The Lead Designer Of Nest And Nokia On Designing The Smart Garden
As Steve Jobs taught all of us, design is not just about how the product looks or feels. It's about how it works. So when it comes to creating a new Click & Grow, we put a lot of emphasis on design. The product has to enhance the technology and let it do its job no less than perfectly. It has to make the impossible possible - make nature even more beautiful. It has to suit different interiors and personalities. And it of course has to be the best looking indoor garden or farm in the world. So naturally, we not only spend way too much time creating and recreating the design of our products, but also finding just the right people to do it with.
When creating the Smart Garden, we looked no further than Mika Nenonen - the former lead ID designer of Nest and Nokia. When we received the first prototype he had designed, we couldn't remember being more excited - it was definitely the sleekest looking indoor garden we had ever seen in our lives. At that moment we knew we've made growing basil and tomatoes exciting even for someone who has never eaten a single vegetable and avoids anything that's not made of concrete or glass. It looks THAT good.
Through creating the Smart Garden (and the Smart Garden 9), we've grown to really enjoy working with Mika - he understands the essence of Click & Grow and says yes to our craziest ideas, making them into reality...a really good one. He's someone our team members describe as "Super cool". And, since you're now one of us, we thought it's about time for you to meet Mika as well, and get to know your Smart Garden even better.
What's your background?
I'm a Finnish-born industrial designer, but I've been living and working most of my adult life abroad. I've been focusing on technology driven products right from the beginning of my career, so I guess I can say I've got some experience in that particular field.
What was your goal for the final design of the Smart Garden?
When you look at the Smart Garden, it's kind of a pedestal for the plants. The plants are really the main thing, not the garden, so instead of it being visually bold in itself, it had to rather serve as a framework for nature. I guess what I'm trying to say is that no man-made design can outweigh the natural beauty of plants, so we should instead focus on embracing it.
A sneak peek into the initial design process of the Smart Garden 3
When it comes to the product itself, quality is the most important thing. I wanted to really get the surfaces, the look and the feel right: it had to feel ultra solid when you pick it up, it had to be the right weight to really highlight the quality, it had to be as seamless as possible, the snaps and mechanisms had to have that right sound and feel when they open and close. The actual "form" is always arguable, as people have very different tastes when it comes to aesthetics; my approach is to simply reduce and distill the design until there's nothing unnecessary, and usually what you're left with something pure and clean, which is very Click & Grow kind of thinking as well. That's really the oldest trick in the design schoolbook, but it works. It might also be my Scandinavian background - for us, this minimalism approach comes in mother's milk.
How does designing a Click & Grow garden compare to your other projects?
Usually, the products I work with are much smaller than the Smart Garden in size, they have a screen, and are filled with antennas and sensors. The Smart Garden gave me chance to work on something really new, fun and exciting, and I enjoyed the process a lot. I believe that always shows in the result whether the design process was exciting and fun, or miserable and painful. This one was absolutely great!
What challenges did you face when working on the Smart Garden?
What do you think of the Smart Garden now when it's ready?
I think that the Smart Garden is a great example of things traditional and new brought together. It lives in your home, so it needs to blend in with many different interiors yet look new, fresh and interesting, and it does! I love the concept of the Smart Garden - essentially, it's a combo of a basket-like container for the water and a LED arm for the light, but the thing that makes it unique and fun is how it changes as your plants grow. It's a lot like an art piece and reflects the flow of life; it looks a bit different every day. I personally like to light up my home with several light sources instead of one ambient light, so the Smart Garden also gives you a nice new source of light, reflecting beautifully from the plants.