A Game Controller for the iPhone Era

The design objective was to create a controller that could go head-to-head with the PS Vita (a device built from the ground up as a standalone controller.) The goal was to design a controller that could compete with best-in-class traditional controllers, and be driven by both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5.


Hard Constraints

When the iPhone 5 was released, the headphone jack was moved to the opposite end of the device, and the screen ratio elongated to a 4″ display. These constraints presented an interesting set of challenges when designing a device that had to adhere to both and connect through the headphone jack.


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Design Challenge

The client was looking to greatly improve the aesthetics and ergonomics of their current controller. The design goal was to create a form factor and aesthetic that would give the end-product an identity of its own. Rather than coming across as a glorified case for the iPhone, the game controller needed to look and feel like it was first-and-foremost a gaming device. Users were handed the final hardware and until they turned it over, the had no idea there was an iPhone driving the device, proving the project’s success. Not only did the device come across as a product that could stand on its own, it also adhered to two different screen ratios without having to manipulate the device.


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Here’s a breakdown of what was on the market at the time, and what we aspired to beat in ergonomics, size, style and price:




The quickest way to come up with ideas is through rapid ideation. A combination of sketches and low-res Foam Core mock-ups allowed a plethora of concepts to surface.





3D Modeling and FDM Prototypes

Once the “Sashimi” concept was honed in on, designer John Whaley jumped into CAD to start detail design work according to internal component constraints. FDM’s gave Whaley an opportunity to asses ergonomics and usability of the elastic band.





Final Form

The client was extremely happy with how the “Sashimi” concept turned out. What started out as quick-and-dirty, low-res mock-ups turned into a polished standalone controller that could rival the likes of the PS Vita in terms of ergonomics and style.

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