Interview with designer Satu Niemelä (SN), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Star Remote Access Video Baby Monitor.

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Interview with Satu Niemelä at Monday 25th of April 2016: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
SN : We wanted the design to be timeless and elegant; a design that communicates safety and peacefulness while seamlessly fitting in with the surroundings. Being a baby care product, it was important to us that the design appeals to babies as well as adults both of whom come into contact with the product on a regular basis when it’s being used.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
SN : Our focus was to breathe fresh air into this category of products. We felt very strongly that even if the product was high-tech, the design didn’t need to be cold. We wanted our design to be striking, to stand out, and yet be comforting and eye-pleasing.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
SN : We’re delighted to have won this prestigious award, and plan to take full advantage of the award in our marketing and PR.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
SN : We spent quite a bit of time identifying different designs that we liked to help the designers to come up with different options for the concept, but in the end it came together quickly once we saw the beginnings of the design that eventually came to be Star. All in, it took about three months to design the concept and then it was a matter of finalising the mechanical design based on the electronics needs.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
SN : Behind the whole product concept, a “better” baby monitor, is a real mom and dad team, who after identifying a need for a new product, then sought to house it in a design that supported their inspiration. The design work was commissioned to Desigence Oy, Finland with excellent results.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
SN : Our aim has been to manufacture the product ourselves, but as we expand our business onto different products, we are open to different options in different markets. Companies interested in leasing the production rights are encouraged to get in touch to discuss different options.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
SN : This project is rooted in real parents’ drive to create a unique baby monitoring system that enables parents to do more than monitor their child; to also measure, share and stay connected anytime, from anywhere, with any connected device.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
SN : Customers’ aspiration/vision, product positioning on the market, baby product segment, users (mom, dad, baby), competitive products.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
SN : Parents, especially first-time parents whose child is 0-2 years of age.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
SN : We like to think our design is different from others in that it communicates warmth, classical beauty and a sense of calm all at the same time.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
SN : We named our design Star, because to us, Star means something that’s soothing to gaze at, something that piques the interest and feeds the imagination. We also liked the idea of a peaceful night sky, where Star can help a parent and child communicate better while the rest of the world sleeps.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
SN : Team meetings: workshops & design reviews, concepting tools (pencil & paper), 3D cad & rendering tools (e.g. Alias, Bunkspeed, Adobe software products), rapid prototypes, mock-up models.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
SN : The design's 'stomach' actually helps improve the quality of the transmitted audio.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
SN : Internally: usability designer, industrial designer, mechanical designer, graphics designer, project manager. Externally: software people and customer.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
SN : No tech = no product. What was very important to us right from the start was that the product communicates warmth and isn’t cold, even if it can’t exist without technology.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
SN : Yes. Early on, we set out to understand the numbers in the market segment (e.g. number of babies/possible penetration, product price/position on the market, technical capability analysis). Also, to ensure acceptance of the product concept we arranged two focus groups in London and Manchester in the UK and one in Helsinki, Finland early on to get valuable feedback that we could then take into account in the product design as well as marketing.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
SN : There were some challenges relating to the electronics, for example the speaker and the infrared, but in the end we feel that the re-design work resulted in an even more coherent looking design.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
SN : We've always been proud of our design, but it's been the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from the field – other designers, other manufacturers, retailers, parents, grandparents etc. that convinced us that our design has the potential for something really great. We researched the different awards that exist and entered the A’Design Awards because they are so well known and trusted: we wanted to set the bar high. We thought that for an award to be worth having, it would have to be an important internationally recognised award. We’re really honoured to have been awarded Gold with our first entry.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
SN : We’ve become completely convinced that technology really can help in all areas of life, and that today’s modern parents are definitely ready for next generation in baby monitoring. What we’ve learned about the market itself is that there’s major differences in the penetration of these types of devices in different countries: far more parents in the UK buy baby monitors than, for example, in Finland. Also, there are clear country specific preferences for baby monitoring devices, but the overall shift seems to be towards more technically capable devices that can be operated remotely. Relating to remote use, going forward it will be important for us to analyse also other user segments, for example the potentially interesting segment of soldiers.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
SN : All along, we’ve been proud of our design and delighted every time it’s been complimented. With this important recognition it really does seem like the sky's the limit. We couldn’t be more pleased with how the project has turned out, and look forward to making ‘Star’ commercially available later in 2016.