By Chrisie Yabu,

Photographs by Peter Walker,

Design by Ryan Keller,

Creative Direction by Kevin Melahn

How frog design’s approach

became more than a lily pad –

but a launching pad to sbX

We’re south of

Market street in san

Francisco, where smart

technology firms meet industrial

warehouse spaces

and where parking is a highly

sought-after commodity. Not too

far from the ballpark is the unassuming

building of frog design,

a strategic-creative consultancy that

incorporates an integrated process of

research, strategy and design and turns

these into meaningful solutions. One solution

is IGT’s world-class user interface – the

single-source gateway to the entire Experience

Management solution, sbX .

frog design was founded in 1969 by indus-

trial designer Hartmut Esslinger and his partners in

Germany. His mantra was “Form follows emotion.”

Even Yves Behar, a leading figure in industrial design,

was once an employee at frog. Today, frog has several

locations around the globe. The firm has helped many

innovative companies like Apple, Microsoft, Dell and Yahoo!

with their user experiences and emerging business opportunities.



Frogs and IgT IGT engaged frog to design

an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for the

sbX system that properly reflects the IGT brand

and meets usability requirements for server-based

gaming. “We chose frog because of their track record

and reputation across the technology industry,” said

Javier Saenz, vice president of product management

and marketing for IGT Network Systems. IGT realized

that creating a user experience was more than just

putting a color palette together and adding in some

cool features. “This is the main interaction with our

software, and that is really important when you think

about our users and their needs,” Saenz said.

The main “frogs” consisted of Jennifer Killian,

creative director; Celine Pering, senior design analyst;

Sheila Vyas, design analyst; Dhana Dhanasarnsombat,

visual designer; Sung Cha, visual designer; and

Mike Shay, program director. Their interdisciplinary

philosophy and combined experience with research,

human computer interaction (HCI), product design,

visual design, animation and motion studies were

what IGT sought. The frog team worked closely with

IGT’s team in a highly collaborative effort to meet

customer needs.

Jennifer Killian, Celine Pering, Sung Cha and Dhana

Dhanasarnsombat are part of the frog team. Shelia Vyas

and Mike Shay are also key players on this project.




The frog design team brought a

fresh perspective to the assignment.

“Sometimes people get a little too

close to things,” said the frog design

general manager. “Our team had

insights and perspectives from other

industries which were helpful and

successful to the project. This was

true especially in the area of

data visualization.”


desIgn. delIver. frog met IGT’s

objectives with an effective approach to the process.

A lot of companies start with how an interface might

look. Others may even start with how the interface

might be developed from an engineering perspective.

frog taught IGT that the best methodology starts with

insight and observation.

dIscovery sTarTs wITh eThnography

Representatives from frog and IGT went onsite at

several properties, interviewed casino employees in

various positions, and then observed them in their

offices using the research method of ethnography.

“Understanding user needs is incredibly important

to this process,” said Sheila Vyas, frog design analyst.

“Observing them in their offices, seeing the maps on

their walls, noticing how much they rely on paper

as well as software was profound. These barriers

and daily realities help us translate what hurts into

practical solutions.”

“We talked to people with different roles in the

casino,” said Jennifer Killian, frog creative director.

“One of the main insights was the use of the

visual floor map and how operators thought about

their business in terms of machines and location

of machines on the floor more than anything else,”

she said.

Most of our competitors claim they are customercentric

– but this is probably done in a rather anecdotal,

informal way. “I believe we are the only ones with a

true customer-centered approach to our design

process, where it is a core part of the methodology,”

said Chad Little, IGT Network Systems Architect.




Ethnography is a research method

based on observing people in their

natural environments rather than a formal

research setting. Ethnography findings

are insights that encompass people’s

different perceptions. These finds reveal

strong patterns that become formal design

principles. Most patterns are latent needs

that were not directly expressed through

something like an interview, but rather

observed from a combination of events.

Chad Little, Craig Schaefer, Bhavani Prasad,

Andy Novotak, Garrett Olson and Danny Miles

are key contributors to the IGT sbX initiative.


all abouT The purple people “One

casino executive told us that it was all about the

purple people. He was referring to his high net-worth

players on a visual floor map, indicated in purple,”

said Celine Pering, the main frog researcher on the

project. “What this did for us was allow us to review

different conceptual models. What if we designed

the interface to be time-centric? Or player-focused?

