Outstanding product design and innovation lead to award-winning solutions

Gratiela Dumitrica, June 23 2021

A conversation with the Ava video security product team on the company's recent Red Dot Award wins.

9 mins

Design is everywhere. It’s in everything that we use, from butter knives to office chairs. It’s in everything that we look at, from logos and billboards to the app logos on your phone’s Home screen. Moreover, design is not just visible; it also defines how an object, a service, a system, or an activity delivers the best and most seamless experience for users. Perhaps this is why we particularly notice design when it’s missing and when it doesn’t deliver what it promised: trust, usability, efficiency, pleasure, or fun.

At Ava, we truly believe that we can make a difference in how the security industry operates and solve real customer problems. Many of the traditional video security solutions are incredibly complex to use, leading organizations to not explore their full potential. Our mission is to create a better, smarter way to deliver security.

From the outset, we designed, developed, and engineered our video security solutions with a clear focus on users' needs and how to leverage technology to make their jobs better and easier. Design played a crucial role in redefining video security for good, to protect the world proactively. 

Our designers and engineers created award-winning products by leveraging simplicity, ease of use, versatility, intelligence, and the ability to transform data into actionable insights. This past April, Ava Cameras won the Red Dot Product Design Award, and Ava Cloud Video Security won the Red Dot Smart Products Award

Today, we’ll introduce you to some of the members of our product team who were involved in Ava’s success: 

  • Ron Kim (Lead Designer, Video & Head of Marketing Design)
  • Daria Andraczko (UI Visual Designer)
  • Megan Raddatz (Senior UX Designer)
  • Tom Kluijver (UX Designer)
  • Theo Holen (Mechanical Design Engineer)
  • Fredrik Capellen (Mechanical Engineer)
  • Malcolm Walters (Product Manager)
  • Kjetil Rensel (Hardware Engineer)
  • Martin Baisgård (Senior Software Development Engineer)

From developing great video surveillance solutions to Red Dot Awards success

Red Dot Ava_Cameras_Black

This year, Ava Security was awarded two Red Dot Awards for Product Design and Smart Product, recognizing our Ava Cameras’ high design quality and our Cloud Video Security solution’s analytics capabilities, which include real-time anomaly detection, proactive security notifications, and smart search capabilities. We partnered with Scandinavian consultancy Eggs Design to develop and engineer the sleek, high-quality product identity and new look of cameras and hardware. 

Here’s our product team’s take on what set us apart from the field and contributed to our achievements.

Which factors do you think led to Ava Security's success in the Red Dot Design Award this year?

Daria: In short: good design and innovation of our products.

Ron: I would say passionate people working together as one team would be one of the most significant factors. Having a flat hierarchy brings the culture that everyone feels their opinion matters, and being part of an essential part of the product through the process also helps us be more motivated.

Fredrik: The fact that design language and user experience are defined early in the project. They are not afterthoughts after the technical specification has been reached. Every detail is a conscious decision.

Tom: Simplicity and user experience optimized for solving the problem.

Theo: Products that are innovative, powerful, elegant, advanced, yet easy to use.

Kjetil: We combined good functionality as a security camera with recognizable and simple design language.

Martin: The attention to detail and robustness, yet simplicity of our security cameras and software.

Why do you think it matters that we won two Red Dot awards? To whom will it matter the most?

Megan: It's a huge honor for us as a team, of course, and it reaffirms that we're heading in the right direction with the product. But I think even more than that; it's a sign to our customers that we're growing up as a company and ready to support them in the long term.

Daria: Apart from the customers, who can pat themselves in the back for their excellent choice, it's for the people that took part in creating these products–that their work has been recognized and rewarded. These awards show that the bar was set high, and it won't be dropping. It's a driver that pushes us to continue to give our 100% and make things better than they were yesterday.

Ron: First, this is a great reward to everyone involved in the project and that works hard every day to make the best product possible. It simply boosts and motivates our passion for why we are doing this. Second, winning design awards with a business to business product, in general, is unique. Typically, B2B products are more focused on the feature/technology itself or cost to compete in the market, but the fact that we are even one step ahead on the design aspect brings us huge bonus points. 

Lastly, I love the fact that we also won for the 'Smart product' category. So it is not only about how it looks on the exterior but also how intelligence can benefit users. In the video security market, people might not care much about how the camera looks, as long as it blends well with the surroundings, but having approved smartness to the product can be crucial for the industry's professionals.

