From Kickstarter to Disney, design work comes full 'Circle'

Hitting the consumer market this year is Circle, a device that manages family screen time. Sherpa Design had the privilege of providing CAD work on Circle, which parents can use to filter content, limit Internet connectivity, and set time limits for every device in the home.

Sherpa Design became involved during the device’s Kickstarter beginnings. Since then it’s been a remarkable progression for Circle, who went on to partner with the Disney Company to bring the product to market.

In 2014 the creators contracted Sherpa Design to work on the original prototype. There was a Kickstarter campaign underway, and Sherpa designed a beautiful model with an attractive system of lights. The light-pipe component dispersed light evenly through an array of visible lights on the consumer-facing side. However, there was an extra cost to the lights, and the device needed to be simplified.

When the creators re-focused their product vision, Sherpa’s industrial design engineer, Seth Moczydlowski, was assigned the project. Seth took the original design and made it simpler, removed the lights, implemented modifications to the electronics, and designed the battery package. As well Seth reworked the mechanical packaging, adjusting the internal space to account for an internal antenna, an Ethernet port, and a single LED that replaced the original array.

After a few rounds of changes, the new design was ready for a closer look. Sherpa and Circle created physical prototypes with help from Circle’s molding vendor, and those mockups pinpointed the need for slight changes between the printer circuit board (PCB) and the components.

Working back and forth via video conference with Circle’s electronics engineer vendor, the teams determined how to make the electronics fit better.

“Technology enables us to have these interactions, otherwise if we wanted to sit around this device together I would’ve had to fly there,” Seth says of the video conferencing. “We both had a version in our hands and we could point to it, and we could figure out what needed to happen to make the electronics fit. It was a half-hour meeting instead of taking pictures and emailing, or a day or two of travel.”

Seth made changes to the model and crafted a new version with the parts. It was a true working prototype, useful for showing proof-of-product to potential investors such as the Disney Company.

Sherpa’s involvement in the two iterations displays Sherpa’s company methodology and flexibility. When Sherpa’s original designer was busy with other assignments, they were easily able to reassign it to Seth with no gaps in time or knowledge.

“Sam [the original designer] had a full plate at the time so it came to me,” Seth says. “We can pass projects to multiple engineers, it’s a short run-up time to get back onto the project and start making new changes. “
 
“It wasn’t too bad since Sam sits across from me. But on any new project, it’s a good idea to go through and ask about the current state, why the design is the way it is, and then figure out how to move forward without hitting any roadblocks and improving upon what you can with the design in terms of manufacturing, cost or functionality.”

For the project Sherpa Design met all goals and budgets, and communicated with the client as the scope and design changed. Each designer invested approximately 80 hours of labor over a month’s time. Once everyone was confident in the prototypes, Sherpa Design provided all CAD files.

Circle pairs wirelessly with home Wi-Fi routers and allows families to manage devices on the network, whether it’s a tablet, TV, or laptop. It can be visited online at https://meetcircle.com/

And visit Wired Magazine for a deeper look at what Circle does and how it performs.


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