In 2013 architect David Craig, frustrated with the inaccurate and unpredictable line output from his digital stylus decided to take the issue into his own hands ... literally. He decided to create his own stylus and, in doing so, to improve his ability and that of illustrators worldwide to sketch with greater control and comfort on their tablet devices.
David created a 3D model of his idea, that became a 3D print, that he carried around with him in his pocket for six months! This early version of what was to become the Scriba stylus became the almost-clichéd, ever-present, physical reminder to obtain user feedback for this concept everywhere he went.
Now, two years later (and with a team of ten) we have launched Scriba, the flagship product of a new consumer electronics business.
Founder and Designer: David Craig
Sales Strategy: Fraser Heaslip
Design: Giorgia Foroncelli, Holly Carton, Reabetswe Motsoane, Stephen Earley, Stephen Sheridan
Product Design: Kevin Hannon
Marketing: Marco Tocci
Marketing & Communications: Pearse O'Reilly
Microelectronics & Firmware: Mike Hibbet, Mike O'Keefe
Software Development: Pawel Sikora
Web Development: Peter Richards
R&D: Renato Lacerda, Vitor Padilha
Business Strategy: Stephen Giblin
Ergonomist & User-Experience Consultant: Tim Varian
What makes Scriba unique is its highly-responsive squeeze motion that completely changes the way the user interacts with their mobile device. Unlike a button-controlled stylus, Scriba's squeeze-motion can be programmed to provide instant access to a whole range of tablet-based, creative software functions without changing settings or having to fumble with options.
Scriba, is a more tactile take on the design of the stylus. It is designed around the ergonomics of the hand and is not merely a digital equivalent of a traditional pen. In a digital environment, the design of a stylus is no longer constrained by the need to contain ink or pencil lead and so there is an opportunity to design around the user's experience instead.
We wanted to make a product that was comfortable to use, and so, rather than just going back and examining the pen, we examined the hand, how we hold things and how we physically interact with objects and interfaces. The design is therefore based on our intuitive gripping action and from studying how people hold and use their tools. For this we were fortunate to have the input and support of an ergonomics consultant, a product designer and a hand surgeon.
The online world has created an insatiable market for digital imagery while a stock-photo-fatigued audience is indicating a strong preference for original works and infographics. Though good news for illustrators and designers, this marketplace is fiercely competitive.
In order not to compromise on quality, illustrators must work very efficiently using tools designed that facilitate the efficient workflow that is so important for creative working.Though designed with professional creatives in mind, Scriba is for anyone who likes to doodle, sketch or draw with their tablet.
Building A Hardware Business
While establishing a hardware business is exciting, the wide range of outputs that are required (such as firmware, software, manufacturing, R&D, logistics and selling) means it is more like creating a group of businesses rather than just one. Bringing the required people, assets and skill-sets together requires more than vision. It requires architectural oversight and the ability to plan and manage a variety of major ongoing tasks concurrently.It is important to have vision and talk to others about your vision. Share enough information about your idea to arouse curiosity but not so much as to risk it being stolen. Also, people will be as interested in you as in your idea. You need to be open to learning through networking, asking questions, sounding people out and listening. Being open-minded, positive, enthusiastic and helpful opens up opportunities.
Building the Product
We met many people at hardware meet-ups and hackathons who supported us with their advice and expertise. One of these was Mike Hibbet. Without question, Scriba would not exist if it weren't for him. A seasoned Kickstarter enthusiast, Mike was instantly fascinated by the concept and brought his extensive skills in micro-electronics and firmware to the team.
One of the main challenges we faced in developing the printed circuit board (PCB) for the Scriba was the size of the components required and the specialized surface mount techniques that were involved; there are no wires on this board!
Some integrated circuits (ICs) measure only 3mm x 2mm requiring a placement accuracy of better than 0.2mm. To do this by hand is no small feat necessitating a microscope and a steady hand to place them. Fortunately the specialised tools required such as a surface mount oven that cooks the components into place, are now readily available and affordable for even small manufacturing jobs.