Fredrik: I think it matters to customers, sales, and designers & engineers equally. It gives confidence to R&D as it assures us that our work is noticed and appreciated. It matters to sales in their confidence when they reach out to new customers, and it matters to the customer who can be confident that they get something designed to high standards. 

Kjetil: Winning two Red Dot awards recognizes how much effort we put into the details of the product development. I hope our customers acknowledge it as well. 

Macbook mock up 02

Research as the foundation for successful design and engineering

When discussing the preliminary steps to design the Ava Cameras and the Ava Aware Cloud user interface, a few guiding principles came out immediately: usability, simplicity, attention to detail, and ultimately solving users’ needs and pain points.

Which are the principles that characterize good and successful design?

Balance, harmony, contrast; a good design feels obvious.

Megan: A lot of people assume that good design means that the item looks visually pleasing. That definitely plays a factor, but successful design is way more than that. First, it has to be something people find useful–it needs to solve a person’s problem or make completing their tasks more efficient. It should be easy to use and understand, accessible to diverse needs, and, yes, visually pleasing. Quality shows up in the details.

Daria: There’s a universal set of rules by Dieter Rams that sums up what designers often try to achieve following their guts. What stuck deep inside is that design should be simple and intuitive, and these are the first principles that come to mind when talking about them. Yet, these are often the hardest to achieve and take the most time to figure out. Anything can be aesthetically pleasing, for the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the idea for the product might be innovative, useful, and stand the test of time. But the devil’s in the smallest details, and that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff.

Ron: Video surveillance was introduced about 80 years ago during the Second World War, and even though it has developed tremendously since then, working with it hasn’t changed much. Lack of simplicity and smartness in interaction costs more time and money to users, and often they miss major events that could have been prevented if they got the information in the early stages. We wanted to create proactive solutions that require less effort, that are easy to understand and operate, and don't require training hours. In addition, the products have to be collaborative with people outside the user group so that different stakeholders can act on security events as they occur. 

Fredrik: Iterative design sprints with tight collaboration between designers, engineers, and stakeholders. Neither form follows function or function follows design. Both must simultaneously be optimized in parallel to be great in both areas.

Tom: Each product and feature should have gone through several design cycles before being considered a good and successful design. We started with analyzing, synthesizing, simulating, evaluating, deciding, and doing that cycle several times. This makes sure each feature will solve the pain point. 

Theo: Balance, harmony, contrast; a good design feels obvious.

How would you describe the research that went into developing the Ava cloud video security products?

Ron: We use different methods for design research. We benchmark other competitors’ products to understand the common approach of the design in the market. Through interviews with customers and partners, we get insights and the users' needs and the critical problems that the market still has with those other solutions. But we don't stop there, and through usability testing and customer feedback sessions, we keep trying to find points where we can make even more improvements.

Kjetil: In all we do, we aim to find what's optimal for the customers. We don't make a product to meet a spec or to match a competitor but make the best possible experience for the customers.

Tom: We start with the problem definition that the current market does (not) solve or has yet to solve well. Each feature that we design gets reviewed with experts and potential customers to allow us to iterate and evaluate each design decision.

In all we do, we aim to find what's optimal for the customers. We don't make a product to meet a spec or to match a competitor but make the best possible experience for the customers.

The power of collaboration

How do designers and engineers work with each other to create outstanding video security products?

Daria: We are mindful of each others’ thinking, as one group is more technical than the other. Engineers focus on the features and usefulness of the product, how to make things work. In contrast, we concentrate on translating the developer team's language for the end-users to work intuitively. Both sides try to communicate their needs and concerns clearly and straightforwardly, which is vital for a productive workflow.

Ron: As designers, working closely with engineers is one of the key success factors. We always try to listen to each other and be synced with one clear goal.

Malcolm: The development team works very closely with the User Experience team. Regular meetings cover all stages of the development, from initial concepts, detailed flows, and visual design to resolve issues found during implementation. By having this close coupling between the teams, we reduce errors and make sure designs can be adjusted to solve the errors found in testing.

Tom: We meet the engineers several times before we start working on a new feature that should solve a customer's challenge. Initially, we discuss the problem and potential ways of solving it. We do market research within the design team, develop potential concepts, iterate, and choose one concept to present. With that presentation, engineers will ask questions and sometimes tell us about restrictions that we need to consider due to technical difficulties or time limitations. We then continue to work on delivering the final design and doing a final presentation to the engineers.

