When we design our equipment–our DSPs more specifically–there’s a lot more that goes into the box than just boards and sheet metal. We’re putting our company in and on that box. With each piece of equipment we produce, we’re conscious that it has to look and feel like Biamp. So, when someone opens the server closet and sees our equipment in the rack, they not only know immediately that it’s Biamp, but they also know what to expect from it. The aesthetic form of the box has to follow the function though–always brains before beauty.

In the basics of product design, you create a high-quality product by focusing on the combination of user/integrator ease, the manufacturing process, and the aesthetics of the box. Ask users where they’re wanting more functionality and they’ll tell you: “I want quieter fans,” “I want lower heat dissipation,” “I want AEC on the inputs.”

Those direct-asks are very important to gather and work into our product designs (if they fit). As a mechanical engineer tasked with the design of our hardware products, I like to focus on the indirect-asks as well–the things users don’t know they want. For example, making it easier for integrators in the field to take cards out or add them in, replace a fan, or remove the top panel of a chassis.

That kind of integrator-friendly design has broad implications for a business, too. If those kinds of fixes were overly-complicated to perform on-site, equipment would have to be sent in for repair, which leads to system downtime, potential loss of business, and it makes the solution even harder for you, our integrator-customers, to sell to your customers. Nobody wants that.

One of my goals is to design equipment that is easy to expand upon, and switch things in or out. Eliminating screws, or at least reducing them, is a big one. As we continue to fine-tune and evolve our design and manufacturing processes to be more integrator-friendly, it will become more obvious whether you’re removing a card from the plate or the plate from the chassis. Imagine a world where you don’t have to use a screwdriver to take a card out or to put it back in!

For the sake of this fantasy, what if a chassis were created that wasn’t made up of pieces of sheet metal that had to be screwed together? Instead, the entire chassis would be a box–one piece of metal from top to bottom, and side-to-side. This design innovation would not only help integrators with installation and maintenance, the manufacturing process itself helps build the unit as well–one piece of metal instead of many pieces of metal that have to be assembled.

Alright, so we’ve done all this talking about beauty, now what about price? How much more expensive is a pretty chassis with high functionality, versus a chassis with equal or similar functionality with a face-plate only its maker can love? I don’t have an industry-wide answer for this (I doubt there is one), but for Biamp, it doesn’t affect the price at all. Our manufacturing infrastructure was designed from the beginning to make aesthetically pleasing equipment that works well. That’s just the way it is here. No extra charge.

Now, that’s AV equipment design done well. In our industry, the brains must come before the beauty. Otherwise, we’re sacrificing the value we bring to our customers. And that’s something we just will not do. Equipment design should be intentional, functional, and (if you’re doing it right, IMHO) beautiful.

I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic. Look forward to future posts from me on the functionality of product design.