Or money-centric? You can see how this might affect

the design and functionality of the interface.”

Another insight was that casinos are somewhat

similar to the medical and air traffic control fields. “In

the casino environment, there are manual processes

still in place and some paper-based procedures,”

said Pering. “The accountants, especially, pulled data

from various tools and typically would print reports

and highlight them.”

archeTypIng IGT and frog determined that roles

and responsibilities vary across casino properties.

This affected how the team looked at user groups.

What resulted were six user archetypes that had

similarities by function, not by job title. “Archetyping

is so important because we needed to design an

application that provided good interaction for the

various archetypes,” Killian said.

Some of these discoveries seem obvious to the


operator who lives and breathes these realities every

day. However, these observations were critical in

translating insights into design concepts that had to

fulfill the needs of the user.

TranslaTIng desIgn aTTrIbuTes vIsually

Several design directions were considered and one

was chosen. “The interface is intended to delight the

user and be enjoyable but functional,” said Dhana

Dhanasarnsombat, frog’s main visual designer on

the project. “This translated into an organic look with

soothing ambient tones. The casino floor is busy,

loud and kind of glamorous. We wanted the user

experience to be warm, with a luxurious, sophisticated

palette and elegant curves.”

“We thought about the glass surfaces and shapes

in some of these casino properties, and how they

mix with the energy and motion of the casino floor,”

Dhanasarnsombat said. “I also envisioned someone

working long hours. I thought about an office setting

with wooden furniture and making the experience a

pleasant environment so you can withstand being

there for long periods of time.”

The user interface was also designed to highlight

IGT’s brand attributes and bring forth the various

game theme icons and the shapes of machines on

the visual display.


Logical display of information within the interface is as equally

important as the design. It increases productivity. IGT put some

of this in the hands of the users and their preferences.


The interface was designed to meet brand attributes such

as humanistic, innovative, omniscient and enjoyable.

sbX Floor Manager captured the 2008 top award

in Best Productivity-Enhancement Technology for Global

Gaming Business.




Sung Cha, frog visual designer and main

animator for the software, described

how he incorporated movement and

motion studies into the user interface.

“We included air and water in the

design – and looked at how things

appear and disappear,” he said.

“Because the casino is like a living

organism, there are elements of

bouncing and rippling and things like

that, which elevate the user experience.”

sbX Media Manager captured

the 2009 top award in Best


Technology for Global

Gaming Business.



“We wanted to allow for all the

functionality, too,” said Mike Shay, frog

program director in charge of keeping

the entire project on time, budget and

strategy. “Because of our archetypes,

we wanted a drag-and-drop experience

alongside a logical display of information

on the screen. We also incorporated

widgets to allow for simple tasks to be

done, especially those that related to

time and scheduling.”


The goods IGT’s user interface is

the gateway to the whole sbX system. Some of the

core capabilities of sbX include the ability to access

the IGT game library to download and configure game

content, analyze machine performance, schedule and

review all floor modifications, and use visualization

tools to manage the floor.

In the delivery phase, the project details were

specified and documented. IGT will further develop

the software into new and exciting applications and

modules of the system.

The resulTs The result of IGT’s user interface

is greater than what was originally conceived. It is

more than a GUI; it’s an experience that is intended

to make interaction with the software better, even a

little bit enjoyable, and most importantly, help make

employees more productive.

This single interface will be the launching pad

into all of sbX. IGT didn’t want to take the user

experience lightly. That’s why it was a serious

decision and important commitment to work with the

gurus of user experience design. By using a sound

methodology and creating a partnership with the

experts, IGT believes it has leapfrogged forward.

Javier Saenz, Mike Ulichny, Eric Lancaster, Adrian Marcu, Rich

Schneider, Donovan Meyer and Joe Moore represent the core

IGT sbX team.




The process was not done in a vacuum. The core

team at IGT was immersed in the project in all areas

of discovery and design. In addition, IGT took the

lead on the architecture of the software based on

users’ needs and IGT’s business goals. “It was a

balance of outside perspective and inside, in-depth

casino knowledge,” Saenz said.

IGT Las Vegas

6355 South Buffalo Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89113-2133

702-669-7777 Fax 669-8686

© 2009 IGT. All rights reserved.

sbX is a trademark of IGT in the US and/or other countries.

Artwork, descriptions, game play, photographs, videos and other product details depicted are subject to change.


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