Circle― the most beautiful 2-dimensional shape, the infinite sided polygon…
No! No it’s not; it’s a limit curve of a regular polygon say the math nerds.
Alright, I agree. But as long as we agree that circular shapes are very pleasing to the eyes. Any object with curved corners looks great― phones, mugs, rings. Even throughout history, circular shapes have influenced the progress made by humanity. I will stop now and get to the point.
So, while designing the Elmentory Atom, I had the option for making these plug and play devices in any shape. Atom itself has 4 types of units. Originally, the plan was to make each unit a different shape. But after doing some research, it was evident that different shapes would be a bad idea. Circular was the best choice.
But, because we were using tiny electro-mechanical components to build them, each unit could not be perfectly circular, but had to have flat edges to accommodate for the rectangular connectors. I don’t know if you can see them― each of them is 35mm or less in diameter― in the images below, but the black connectors align perfectly with the colorful boards.
Apart from the shape, the other important feature was the symmetry of each device. Each component was placed in a particular spot on the board to make the board look symmetric at least along one axis.
Finally, the most important part (I’m writing this last instead of first because of the title) was to make sure the devices were easy to use. Each of these devices can be connected to one another. But if they are connected wrong, it would not work, yet neither will it harm the user, i.e. the child playing with them.
Each device had a name on the top, and a specific color based on how it operated. Some inspirations were taken from common objects such as traffic lights to specify the color. The bottoms of the devices were mostly white, and helped the child identify if they were connecting the devices correctly.
This project was fun, because I had to literally think like a child to see what could go wrong. Fortunately, there were also several usability tests made with real kids during development to improve the product before releasing it.