Set-top box & UI


The brief

tangerine was working with TV set-top box manufacturer Pace Micro Technology when satellite broadcaster BskyB revealed with a new product they wanted made. Cutting-edge digital technology would allow viewers to record, pause, rewind and replay live television for the very first time. The Sky+ concept was totally revolutionary.

While Pace’s engineers would concentrate on getting the digital system right, our job was to design a video recorder that consumers could understand – quite a challenge for a new product in an electronics sector with a reputation for baffling complexity.

Key insights

By focusing on who would use the new technology and what they would want to achieve, we were looking for ways to humanise the machine. Success would be defined by making the whole experience easy to fathom and to operate.

The new digital set-top box was fundamentally different from familiar video cassette recorders. Instead of a winding tape there was a silent hard drive – which posed a conundrum. It wouldn’t be obvious to users when the box was recording, spooling or playing. We realised we needed to find ways to make using the machine completely intuitive.


The solution

The answer, when it came, was beautifully simple and inexpensive – a ring of spinning LED lights.

“It was developed as a way of showing someone what the thing was doing when you were using it,” says Martin Darbyshire. “If you recorded the news, you’d see the wheels spinning to say it was doing it. It was about confirming in someone’s mind that the right thing was happening.”

The Sky+ box was a huge success with almost unheard of customer satisfaction levels. The stylish and user-friendly product became a standard bearer for the burgeoning digital television industry. The ring of LEDs itself was destined to be far more than a source of visual encouragement for a consumer. The company made the shape central to the Sky+ branding.


The design story

The client says:

“Sky+ is a truly great product which is why we have put it at the core of all our marketing,” Jon Florsheim told the press. “It is so advanced and so good that we believe it will have a halo effect on the entire BSkyB brand.”

Jon Florsheim, former Chief Marketing Officer, BSkyB

“What tangerine had helped achieve was a low-cost product packed with extraordinary technology that looked stylish and was intuitive to use - it was magic for Pace,” says Andrew Wallace. “Pace became the biggest player in Europe and eventually biggest in the world.”

Andrew Wallace, former Marketing Director, BSkyB

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