Hi there fellow crafters, makers, inventors, and Harry Potter fans, Chris from Kano here.
A few weeks ago, we introduced the latest of our DIY kits, the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit, and much like me, lots of you got very excited!
As a recent starter in the Kano team myself, I was keen to learn what goes into making a Kano product and thought you might be too - so in a three-part series of blog posts, I’ll be taking you into the studios, and workshops at Kano to meet some of the people who help to develop and design our kits, and to find out how they took the entire Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit experience from concept to reality.
Today, in part one, we’re going to head down to meet Bruno in the product development team, and find out how, and why the wand that you’ll be getting your hands on came to be.
Chris: Sat between us now is the finished product, the wand that you build yourself in the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit. It’s super sleek, incredibly well balanced, it feels how I imagine a wand in the Wizarding World would feel - although this one is powered by electricity and code rather than magic! But Bruno, did the wand always look this way?
Bruno: No. Not at all!
The original hardware concept was based around the Kano Tilt Sensor (a 6-axis gyroscope combined with an accelerometer), a little sensor that we later included with the Kickstarter edition of the Kano Pixel Kit, and connects to devices by USB.
We envisioned encasing it in new wand-shaped plastics and using it to unlock a host of magic-themed challenges.
Chris: So what changed? How did you evolve from a Tilt Sensor to the product that we now have in front of us?
Bruno: The idea of a tethered wand felt both really limited, and not quite real enough. What I mean by that is that, although we’re clearly not in the Wizarding World, and the wand isn’t going to be used to cast magical spells, all of us have an idea of what a wand should look like, how it should feel, and the way you should be able to use it. Whether from seeing magic shows as kids, or from watching magicians, wizards, and witches on TV shows, and in movies. It shouldn’t be attached to a cable.
So we went back to the drawing board and set out to design a fully wireless build-it-yourself controller from the ground up - new electronics, a new enclosure, and the storybook build steps that help to complete the Kano experience.
Chris: The wand obviously takes some of its styling cues from the wands of the Wizarding World, whilst maintaining a distinctive Kano feel. How important was it to create this balance between the worlds of theatrical magic, and real-world technology, and how did you go about it?
Bruno: Incredibly important. Both Kano, and the Wizarding World have their own distinct design languages, and we didn’t want to take away from either one.
Although we’re already familiar with how a Kano product should look and feel, the Wizarding World was new to us, so we visited the Harry Potter Studios at Leavesden, and spent a lot of time researching the vast array of wands that were used in the movies.
Having studied all of the wands on display (and brought a huge quantity of replica props in the gift shop!), we started to experiment by mixing and matching colors, shapes, materials, and textures - creating designs that shared attributes of the wands from Wizarding World, whilst being very clearly Kano products.
Fairly early on in this process, we decided that in order to maintain our Kano stamp on the wand, the final design had to be a buildable kit, with electronics that you can see, touch, and bring to life yourself - so any thoughts of fully sealed, intricately crafted, movie prop style concepts were quickly abandoned.
That doesn’t mean that we’d given up on the idea of a sleek and tactile wand though - if anything this decision helped to shape the direction of the designs we were working on, and led to the development of the printed circuit board (PCB) “core”, which could be easily fitted to, or removed from the body of the wand.
A nod to the wands of the Wizarding World, with their exotic cores and spell casting powers, that was firmly grounded in the real world of coding and electronics.
Chris: At this stage was there must have been sketches and mockups all over the studio - how do you focus all that creative output into the final design?
Bruno: Typically at Kano, we come up with a ton of ideas, and then work through them, picking out colors, shapes, styles, and textures that we like until we have 3 distinct concepts to pursue.
The first was the most traditional in style - based around what we considered to be the simplest representation of a recognizable wand - a plain handle and a smooth, rounded profile.
The second was our most outlandish - envisaging the wand as a fun, whacky product created by the Weasley twins for their store, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
The third was an attempt to blend a more “techy” look with a traditional wand, referencing PCB tracers as an abstract wood pattern across the wand.
We were pretty sure that when we showed these concepts to our test audience, the more traditional designs would come out on top. So it was quite a surprise that most of the children and adults that handled all three went for the outlandish hexagonal concept.
With that external input, we turned our attention to refining the hexagonal concept. Working towards the sleek, tactile, dark grey design that forms the hardware element of the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit.
Chris: Being in the marketing team, I’ve been in lots of conversations about getting the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit into the hands of our customers… it doesn’t look like the workshop is equipped to deal what that sort of volume.
Bruno: Well spotted! As much as we’d love to hand make each and every wand that goes in the kit, that’s not really practical or cost effective. So once the final design had been thoroughly tested and signed off, we started to prepare the wand for mass production.
For the design team, this is actually where the hard work really begins.
The sketches and models that we’ve worked with up to this point, whilst beautiful, are not what our manufacturers need to make the finished product - they require detailed and accurate technical drawings, not just for the plastic components, but also for the packaging, electronics, and printed materials that form the completed kit.
Together with our team in China we then worked with our manufacturing partners to ensure that every detail was right, from the fit of the clips on the wand to the electronics on the PCB, and the efficiency of the production line where all the components come together.
Chris: And then we have a wand that I can use to code spells on screen?
Well, almost - you’re going to need to go and talk to the software development team and find out how they built the App that lets you make on-screen magic.
Chris: Cool. Thanks, Bruno! I’m keeping this wand by the way.
Thanks to Bruno and the product design team for taking us inside their workshop (and letting me keep a wand!) - join me next time as I head over to the creative team's studio to catch up with our Creative Director Aaron, and find out how his team created the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit experience.
If you want to find out more about the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit, including how you can pre-order yours, head on over to the Kano Shop.