INTO THE USER EXPERIENCE
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
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
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.
WHY sTEP OuTsIDE
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
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
“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,”
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
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
FuNcTIONALITY Is jusT
“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.
cONNEcTED AT THE HIP – IGT’s
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.