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Jawbone UP

Yves Behar on the stylishly subtle accessory that just might add a few years to your life

by Evan Orensten
on 14 July 2011

Today at TED Global 2011 Jawbone introduced the UP, an electronic bracelet clearly born of the company's design DNA. About the size of a Livestrong band, the UP serves users 24/7, using sophisticated sensors to track movement and sleeping patterns. This data will then be relayed to an app, accessible on phones, tablets and computers, in which users can type in the nutritional data of their diet. Serving as a diary of your daily activity, the app becomes a life coach of sorts, providing helpful suggestions tailored to your diet, exercise and sleeping patterns.

Labeled as functional jewelry, the UP's pioneering achievement is its subtlety. Jawbone's VP of Product Management, Travis Bogard tells CH, "There are other devices but they are bulky and unattractive and people aren't comfortable wearing them. So we made one that you don't really notice. We've gotten used to people wearing things that blend in. It's one of the biggest breakthroughs. It's much smaller than most of the existing devices and truly the intersection between wearability and design and solves a technical problem."

As a company, Jawbone first tackled the wireless audio market with a unique design philosophy: how to best reach people on multiple levels with their products. They revolutionized the bluetooth headset market with the original Jawbone product, first using style, simplicity, and comfort to establish the standard of excellence and incorporating innovative features like environmental noise cancellation. The strength of their super successful Jambox portable speaker hinged not only on its ease-of-use and sleek design but on its powerful bass and the charming voice used when setting it. They also made it very easy to change and update those voices whenever the mood hits.

With 68% of Americans either overweight or obese, and the growing rate of lifestyle disease surpassing that of communicable disease, tracking one's health has become more important than ever. While devices like the Fitbit seek to address this issue, the UP is the first to combine practicality with style. It is this understanding of how best to connect these devices to people that has propelled Jawbone's success."It's about the next frontier of computing, about wearable products and we're one of the few companies geared up to do that," Bogard says.

We asked Jawbone's designer Yves Behar about the role of design at the company.

How does UP fit into Jawbone's design vocabulary?

"My role for the last few years now has been to envision unique and authentic creative that spans a product, it’s packaging, it’s UI and UX, it’s communication and much more.  I call it “inescapable engagement”, every part of the encounter between a person and the Jawbone brand/product follows a story that fulfils un-met desires: simplicity of form, tactile delight in materials and textures, expressive differentiation.


Solving the macro and the micro, removing the friction that technology often adds to human experiences, communicating genuinely, surprising at every step...all are part of the challenges we tackle at the design level, but also at the management level with the CEO Hosain Rahman."

What was the a-ha moment when you knew you had the design nailed?

"I am never quite sure we have nailed it! So, we keep working at it, trying more detail variations, playing with 0.1mm subtleties on the design till we are right, and till we are wrong.  It’s only then that we “know” for sure.

When prototypes arrive in the studio, and that’s often a daily occurrence, we can start wearing the products, feeling the subtle tactile changes...and so, when I saw the wave texture reflecting the light just right, and the bracelet felt at home on my wrist, and the metal detail was brushed right, and one of the designers said “when can I get one of those to wear? It’s ok if the battery is not charged I just want to wear it”, then the a-ha moment came!"

The Jawbone UP is due to be released later this year.

3 November 2011 Update: Jawbone's UP is now available.

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