How do you ensure that littleBits’ products are appealing to both an average consumer and a tech aficionado?
At littleBits, we are democratizing hardware by empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small, with our platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks. To make something democratic, it has to be accessible, and that means to users of all technical levels, backgrounds, ages, and fields of expertise. That is why we designed the platform to have a very low barrier to entry, but also a very high ceiling. Our customers range from the makers to the entrepreneurs and everyone in between, including students and educators, as well as engineers. When working with littleBits, the time it takes to create, invent, and innovate is dramatically reduced. What used to take hours, days, or weeks to prototype, can now be done in a matter of minutes. It’s pretty exciting to see a student create a circuit for the first time, or hack their backpack to add safety lights or create an automatic cat feeder at home; but it’s also as exciting to see an engineer use it to prototype and test their concept quickly and affordably. We know our customer base is diverse and we design littleBits to meet these needs. We also have a very robust community and Global Chapter network that provides us with continuous feedback and innovative ideas.
What are some of your greatest challenges when creating components that are highly functional, but also designed to a specific aesthetic?
Any time you are creating a product for consumers, you want it to be functional and visually pleasing . For me, design has always been a part of my life. Even though I studied engineering, I always loved design and since my sisters studied design, design was an important part of our household growing up,. When I created littleBits, I wanted to break stereotypes around electronics. Why do circuits have to be green? Why do they have to be ugly? Why do they have to be hidden? We wanted to create circuits that were not scary to those that didn’t have engineering experience. I wanted them to be friendly and approachable, and also easy to understand, hence the colors on the electronic building blocks: blue is always a power supply; pink controls the output (for example, a slide dimmer is pink); green make changes to the surroundings, such as motors, buzzers, lights, and speakers; orange changes the direction of the circuit or splits it in two.
How has graphic design (on the website, packaging, etc.) helped shape your brand’s personality?
littleBits is only four years old, yet we’ve gone through several iterations and evolutions, both in product design and packaging. We are always looking at ways to make our packaging more engaging and informative to our consumers, and graphic design is a big part of that. We have an internal team of designers who focus specifically on interpreting the littleBits kits and modules into effective packaging. As we also have several retail partners and now our own retail store in New York, display is also an important aspect of packaging—how do we display in different retail environments? Since our products are so hands-on, we’ve found that interactive displays are as important as showing the packaging and some of the final projects that can be created with littleBits.
Flexibility is one of the most defining characteristics of the modules designed for littleBits kits. How do you hope users expand their potential final product?
Every day we are amazed by what our customers invent with littleBits. Inventions large and small are created which can make someone’s life easier, such as creating a smart curtain in your bedroom that wakes you up gently; or bridging the language gap in a school by using littleBits as a teaching mechanism for immigrant students who don’t share a common language. Recently in an SAP innovation workshop, an industrial messaging glove was created that can save an oil worker’s life.
How do you keep littleBits’ user offerings dynamic, especially as the large tech companies release new hardware?
We are constantly innovating and inventing, and our community, as well as our Global Chapters, provide constant invention ideas and inspiration. With more than 100 chapters in 35 countries, the ideas coming out of using littleBits for every activity imaginable is exciting. We held an event called BitOlympics earlier this summer that generated thousands of new project ideas in a couple of weeks. It’s very inspiring to see this coming from our community and helps push us forward to create the best products possible for our customers.
What’s next for littleBits?
We’ve had an exciting summer. We announced an additional $44.2M in funding that has allowed us to expand our executive team as well as our staff. We have expanded partnerships with retailers such as Barnes & Noble,and we have opened our very first littleBits store in New York City that was a collaboration with the award-winning design firm Daily Tous Les Jours (DTLJ), renowned for their large-scale participatory experiences such as Musical Swings and Giant Sing Along. We have some other exciting news in store too, but it’s too early to share. Suffice it to say, keep an eye out!
Ayah Bdeir is the Founder of littleBits.
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