Scriba went through a large number of concepts and prototypes for validation. Currently, we are at prototype 93! That means 93 iterations, 93 3D prints, and 93 rounds of testing and discussion. We strongly believe in testing as a means of 'getting it right'. This is especially true for a stylus, which by its inherent nature is personal and tactile. How it feels is crucially important.
We were able to test and re-test thanks to Blender 3D [www.blender.org], a brilliant piece of open-source software. We made the decision to use industry standard Bluetooth [Bluetooth Smart] modules to provide us with access to substantial technical resources and support to make Scriba as future proof as possible.
The team at the Centre for Industrial Services & Design at Athlone Institute of Technology [http://www.cisd.ie] have assisted us with research and development by providing specialist input in the testing and verification of the materials for all the components and with a focus on the effects of repeated stress and deflection. This will ensure that Scriba will maintain its good looks and the flexibility and won't deteriorate over time!
Having the support of a world class engineer like Brian Garvey has been an enormous benefit to understanding this complex and unique design. Brian's background is in Formula 1 and having assisted a wide variety of startup companies internationally he is no stranger to Kickstarter and the process of bringing napkin sketches to life.
Building the Team
Sharing vision (and networking constantly) has been key to building a team and in appealing to the wide network of advocates whose input has been instrumental in moving our business forward.
We have attracted a great range of talented and diverse individuals to join our team. We are designers, architects, product developers, micro-electronic engineers, software developers, sensor experts, material scientists, ergonomic engineers, computer scientists, sales strategists, marketing and business strategists.
Some are in-house and some provide external support but we are working towards building an integrated team to deliver much of the core competencies in-house.The studio has expanded to provide employment for ten people and we are developing a collaborative environment that encourages creative people to work closely with technical people in addition to the necessary business, sales and marketing support.
We have employed a very 'Lean' approach throughout development. We could have easily spent €250,000 and be no further along than we now are. Instead, we have kept costs down by testing quick and often and we have been efficient with our resources and not letting ourselves get too tempted by the dangers of 'feature creep'. This in itself has provided key learning. It shows what can be done with very little. We have become bootstrapping experts!
Access to relatively cheap 3D printing combined with David's 20 years experience of 3D modeling complex geometries has been an enormous advantage and has enabled us to quickly mock up, test, evaluate and refine the nuances of the design and to evolve with very efficiently.
Building A Future
We discovered our community of customers at an early stage and we have benefitted greatly from their input. In a sense, Scriba has turned out to be a collaboration process involving the hundreds of illustrators, designers, architects, animators, artists, mobile workers, tablet users and hardware enthusiasts that we surveyed over the past year. They have taught us, made us understand what they actually want, and have given us validation for our idea. Most importantly, they have given us direction.
We welcome the input. The positive is encouraging. The negative makes us work hard to improve and innovate. We are therefore actively researching, developing and testing features and new ideas so we can create a position for ourselves at the forefront of stylus innovation.
Scriba has been launched on Kickstarter. We have been part of this community since 2012 having funded a wide range of projects while our micro-electronics engineer has run two successful campaigns.
We trust in the values and standards of the Kickstarter community and so, it was a natural decision to bring our piece of innovation and creativity to the platform.
Kickstarter also offers a milestone, an opportunity for further product/market validation and honest feedback from its early adopters.
We are even using tools that themselves came through Kickstarter including the MetaWear development board that powered our first Bluetooth prototypes and the Form 1 3D printer.
The campaign will enable us to:
• complete the design for manufacture [DFM] process and create our manufacturable prototype
• apply for the necessary CE and FCC certifications
•make the necessary commitments with our preferred suppliers for minimum order quantities in order that they can commence tooling with immediate effect
We are immensely proud of what we have achieved and, more importantly, learned over the past two years. We are looking forward to a bright future mindful of this learning. We are overwhelmed at the amount of goodwill and support we have received from so many. We realize more than ever the importance of knowing and working closely with our customer, the person who we expect to use our products every day.
To learn more about Scriba, Dublin Design Studio and on starting a new hardware business, please visit www.getscriba.com or contact:
David or Pearse at firstname.lastname@example.org
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