There is no better example of pure functionality than in complex organisms found in nature. From physiological adaptations to chemical responses, flora and fauna have naturally redesigned themselves over the years to acclimate to their environments. It’s no wonder that product designers constantly try to mimic nature and the natural world. Bruno Munari, an integral figure in modern design theory, once said, “A leaf is beautiful not because it is stylish but because it is natural, created in its exact from by its exact function. A designer tries to put forth an object as naturally as a tree puts forth a leaf.”
Íko is inspired by nature, and treats functionality with utmost importance. Everything we do must be functional and precise in order to provide the perfect environment for plants to grow. Given the myriad of physical and biological constraints of our system, we like to believe that our first product, Íko One, has almost built itself. Through our utilitarian mindset and inspiration drawn from the beauty in the world around us, Íko One has taken shape. Ultimately, we are able to create a system that is beautiful in its functionality. Much like a leaf, it appears simple on the outside, filled with complexities and interesting features hidden beneath the surface.
William Morris, a revolutionary product designer in the mid-nineteenth century, said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” We believe that a product true to its use is inherently beautiful. Íko One grows and exhibits flavor enhanced, culinary herbs in your home, while evoking a connection with the user. We don’t think Morris would object.
Human-centered design is defined as the management framework that involves the human perspective into all steps of the problem solving process. As designer Don Norman stated, “User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project.” The team members of Íko have established a human-centered approach in which the most important consideration is the human using the product. We have spoken to people from across the globe to reveal the fundamental stakeholders in the success of Íko One.
The first step is the planting of the seed, in which the problem of the human is brought to light. Next is a germination stage, where the designer considers every physical subtlety: every curve, slot, and angle, in an attempt to accommodate every stakeholder. Photosynthesis begins and the idea takes shape. Initial roots and shoots are the prototyping stage. Here, a recognizable form starts to emerge.
Understanding the complexities of the stakeholders is where functional thinking is needed most. The user experience involves how the consumer connects with a product, along with how pleasant and intuitive it is to use. Our goal is to organically form a relationship between the user and the product through the ease of use and the solution it provides.
For Íko, the process is complicated by the demand of another living organism. The plants must be designed for with equal care.
Íko’s goal is not only to just incorporate the plant into the product, but rather ensure that the plant is the center of the physical product itself: plant-centered design. Íko One frames the plants behind glass, much like a piece of artwork. Alternatively, this piece of artwork is a living thing, functional and dynamic in its ecosystem. In nature, living creatures have been able to flawlessly harmonize with their surroundings, and through that same vein, the plants in our product are designed to harmonize with the home and daily routine. The user becomes a caretaker, someone who is able to relate to the plants through the use of our product. A product that a human can grow to love.
Our ultimate goal is to create a company that is inspired by nature and defined by the human experience. In Bruno Munari’s masterpiece, Design as Art, he states, “When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.”