6 years of designing distinctively Raspberry Pi products
Raspberry Pi are the third best-selling computer globally and are fuelled with a mission to create low-cost, high performance products, making computing and digital accessible to all. As well as their accessible products, they educate 250,000 children every week, with their continued work at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Our team of experts have been working together with Raspberry Pi over the past 6 years to design and establish the brands’ distinctive products. Our CDO, Craig Wightman, looks back on our time with the brand.
“Over the last six years, our team at Kinneir Dufort have been privileged to support Raspberry Pi in the design and development of many of their products and accessories. 2019 has been another landmark year in the incredible Raspberry Pi story, with the opening of the Raspberry Pi store in February, the launch of the official keyboard and mouse in April, followed by the launch of Raspberry Pi 4 in June.
Here was an organisation with a clear purpose, who had already started making waves in the computing and education market, and who saw how design could be a potent ingredient in the presentation and communication of the Raspberry Pi proposition.
We first met Eben, Gordon and James in 2013 when we were invited to propose design concepts for an official case for Raspberry Pi Model B. For the KD team, this represented a tremendously exciting opportunity: here was an organisation with a clear purpose, who had already started making waves in the computing and education market, and who saw how design could be a potent ingredient in the presentation and communication of the Raspberry Pi proposition.
Alongside specific design requirements for the Model B case, the early design work also considered the more holistic view of what the 3D design language of Raspberry Pi should be. Working closely with the team, we started to define some key design principles which have remained as foundations for all the products since:
- Visibility of the board as the “hero” of the product
- Accessibility to the board, quickly and simply, without tools
- Adaptability for different uses, including encouragement to “hack” the case
- Value expressed through low cost and high quality
- Simplicity of form and detailing
- Boldness to be unique and distinctively “Raspberry Pi”
Whilst maintaining a core of consistency in the product look and feel, these principles have been applied with different emphases to suit each product’s needs and functions, from the Raspberry Pi cases, right through to the Raspberry Pi 4. The consistency of visual language, when combined with the Raspberry Pi 4 and its case, has seen the creation of a Raspberry Pi as a new type of deconstructed desktop computer which, in line with Raspberry Pi’s mission, changes the way we think about, and engage with, computers.
In terms of process, at KD we start with a brief – typically discussed verbally with the Raspberry Pi team – which we translate into key objectives and required features. From there, we generally start to explore ideas with sketches and basic mock-ups, progressively reviewing, testing and iterating the concepts.
For evaluating designs for products such as the cases, keyboard and mouse, we make considerable use of our in-house 3D printing resources and prototyping team. These often provide a great opportunity for the Raspberry Pi team to get hands on with the design – most notably when Eben took a hacksaw to one of our lovingly prepared 3D-printed prototypes!
Sometimes, despite hours of reviewing sketches and drawings, and decades of experience, it’s not until you get hands-on with the design that you can see further improvements, or you suddenly spot a new approach – what if we do this? And that’s the great thing about how our two teams work together: always seeking to share and exchange ideas, ultimately to produce better products.
Back to the prototype! Once the prototype design is agreed, we work with 3D CAD tools and progress the design towards a manufacturable solution, collaborating closely with injection moulding manufacturing partners T-Zero to optimise the design for production efficiency and quality of detailing.
One important aspect that underpins all our design work is that we always start with consideration for the people we are designing for – whether that’s a home user setting up a media centre, an IT professional using Raspberry Pi as a web server, a group of schoolchildren building a weather station, or a parent looking to encourage their kid to code.
Engagement with the informed, proactive and enthusiastic online Raspberry Pi community is a tremendous asset. The instant feedback, comments, ideas and scrutiny posted on Raspberry Pi forums is powerful and healthy; we listen and learn from this, taking the insight we gain into each new product that we develop. Of course, with such a wide and diverse community, it’s not easy to please everyone all of the time, but that won’t stop us trying – keep your thoughts and feedback coming to [email protected] ”
Full article originally published on the Raspberry Pi site, here