James Ferguson

UX & GRAPHIC DESIGNER |
OUTREACH LEAD FOR LOST IN SPACE SHOW

"Moddio is a branding, industrial design, and UX design project that seeks to bridge the gap between hi-fi and interior harmony for all."

James Ferguson is a professional UX designer, graphic designer, and digital marketing lead with over 6 years’ experience working in both in-house and freelance roles. Working with more than two-dozen clients, he has designed user experiences and content driving tens of millions of visits to client sites, hundreds of thousands of email opens and clicks, and conversions totaling over ten million dollars in revenue as reported by clients’ analytics platforms.

Moddio

USER-CENTERED AUDIO SYSTEMS

Project Overview

Big, ugly audio systems are something only an audiophile could love. It's a trope in the audio industry that audiophiles get on their partner's nerves with their unsightly speakers. What's more, how many music lovers forgo good sound because they can't stomach seeing speakers that clash with their interiors or get on their partner's nerves? Unfortunately, nearly all speaker companies offer a minimal selection of finish options.

My goal was to show how we might make hi-fi look better in people's rooms by giving them control over how their hi-fi looks. Most audio companies offer many options and little control. They'll have 30 speaker models and only 2-3 finish choices, overwhelming lineups with underwhelming looks. I set out to address this. I also wanted to create a speaker modding experience that's both intuitive and powerful. I aimed to build products and a brand to accompany that experience so the concept is as fully realized and "production-ready" as possible within production timeline constraints.

Process Work

RESEARCH

Moddio was developed using many conversations with audio enthusiasts as a starting point. I took what I'd heard from audio enthusiasts about their speaker design problems which led to many competitive analyses. I analyzed the lineups of top audio companies in both the mass market consumer sector and higher-end audio enthusiast niches to determine how they structure their user experiences and product offerings. One of the most common complaints I'd heard audiophiles make about audio is that many feel like they're settling for how their speakers look. Their speakers' looks can also be a point of household disagreement. Unfortunately, speaker companies aren't addressing these common issues. I performed another round of audiophile interviews covering how their systems affect their interior design and relationships with the rest of their households.

In truth, a very large component of my “research” for this project had to do with 3D. I spent a lot of time researching 3D visualization in order to be able to carry off the project. While I did a lot of “what” and “why” research, there was a significant amount of “how” with respect to figuring out how to apply modern 3D rendering techniques to creating a modifiable, modular speaker interface. A big part of this project, for me, was researching new techniques and applying them in service of a concept I probably wouldn’t have been able to complete previously.

DESIGN PROCESS

For this project, I started by considering the visual language first. Suppose I'm going to make a brand, a product, and a user experience. In that case, I need to pin down the visual language from the start so that it doesn't end up feeling like a pile of disparate design fragments. After working through several visual language studies, I went to brand sketching, sketch refinement, type tests, color tests, and final brand polish. Once I pinned the brand down, I worked through the same general process for both the speaker and UX designs. I began with ideation/sketching, then sketch refinement, concept illustrations (orthographic speaker illustrations / UX wireframes), and then production/polish (3D modeling and rendering for the speakers and hi-def mockups for the UX).

Deliverables

Moddio has three main deliverables:

  1. The Moddio Brand - The Moddio brand is based on the idea of modular modification and music. The form of the logo is built of conjoined, 3D "modules" or pieces. Those pieces trace a shape that encompasses the forms of a pair of speaker towers and three piano keys. Semiotically, I think it succeeded on that level. There's always more to tweak, of course.
  2. The Moddio Speakers - These were, ultimately, a labor of love. I want a pair, and most of the audiophiles I've shown them to seem to as well. Of course, all the audiophiles I asked are also very polite.
  3. The Moddio User Experience (site + speaker modding experience). I'm pleased with the central modding experience and the look and feel of the product pages and main landing page. It wasn't feasible with the project timeline to build all secondary pages like the login, account, terms of service, etc. It'd be fun to build out the entire thing from A-Z, but I didn't want to get lost in the weeds, and those pages weren't central to solving my design problem and therefore qualified as weeds.

Conclusion

I intended to create something production-ready (with some more testing along the way, naturally). Due to the limited project timeline, I focused on making the pieces that would best lay a foundation for enabling "next steps." The modding experience, the identity, central UX feature, and site look and feel are all present, and those are the key pieces that would guide further development. I often ask myself at critical points in any project if the project can keep moving forward from wherever it's at or if it's heading toward a dead end. I feel that Moddio is in a state that can move forward. Now to find a logistics person and an audio engineer.