Work / Sky

Introducing the World to time-shift TV

At the turn of the 21st century, we were working with TV set-top box manufacturer Pace Micro Technology when satellite broadcaster BskyB revealed that they were looking to develop a new product and service that would revolutionise the way people watch television. New, cutting-edge digital technology would allow viewers to record, pause, rewind and replay live television for the very first time.

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


  • Product Design
  • Design Engineering
  • Colour, material & finish
  • User Experience & UI
  • Trend Forecasting & Vision Setting


Success would be defined by making the whole experience easy to fathom and operate, so we looked for ways to humanise the machine.

The new digital set-top box was fundamentally different from familiar video cassette recorders. Instead of a rewinding a tape there was a silent hard drive, so it wouldn’t be obvious to users when the box was recording, spooling or playing. We discovered through user research that we needed to find ways to make using the machine completely intuitive.


The solution came in the form of a ring of spinning LED lights.  It was beautifully simple and inexpensive, becoming iconic and synonymous with the SKY+ brand.

It was developed as a way of showing to the user of the product what the system was doing when they were using it and watching TV. If they recorded their favourite show, or paused live TV, they would see the wheels spinning to mimic what was happening. It was about confirming in someone’s mind that the right thing was on-going at the right time.

The Sky+ set-top box and UI system our design team created was truly revolutionary.


The Sky+ set-top box was a huge success, with unheard of customer satisfaction levels. Just a handful of units were returned within the first few months, much lower than the usual levels of churn for a subscription service, and the customer had to pay to own the box. 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 confirmation for a consumer. Sky + made the shape a central and now iconic feature of their brand.

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. Pace became the biggest player in Europe and eventually biggest in the world.

Andrew Wallace, former Marketing Director at BSkyB