainstorming

Having grounded the project in both industry and user-oriented research, I set to using that data to produce ideas with brainstorming. I used a variety of strategies, but the most productive were developing aesthetic mood boards and combining sensors and output devices in interesting ways.

Concept Ideation

Using the raw material from my brainstorming sessions, I set to generating concepts over several rounds.  

I decided to create a multipurpose device with a variety of sensors to gather information about the environment. Readings from these sensors could be mapped to basic outputs like notifications, text messages, Phillips Hue, and wireless AC outlets via If This, Then That recipes. Later, an independent protocol cold be developed to handle this.

Prototyping

Computer Aided Design

I modeled the design in Solidworks to lock in the size, shape, and screw locations based on the component dimensions and ergonomic concerns.

Form Prototyping

Having defined the solution and direction, I set to work prototyping the product. This process included testing form factors with 3D prints and paint colors, as well as designing the circuitry to fit inside the enclosure. 

Electronic Prototyping

During the prototyping process, a lot of energy was spent developing the software to run the device and mapping sensor signal data to human behavior. I worked with my friend, colleague, and Software Engineer Benjamin Dummer to build the program and develop a web-based interface for users to interact with it. 

mANUFACTURING AND sCALING

I created a manufacturing, business, and scaling plan draft to demonstrate the long term feasibility of HomeCube as a product.

Final Working Prototype

The result of my protoyping process was a fully-functional working model that could be used to test and refine the product. 

Here’s a few pre-programmed functions of the HomeCube:

Mobile App and Interface Design

After finalizing the hardware design, I needed to create an interface for users to configure and use HomeCube. I started with writing out user stories for features and functions that would need to be included in an application. I then sorted them by priority to help me determine which stories would be built into the MVP. 

User Stories and Prioritization 

Next, I created a map of the app’s Information Architecture, which would guide me in creating user flows.

Information Architecture Map

I built a set of wireflows to plan out the major routes users would need to follow to access the primary features.

Wireflows and Primary Routes

After deciding on the features and structure, I started looking into the design patterns that would be most effective for the clear and clean visual communication necessary for HomeCube’s user base. I built a mood board to help inspire these designs.

Mood Board: Patterns and Structure

I decided that an android app would be the best format for the HomeCube app’s MVP. I created several mockups using the Material Design guidelines as a solid basis to provide an attractive, accessible, and usable experience. I prototyped it using Invision.

Upon reviewing the Material Design prototype, I realized that aesthetic of the interface wasn’t consistent with HomeCube’s overall goal of inspiring comfort and familiarity in a piece of technology. I redesigned the interface with these principles in mind, while still using Material Design as a foundation to take advantage of its excellent usability.


To get started, I made another mood board of a more diverse set of interfaces and grapics with a more comfortable and playful tone. These served as inspiration for the final design.

Mood Board: Tone Redesign

Design Decision: Muted Color Pallet

I chose a less saturated color pallet for a less jarring visual experience.

Design Decision: Graphics

I used playful and inviting graphics to encourage users to feel at home.

Design Decision: No Top Bar

I removed the classic Material Design top bar to give the design more room to breathe and focus on the content.

Design Decision: Elevations

I kept the elevation and card design from the Material platform to leverage it’s brilliant metaphor to real-world materials.

Final Design

The final design takes advantage of the usability and familiarity benefits of Material Design while incorporating a tone that stands out as more approachable to users with a lower technological literacy

Get In Touch

Let’s Work Together!

Email

brattonra@gmail.com

Homebase

Charlotte, NC

Phone

(704) 661-5565

Email

brattonra@gmail.com

Phone

(704) 661-5565

Homebase

Charlotte, NC

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