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80% of Kinestral (a multimillion-dollar venture-backed startup) is made up of organic chemists in lab coats pushing the boundaries of materials science to compete with other phase-change window technology companies on the market. While the competition continues to target commercial buildings, Kinestral’s primary focus is on the residential market. But who is their customer, and what subset of their technology is appropriate for this market? How might the end consumer interface with the product on both a hardware and digital level?
Re-Branding from Technology to Lifestyle
John Proksch-Whaley was hired to lead the transition from a technology company to a lifestyle brand. In order to break ground and gain internal buy-in, John set out by first putting a face and an image to the brand to better represent the aspirational customer. He pulled together a production team and art-directed a photoshoot in a residential high-rise in downtown San Francisco.
Carrying Brand into Product
A big part of the rebranding included dropping the word, “Technologies” and adding a more emotionally-driven, consumer-friendly tagline. “Living with Light” was born to further merge technology and consumer hardware with a digital presence. The launch experience would need to echo the values extracted from our research, and this was a glimpse into what that might become.
Observational, Qualitative Research
In parallel, John conducted real-world observational research in high-end custom homes across the Bay Area to pinpoint needs associated with managing light within the home. John encouraged the company to begin looking at windows as a fixture within the home deserving the same set of straightforward controls lighting fixtures have always provided with both a tactile wall-mounted interfaces as well as a standalone app.
Concept Exploration: Flush-Mounted with Film
After several weeks of intensive in-home research, John set out with his team to begin form development on a set of hardware touch points. Soon after, he kicked off and internal app development program to start testing software and hardware integration.
To test the idea in a rudimentary way, John procured materials from a vendor in Asia to explore the relationship between masking a display and the resulting legibility of that display in terms of glare, contrast and color control. Another question to explore is how touch would be affected. Could this be a promising direction to explore?
In-App Room and Lighting Management
After mapping several homes and studying usage patterns, John envisioned an app-based controller that would allow users to monitor and manage their lighting and associated energy usage from outside the home on a room-by-room, fixture-by-fixture basis.
Living with Light
The end result was a “Living with Light” campaign, aimed at creating an emotional connection between the customer and the product. In homes with smart window integration comes an additional layer of lighting management, fusing traditional fixtures with new large-panel light sources. Rather than looking at their technology as their core offering, “Living with Light” encouraged the company to push in a new consumer-first direction with the brand and product roadmap.