When Fred Bould—product designer for projects at Roku, Nest and Beam, and Founder of Bould Design—starts working on a project, he keeps in mind a hierarchy of objectives.

First, he turns his attention to the function of the product. Bould said he always starts with a very thorough understanding of what the product does and how the technology functions.

“The second key, in terms of design values, is simplicity,” said Bould. “If there’s not a reason for some element to exist, then it shouldn’t exist. I think that’s how you’re able to pare designs down to the most pure, true experience for the end user.”

The next element is quality and ensuring the design is rendered at its highest degree of quality possible. Bould said this process requires determining if the design is being built for the ages, so they must envision what the product will look like in a week, in a one year and even ten years out.

The fourth component is character. There is an art in defining the product to be a true and positive reflection of not only the people who are using it, but also the people who create and design it, Bould said.

“We have this four-stage design process in order to find the most compelling arrangement of components,” said Bould. “Then we figure out how we can put that all together in a really cohesive package that people are going to find easy to use.”

Whether the product is being used in a workspace, hospital setting, board room or factory floor, Bould said they really have to think about all the different contexts, since this is what really drives the design. This process of ensuring all the elements and context merge into one, form-fitting product requires a lot of communication. Taking every piece of information into consideration is a very collaborative and active process.

“It’s not a lone, genius designer sitting in a room by themselves coming up with a design,” said Bould. “It’s a lot of iteration, integration, discussion and debate.”

This collaborative process often includes rapid prototyping and creating scale models in order to ensure everyone is on the same page. It is an integral part of the process since it helps everyone involved visualize the product and move the design along.

“It’s a dialogue. It’s a conversation,” said Bould. “It’s a very intense, engaging process where we’re coming together, and the designers are coming together with the engineers.”

Throughout the course of brainstorming, Bould mentioned they create prototypes and show them to individuals who may be using the product in order to get feedback. Oftentimes, they incorporate client and user ideas because users are closer to the product and can offer market feedback.

Today, Bould has used all of these elements to help create products for Nest, Roku and Beam. When it came to designing for Nest, he said he was most proud of the form factor of the thermostat, a self-monitoring device that saves energy and can be controlled from anywhere.

“We were really able to boil it down to something that was very simple, yet has a lot of technology packed into it,” said Bould. “I like how approachable it is.”

BeamPro 2


The design process of the BeamPro 2, a mobile telepresence that allows people to “visit” and collaborate with colleagues from around the world, came with its challenges. With all of the moving parts including sensors, cameras and microphones, it was hard to keep it simple. The technology had very specific requirements in order for it to function properly.

“It’s on a different scale than when you’re working on something that’s hand-held or a smaller piece of technology,” said Bould. “There’s a lot of elements that have to be defined and then refined until you get to the really simple expression of a product and the functionality. It takes a lot of work to make it simple.”

Simplicity will be one element of future designs, but Bould said the integration of deep learning, AI and sensors will be imminent trends in technology. Assistive cruise control is an example of this emerging technology. Although the car is not self-driving, because the driver still has to steer, the assistive cruise control is a supporting element to driving, since the system can sense what is in front of the driver and what is behind them in order to continue at the right speed.

“I would expect to see a lot of those types of technologies in the future, where things aren’t doing everything for you but they’re doing more for you,” Bould said.

No matter the project, he hopes to give back to people through his technologies and designs.

“We want to work on projects that are going to have a positive impact on people whether they’re at work, at play or at home,” said Bould. “We want to make sure we’re working on positive, life-affirming things that help people communicate or that extend people’s capability beyond what they would normally be able to do.”

With an endless array of possibilities, Bould said this is truly an inventive and innovative time to be an engineer.

“I think it’s a really exciting time to be a designer given the capabilities,” said Bould. “What we can do with technology is pretty amazing.”