A model of refinement

When it goes live this autumn, Sky’s digital satellite service will offer more than 200 channels, a TV guide, on-line shopping and other interactive services. Something for all the family, it would seem, so long as you can navigate the damn thing.

This is where product design consultancy Frazer Designers comes in. Its job? To create a sexy, ergonomically friendly, easy to use interface between the technophobic consumer and the sophisticated technology in question.

It had to create something to hold the users hand, guiding him or her through the service, giving only the information needed at each stage, like a subway sign system. Difficult, considering the incredible range of facilities available to the user.

‘This is an important branding device because it is a tangible gateway to the service. It has to embody the value and innovation of the service and to look instinctively easy to use,’ says Frazer Designers principal consultant Damian Mycroft.

The resulting device uses 33 buttons to achieve its purpose.

From its initial research Frazer worked up six models which it presented to its blindfolded client team. They graded them on categories such as comfort and usability. The blindfolds were removed and the team was asked to judge the device from an aesthetic and brand communication perspective.

Two clear winners emerged from the process. These were refined and tested using subtle variations in colour, contour and graphics to achieve maximum impact.

Mycroft says the process of refinement was meticulous, with every detail combed over and tested again and again until it was right. The group liaised with Philips on the detail engineering work.

Practically nothing was a given – except, perhaps, the colour blue. After all, the client’s branding incorporates plenty of the hue, as does the sky itself. At least, in an ideal world.

Designer: Frazer Designers

Client: BSkyB

Manufacturer: Philips

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