Hydroswarm: Expressing a Company’s Vision

Telling a story about the future by expressing the founder’s technical and environmental vision.

70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water and yet, to date, we’ve only explored 5% of it. Hydroswarm is a robotics company aiming to change that. They’ve developed innovative technologies and new networked systems to enable vast ocean exploration and the collection and analysis of maritime big data. The Hydrone is their first autonomous robot designed to monitor underwater environments by leveraging a system of inter-connected nodes that collect and aggregate data.

Challenge: Expressing a vision in product design language
Hydroswarm developed a compact underwater prototype that could maneuver in complex and cluttered environments using a unique propulsion system. It is a great solution – better than existing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that are large, costly, and limited in application. Hydroswarm’s concept would address those issues and enable groundbreaking work in scientific, commercial, and defense/surveillance applications. But the prototype itself didn’t look leading edge, it didn’t express the vision of the founder, and it didn’t quite capture the imagination (and funding) of the people Hydroswarm was addressing. Hydroswarm wanted an icon the would grab attention and set the stage for engaging conversations about the future with potential customers and partners.

Approach: Listening and interpreting
Essential spent time with Hydroswarm’s founder to understand her technology in terms of not only the applications it could serve, and the features it offered; we also worked to understand how the product could express the way it was doing its job – interacting with other robots and interacting with human helpers. Essential’s team interpreted those qualities and attributes as product design details and built a full-scale product vision model. This model, based on Hydroswarm’s previous work, included commercialization engineering concepts, and importantly, the aesthetic and brand-vision qualities (propulsion innovation, technical architecture innovation, environmental fit, friendly persona, etc.) that would set the tone for the brand.

Solution: A full-scale product model expressing the company vision
We desiged and built a full-scale product vision model based on Hydroswarm’s technology development work, some commercialization engineering concepts, and importantly, a set of aesthetic and company/brand vision qualities (including friendliness, mystery, and environmental fit) that would help the founder tell a story about her company’s vision. Through simple exterior forms, expressive interior forms, materials, colors, and neural-net-like graphics, the product’s sophisticated technologies could be seen to express the product vision as imagined.

Impact: V&A Museum, The Future Starts Here Exhibit, London
Essential’s model design was featured in the Future Starts Here exhibit at the world’s most famous museum of design and technology: London’s V&A. This public venue gave Hydroswarm the perfect platform to share their advanced technology and environmental-impact vision, while giving rise to more interesting conversations and more opportunities for the business.