Take a close look. ASUS products have a unique and distinct soul at the heart of every product line.
Products like the Zen series are quiet and noble. ROG products lead players to greatness. The ASUS Laptop series will lure you in with its warmth. Finally, the VivoBook is youthful by defining and exploring the world.
This exploration in design leads us to Taipei designer William Liu and Shanghai designer Jerry Huang of the VivoBook S team to share how the VivoBook has garnered individualism in an ocean of cookie-cutter consumer notebooks.
Hsi: Let’s talk about the VivoBook and its place amongst the many other product lines of ASUS.
Jerry: The VivoBook has taken on the role of the largest and youngest laptop product line of ASUS. Compared to the ZenBook, which pushes technical innovation each year, the VivoBook works the competitively priced market segment. By analyzing trends in design and pop culture, we can forecast which colors and materials will be on-trend for the year.
Taking a look back at 2018, the VivoBook S was gaining advocacy with the younger generation. Since then, the VivoBook S has continuously evolved each generation of laptops to reflect the trends of that year with youthful values.
The left, 2018 VivoBook S. The right, 2019 VivoBook S. Both generations are active and colorful.
Hsi: Can you talk to us about the research of VivoBook users?
William: As mentioned, the VivoBook series has taken off with young people. This is an exciting opportunity for the design team because we originally designed the VivoBook with that spirit in mind. We have hope that more users will not only be attracted to the unique design, but also to the invisible experiences–how the device interacts with user’s living, working, and entertainment habits. This is something we conduct global user surveys to better understand the new generation’s iterations of these habits, and develop a design that meets the needs of the users.
For example, last year’s VivoBook global survey found interesting insights. Gen Z has gradually become a strong consumer force. The individuals of Gen Z are closely watching the collective experiences of the Millennial and Boomer generations, and care much more about the future than the present. They are introspective and pragmatic, which leads to a consumer who is focused on the originality of a product’s design and its ease of use.
Above are the five insights from last year’s VivoBook global survey
Hsi: How does that consumer mentality translate into decisions about design features?
William: Because of Gen Z’s pragmatic nature, we’ve taken a more introverted approach to this year’s VivoBook S. This echoes an overall world trend: consumers are longing for simple products. Starting with its basic geometric shape, we’ve minimized features you would traditionally find on a laptop. Once decorative features are reduced, you’re pretty much left with the essentials. That essential nature is the professional quality users want.
Jerry: That being said, we still maintained the personality of the VivoBook S. The overall geometric shape is much more simple in terms of form. VivoBook S is expressive on the surface but neutral in its form factor. The circular hinge suggests a starting point to open the lid. This simplistic approach to industrial design gives the CMF design more space to make some noise.
Hsi: The VivoBook is famous for its color design. What’s the story behind that?
Jerry: Of course, if you take a look at competing products in the same price range, you will find mostly convergent designs. The challenge for the VivoBook is to stand out and have its own personality in an otherwise saturated market segment. Since 2018 we have strategically used color as the key to VivoBook’s success. The use of color can definitely be subjective. It is a real breakthrough for the design team to continuously put out experimental colors for consumers. They encourage users to choose the color that best represents their personality. I think the user feels validated after that.
Hsi: It must be very difficult to select which colors to use. How do you choose them?
Jerry: First we start from the research of megatrends and market observation to discover the next color boom. For example, the Gaia Green of the VivoBook S. At first, people were really skeptical of green on a laptop. But it was wildly popular. We picked that green as a result of looking closely at the fashion industry.
As mentioned, color design occupies a very important role in the overall design strategy. We can’t foresee the future, but we can predict some possible paths. We consider the more bright and forward-looking predictions for color and use those to imagine an atmosphere where the product lives. Consumers pretty much run through the same mental process when deciding on a color of something to purchase.
Each color is given a story. This time, the color story of the VivoBook S is inspired by the feelings of Gen Z.
The VivoBook S color themes.
Texture and color choices reflect a calm mentality or an active lifestyle
William: Each generation of VivoBook presents ingenuity differently. This year, we invested a lot of time into thinking about how color should be used. The use of color is more consistent throughout the product: the cover, and even small accents like the Enter key. It makes the entire experience more complete. The power of the individual today is amplified by the Enter key. The younger generation speaks to the world on social platforms, and when they hit the enter key, it can be a bit like pulling an information trigger, hence the accent.
Color is used as an accent on the Enter key
Hsi: The VivoBook has many other small design features. Can you talk more about those?
William: Many small details compose the powerful appearance of the VivoBook S. For example, the pivot is designed with a continuous bearing, this feels more durable and speaks to the trust and sturdiness consumers are looking for.
ErgoLift is another design feature that slightly raises the machine, giving the user a better angle for typing.
William: On the keyboard, we’ve spent a lot of attention to the contrast between keycaps and the surface of the device. The high contrast allows users to see the position of the keyboard characters more clearly when typing. Users interact with the keyboard surface 80% to 90% of the time. So this area needs to look comfortable while serving an accurate typing experience.
Dark and light versions of the keyboard have the same level of contrast.
Jerry: There are some details you may have not noticed which subtly add depth to the design. For example, the VivoBook logo uses a diamond cutting process that looks engraved but actually, you can’t feel it. These small details might not be noticed individually, but when layered make for a very sophisticated design.
William: In addition, we released a series of stickers last year with the VivoBook S. This year we have designed a new series of stickers to speak to the soul of the VivoBook. These stickers are a small way to make a big impact on the story each individual can tell with their VivoBook.
VivoBook S stickers decorate the laptop lid.
More laptop stickers. Some are humorous and functional: protecting the privacy of users by blocking out the webcam.
Hsi: The VivoBook S is a result of the collaboration between the Shanghai and Taipei teams. Did you have any interesting experiences during this collaboration?
Jerry: This design project lasted half of a year. It sounds like a short time, but actually, it is a very dense six months. In terms of design, the Taipei Design Center can quickly confirm the goals of RD and the Project team. The Shanghai Design Center is close to the factory, so it is efficient in correcting design related issues during the materialization process.
William: The Shanghai and Taipei design teams had a good mutual understanding of what they wanted to achieve from beginning to end. We weren’t just designing a laptop, we were building upon the spirit of the VivoBook. So, color, materials, product positioning, modeling, user research, and development were all aspects of planning. Cooperation with all major departments was important. I want to thank all the ASUS staff for making this such a success. The success of the VivoBook S does not just lay in the output of the final product but also transfers into the final brand value.
As William and Jerry mentioned, products need to be well-designed, not just sculpted in terms of shape or craftsmanship. You must take into consideration the full picture and plan from a bird’s eye view.
Read more about VivoBook S!