We are thrilled to be able to tell you all about our latest project with tech savvy educational charity Raspberry Pi.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the UK charity creates and distributes affordable credit-card sized computers that plug into your TV and keyboard.
The small single-board computer, which fits into the palm of your hand, is designed to inspire and teach young people how to programme. With a free operating system from an SD card and power simply coming from a micro USB phone charger, the microcomputer has not only gained mass appeal from schools around the world, but has developed a huge community of followers – from electronics inventors and pioneering programmers to home entertainment tech whizzes and hardware hackers.
Headed up by a mix of academics, lecturers and computer enthusiasts, the team at Raspberry Pi, which first mooted the concept back in 2006, officially began selling the product in 2012.
Now when we say ‘case’ this isn’t a simple open and close type design to hide the product away and protect it, this case needed to enhance the goods inside and in no way could obstruct the many connection points and ports the Raspberry Pi has.
So how do you create an enclosure around an electronic product, which isn’t to cover it and how do you design this for a client with a user base ranging from school children to tech savvy computer geniuses?
Yes we had plenty of ideas, but these weren’t without their challenges. Not forgetting that having encouraged the development of a plethora of third party cases for the previous A and B versions, this was to be the first official case produced by Raspberry Pi, which is why it was vital for us to stay true to the brand and the product, but also offer enough versatility and uniqueness for those added points of difference.
From our team of more than 30 designers we formulated a subgroup of designer experts suited specifically to the client and the task in hand. This featured industrial designer John Cowan-Hughes, Kinneir Dufort’s design director Craig Wightman and graphic designer Lucy O'Brien.
Naturally, regular client meetings and brainstorming sessions with Kinneir Dufort and Raspberry Pi soon followed. Many creative get-togethers and sketches later brings us to now, where we are pleased to be the designers behind the official case debut.
“At Kinneir Dufort we believe in the value and power of collaboration, and work closely with client teams and end users throughout the design process,” Craig said.
With the Raspberry Pi case this was particularly relevant and important because the whole ethos of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is about engagement with a broad community of current and future users.
“The current product oozes the personality and enthusiasm of the Raspberry Pi team, so we felt from the start that closely involving them in the design of the case would result in a better product that was true to the ethos of the brand.”
As part of the team, John was responsible for looking more at the 3D nature of the product and actually creating the case and Lucy focused on the graphics and branding elements.
John, who has been an industrial designer for nearly 10 years, said he was thrilled to be part of a team that had the opportunity to work with such a well-respected product as Raspberry Pi. John, who typically works on the front end of the creative process, i.e. coming up with the initial ideas, specialises in product design and structural packaging design.
“It’s an iconic, very pure and original product in its own right, so to get the opportunity to be part of a team working on the official case is a privilege,” he said.
Graphic design expert Lucy has an innovation background and specialises in brand and packaging for product and digital solutions.
“Sometimes projects come along where you know the work you do will have a huge impact. That’s really fulfilling - especially when you can see the ideas come to life just as you had imagined.”
The ABS plastic case is produced in the UK and the PCBs are also manufactured in the UK – something that Raspberry Pi was keen to maintain.
The case, which acts as frame for the microcomputer, has a pop-off lid and protective sides that can be easily removed too. By making it so accessible, it simply invites you to get inside the case and begin experimenting with the product.
The Kinneir Dufort team are intrigued to see how people will begin customising it, with visibility of the Raspberry Pi inside, accessibility and a unique product identity being the three key project focus areas that have been embodied in the new case.
“Visibility of the Raspberry Pi board is key as that’s what people recognise so we didn’t want the case to hide it or obstruct it in any way,” John begins.
Raspberry Pi is a like a blank canvas for you to create whatever you want in terms of computer programing, so the case has customisability at its heart to fit in with that philosophy.
“We wanted to design the new case to be as easy to open as a box and in the way it’s constructed, it actually encourages you to get inside to the board, to learn about the electronics, tinker with it and hack with it – we did not want to lock it away.”
Lucy stressed that the case protects the board and ‘heroes it’ at the same time. In the true spirit of Raspberry Pi, there is no set way to use or hack the case; it’s down to the imagination of the user.
“That wouldn’t be in the spirit of Raspberry Pi as its whole ethos is about encouraging creativity and imagination,” she explained.
“Sometimes design details can get diluted due to cost or other factors, but this is one example where that hasn’t happened. There has been so much thought and effort invested into getting every single detail just right.
“The end product reflects the integrity of the initial concept and that is really exciting to see.”
The almost ‘anti-case’ is designed to be hacked. It even has specific areas of weakness to allow the user to drill through it, or mount it.
John, who said the team experimented with many potential case ideas across the yearlong development process, stressed the benefits of being able to explore potential ideas via prototypes produced by KD’s in-house team.
He said whilst enjoying the early ‘explorative’ project phases and the many brainstorming sessions, his favourite part of the process is seeing the final launch into the market.
“They have such a huge following of loyal fans so we will all definitely be keeping our eye on what the Raspberry Pi community are saying about this first official case.”
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