Image - Close up white 1

Time and again, the product team has highlighted two major aspects that make their work worthwhile: the collaborative and supportive environment and the fact that everyone strives to deliver a simpler, smarter, and more transparent security platform where users can take positive action to protect their employees and assets. 

What has been your favorite part of being on this team and developing the Ava Cloud Video Security products?

Megan: I appreciate that when discussing design challenges with the team, every idea was considered based on its merit, not on who suggested it. There was a psychological safety element within the team that let everyone participate, knowing that even if the idea wasn’t chosen in the end, it would always be treated with respect.

Daria: It's a gratifying feeling to do work that matters and which is part of the bigger picture. I also find it satisfying to discover that our video security solution's users feel empowered, secure, and intelligent.

Ron: We are trying to connect people, data, and their properties directly in a unified view. The favorite part of working with Ava video security products is knowing that you are developing a product to help people's daily struggle against threats. It is very challenging work, but knowing how it could impact our society in general in different areas, from government, schools, and hospitals to big and small businesses, is very exciting.

Fredrik: Learning from colleagues and finding good solutions to tricky problems are the best parts of the job for me.

Tom: The fast and boundary-pushing mindset. Can we do it better? Can we make it simpler? No matter how good the concept is, there will always be something to improve.

Theo: Collaborating with highly skilled colleagues with a great passion for their field of work and creating the best security products out there.

Malcolm: To me, what matters the most is making the products simple to install and use, the UIs clean, modern, and simple to understand, and the close collaboration between design and technical teams.

Kjetil: I love following the product coming to life from concept and industrial design to a final high-tech product, adding value to customers’ day-to-day operation.

Martin: Every Research and Development team has worked together on the product, ID, UX, Dev, Test, Mechanics, Electronics, Acoustics to make a real impact on our customers and partners. It’s very fulfilling.

The innovation never stops

While the video security industry is rather conservative, in the past three years, we have noticed a rapid acceleration enabled by technological breakthroughs and a greater need for ethical, more privacy-centric, and environmentally sustainable solutions. Over 70% of security decision-makers prioritize the migration to Video Security as a Service (VSaaS). This can only lead to better integration of third-party security cameras, access control systems, sensors, or visualization dashboards in a single VSaaS platform, like Ava Aware. The demand for greater visibility and actionable insights will only get greater with time.

I think the idea of a centralized security system, where you have cyber & video security, access control, and other building sensors all available in one place, could be a game-changer for security operators.

Megan: Absolutely! There are new and interesting ways of analyzing video and integrating systems that are just being thought up now. I think the idea of a centralized security system, where you have cyber & video security, access control, and other building sensors all available in one place, could be a game-changer for security operators.

Beyond that, I see a potential for innovation in the way the market as a whole thinks about ethics and privacy in the security sector. We’ve all seen bad examples of this in the news, but I have a feeling we’ll see even more leadership and transparency in this area in the future.

Daria: There’s always room for innovation, and that’s what drives us. Design is constant work, a never-ending circle of changes, improvements, and tests that make the product better. These might not be enormous changes that happen in a day, but they’ll keep on coming depending on what the security world needs.

Ron: Absolutely. New technology is introduced almost daily, and the market's needs keep evolving, which requires us to understand it clearly and catch up with the solution we provide. We should always try to think ahead, be on point with the market's trends and needs, never stay in our comfort zone and keep challenging ourselves to move on further.

Fredrik: Yes. Innovation can be developed in the interface between hardware and software, especially in combining video, audio, and other sensors to provide information and functionality otherwise disconnected. On the physical side, I believe new production methods and materials can offer smaller, customized, and better designs for the environment. 

Tom: Yes. Currently, video security is very one-sided; the system gets data from the cameras and analyzes it. We can make sure we integrate with more other products to physically make video security a more proactive product. Now, 'proactive' means the system responds by smart alarms, etc., but physically it does very little to take action. Once our video security system can talk to more products, the activities can involve physical actions. In that case, the security operators or business operations managers will be supported by an automated system helping them become more efficient.

Kjetil: We are part of huge changes in the industry. I believe we have just scratched the surface of upcoming innovations.

On the physical side, I believe new production methods and materials can offer smaller, customized, and better designs for the environment.