How did I come to co-found Circle and design their first product? This is both a story about design and business.
My friend Jelani was surfing the web one day when he came across the Grovemade blog. There happened to be an article about me and a link to my portfolio. He clicked on the link. Jelani knew me from high school but he did not know I was a product designer. One of my projects from college happened to resonate with him. He wrote me and we met for coffee the next day.
At coffee he told me that internet parental controls were outdated, they rely too heavily on software while Internet connected devices have multiplied. Instead of a parent being able to install controls on a central home computer and call it good, like when we were kids, they now have to worry about phones, tablets, laptops, and video game systems. There is no one solution that can handle it all. But Internet safety is just the tip of the iceberg - imagine not only being able to control what you see but when you see it and for how long. My Mom would have loved this!
What he said jibed perfectly with something I had been feeling for some time. We spend so much of our lives these days staring at a screen. While there is a lot of good that comes from being connected there is also a trade off. Are we really experiencing every moment to the fullest? I wasn't a parent at the time we started this project but I am now and putting down my phone and my computer is one of the most important things I do everyday. For me it's all about connecting with my daughter. I was in and the plan was to design a housing for the Circle hardware.
We quickly settled on a design theme named "Simple Digital". We wanted our product to not overstate itself but instead blend seamlessly into the fabric of the home.
We met in coffee shops and living rooms sketching in notebooks and on napkins.
I built models in garages and programmed LEDs in guest rooms. Until we were ready to launch our Kickstarter campaign.
WE WERE ALL VERY EXCITED!!! A month went by and...
We were all pretty devastated but we decided to press on and not more than a month later the phone rang... It was DISNEY and they wanted to partner with us! We did not launch just like that though, it took years from this point to get everything up and running. I shifted my focus from making prototypes to working with engineers to get an actual device made.
Before we could go all in on production we needed to get some of the bugs out so we decided to do a BETA program. Our boxes had not been produced yet but we had the hardware and software so we decided to create a cardboard version of our product. The Circle Beta was born.
We Beta tested with almost 1000 users. This helped us work out the bugs and get valuable feedback from our users. Then we launched!
Since our launch Circle has helped countless families and it is growing into a global business. Please click the link below to learn more.
Product photos by Circle Media Inc.