January 2004

Designed. Inside and out. Small and big.

Buying computer cases from other vendors for their product lines, the Asus Network Devices Department had never worked with a design team before, when they approached us with an unusual request. They wanted design to help them reach the audacious goal to grow the global sales figures of Asus server equipment by a factor of 10 within a year. The department’s revenue was rather small in comparison with other business units, so there was the necessary room for improvement and the objective seemed not entirely utopian, especially in light of the fact, that the Sales, Marketing, and Engineering teams all acted in concert.

The role that the Server Department had envisioned for the design team play, was to create a front bezel for the top of the line desktop server, and they were as elated as they were amazed when we offered to do much more than that: We proposed to design not only the entire machine, inside and out, but also to help them from the get go with the creation of a family of products that would be integral to achieving their business goals.

Designing a product family

Even though we laid the collaboration out as a very fast-paced project, Debbie Huang and I decided to begin with a brief, but stringent research phase. We surveyed the market, Asus’s previous products, the department’s vision of the future, and we also managed to interview a handful of server administrators to learn about their needs and desires.

The findings helped us to define what we called “the three brand pillars” – verbal concepts that described the essential attributes that would make an Asus server product: Accessibility, Stability, and Performance.

We translated these pillars into candidate concepts for a visual design language, encompassing shapes, colors, materials, and branding, and selected a winning design direction based on alignment with the department’s goals.

Form and function

After establishing the visual design language, we worked in close collaboration with the engineering team to unify internal components in terms of their aesthetics and physical interactions: The internal layout was simplified as much as possible within our constraints, all replaceable components were color-coded to make them recognizable and a signature “pinch-and-pull” interaction was established that would enable users to remove and reposition the most common components with the exact same gesture throughout the entire product family.

A small contribution to the business success

Results of an integrated product development approach, encompassing a solid marketing strategy, best-in-class product specs, a very competitive pricing, and the design of a coherent family of products, the Asus desktop server, and the “1U” and “2U” rack server went on to exceeded the original sales target by over 50%.

Beyond that, the Asus Server Family won two Taiwan Excellence Awards, as well as a Taiwan Good Design Award.