Gaming Design Know-Hows Chapter 4: How to Use Strategic Design to Create Success for Your Product Lines


In the last chapter, we introduced you some examples of how innovation was created for the world’s most pioneering designs by CRE8 and how innovation adds values to the products. In this chapter, we will share our insights and experiences in how to develop a good design language for a product line and strategies for themed design.

Chapter 4: How to Use Strategic Design to Create Success for Your Product Lines

Speaking of strategic design, we would like to bring up two of the most iconic gaming series that we’ve worked on with our clients.

Corsair – At the Forefront of Gaming
Corsair, one of the leading companies manufacturing high-performance memory modules, wanted to expand their market and develop high-end gaming peripherals. CRE8 was honored to be chosen as its design partner to co-create Corsair’s first gaming input device series.

Our designers, together with Corsair’s team, were trying to find an overarching strategy that could be translated throughout the product portfolio. Instead of adding more to design, we decided to scale it down. Example, we took off the top lid of the keyboard and disclosed its unique metal inner structure. We gave this “features-exposed” design language a name: “exoskeleton”, and we implemented it on all the products in the lineup.

For the K60 keyboard, we used a fine brushed aluminum plate with mounted mechanical keys to emphasize this keyboard’s unique construction and to show off the premium performance switches. The design was used as the backbone of the whole product series and even to-date it is passed on to all future generations.

The same design language was also applied onto other input and memory devices: mice, headsets and DRAMs. Corsair stands for superior quality and the spirit was to “MAKE TOOLS, NOT TOYS!” For the mice, each product adopts the best ergonomics that suit target users, and reinforces the “exoskeleton” design language in the details. For example, Corsair’s first gaming mouse - Vengeance M60 was designed with all parts mounted onto a sturdy aluminum unibody offering an adjustable center of gravity.

After that, the new additions to the mice family all followed this consistent concept, but the design variations served for different users, e.g. FPS gamers, MMO gamers, right-handed gamers, and so on.

Together with Corsair, we also redefined how a DRAM was being made. A memory module used to be just 2 sheet metals stamped together, but the “exoskeleton” approach gave the product category an innovative look by integrating an aluminum handlebar that sit on the top of the heat spreaders and hold the side plates together. The crafted piece gave users a sense of professionalism and quality.

The headset interpreted the design language into its exposed, adjustable aluminum rails, creating a strong, professional and sophisticated design accent, while providing superior comfort with the extra-wide memory foam earpads.

Till today, almost 30 products from the family are derived from the same “exoskeleton” design language. This consistency in design is an ultra-efficient tool to communicate quality with product users. Corsair was successful in building a high-end brand image to become one of the biggest gaming peripheral providers in the world.

World of Warcraft – the Making of a Collector’s Item
World of Warcraft, released by Blizzard Entertainment, was one of the most popular online games in the gaming history. It was a global phenomenon and reached its peak in 2006, drawing attention from 12 million users all over the world. That was why Ideazon, a Canadian gaming hardware company authorized by Blizzard and later on merged by SteelSeries, commissioned CRE8 to design an iconic gaming mouse that would resonate with their devoted followers.

The experiences were very different when you tried to design for a themed product. A themed product could be seen as a collector’s item and had to achieve a flagship status.

CRE8’s designers really spent a lot of time immersing themselves in the gameplay to explore the complexity and depth of the game and to understand which elements would make users excited; which product features would enable better efficiency.

The resulting mouse was designed and manufactured with some of the most innovative techniques at that time. The first generation was launched in 2008. It featured incredible customizability and was the first mouse in the world that had up to 15 programmable buttons. The forms, patterns, and design elements of the mouse all followed the styles of the game.

It was also one of the earliest mice with LED backlighting effect. The lighting color changed depending on the game characters and their super power, creating an amazing in-game experience.

The CMF concept was “steel with rust”. In order to create a distinctive tarnished effect, we used a special coating technique for the finishing that was partly handmade.

CRE8 even complimented the product with a uniquely designed unboxing experience. The inspiration - treasure hunting - came from the game stories. Its package was shaped in the form of a treasure chest, with the mouse centrally placed within a bounty of gold coins and jewels to lure those hardcore gamers.

The market feedback was overwhelming because it was the first themed MMO mouse and it really captured the taste of the audience. Many bought 2 mice (one for gameplay; one for collection), so when Blizzard updated the game and required the second generation of the mouse, our designers did not make drastic changes, but followed the same design language to keep the experience consistent, but better. We improved the ergonomics and finishing details to make the mouse more user-friendly and desirable.

The third generation, the “Legendary Edition”, was a fine balance of style and function. This sleeker and more compact version wanted to target mid-level gamers (first and second generations were dedicated to high-end gaming enthusiasts). The concept was heavily influenced by the story themes, so the patterns involved thunder plus fire, but we still integrated a coherent design language by adding superior illumination and functionality. The three generations and its legacy over time really made the product series a classic.

In this chapter, we went through a retrospect to 2 of the most iconic series that CRE8 designed, hoping to show you the importance and power of a consistent design language and what it does to a successful product development process. In our future chapter, we will talk about where gaming design comes from and the direction it is going to. Don’t miss it!

Read Chapter 3