How Hardware and Design Collaborate

Blair Culbreth, Director of Visual Design

Article Categories: #Design & Content, #Hardware

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As we learned on a recent lead for Adult Swim, hardware projects are more fun when people across disciplines get together to get creative.

Viget’s dedication to exploration and innovation has led to the existence of our hardware lab and several awesome hardware projects over the past few years. Hardware’s exciting, with new technologies and possibilities emerging every day. For those of us at Viget who are not on the hardware team though, it means we’re never quite sure what’s feasible in the realm of hardware.

But as our hardware projects have become more sophisticated and in-depth, the hardware team (i.e. Justin and sometimes Eli) can’t do it all alone anymore! So how does hardware collaborate with another team, like the design team?

Justin and I had to solve that very problem recently on an ever evolving sales lead. Adult Swim reached out to us, interested in creating something for their physical space at San Diego Comic-Con that would be fun, interactive, and engage their fans. It was a perfect opportunity for our imaginations to run wild. Once we knew the client’s goals, I got down to researching, brainstorming, and ruminating on my own deep well of Adult Swim and convention-related knowledge. At this point, I didn’t give a thought to hardware specifics, budget and timeline, or the crushing constraints of reality.

Researching for work. Very professional.

Keeping it quick and loose, I put my thoughts into a Google slide deck, writing vague notes and adding photos. Just enough to convey my thoughts to the rest of the team. In a situation like this, where a team is spread across a couple offices, and the final deliverable will be a deck, everyone working directly in a slide deck from day 1 is a nice way to shape a shared vision.

This was enough to get us riffing and building on ideas together. There was just enough detail for the hardware team to flag potential concerns (apparently a full-body mirror as snapchat filter is complicated) and potential areas that coincided with their strengths. (Justin was already researching easy tracking for another project.) Justin and Eli also thought up other ways to visualize the tracking, or turn it into a game that they were confident could be done that my designer-brain wouldn’t have thought of. But at this point we still weren’t committing to any single idea.

From there, we were able to turn vague ideas into a few potential, solid executions. We had enough definition for Justin to estimate times and budgets for each idea, and for me to sketch out some accompanying visuals. This evolving slide deck was our home for collaboration throughout the entire effort. Anyone could add to the shape of the deck, or just check in on where things were headed.

Controlling or augmenting the display of a giant LED screen Adult Swim would have up was one of our ideas that wasn’t based around hardware. It’s what made it to our next round of ideas once we knew they would be doing a video game tournament on the screen. We wanted to make the tournament interactive for everyone there with comments and reactions appearing on live on the screen, like a game on Twitch but… much bigger. We put together a deck centered around that functionality and different ways hardware could complement the on-screen action.

So what’s the biggest lesson that creative and hardware teams can take away from this about working together?

Don’t fear rough sketches and ideas, and even sharing them with a client. Sometimes the goal is simply to feed each others’ imagination. You can’t always imagine everything from start to finish all on your own, especially in this case. And that’s cool, because the end result is bigger than just you.

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Blair Culbreth

Blair is a visual design director in our Boulder, CO, office. She crafts intuitive, emotionally driven design for our clients including VolunteerMatch, the Lupus Foundation of America, and other national non-profits.

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