An in-depth look at the reasoning, process and obstacles of designing and developing the world’s first Internet of Things search engine.
The First Iteration
It all started in November 2013 when Umbrellium tasked me with creating a map of where all the connected devices of the world are, and what they are. One important initial constraint was we had to do it fast, the goal was to go from concept to final piece in 1 month. That’s going from absolutely nothing, other than a grand idea, to something branded, designed and developed in 22 working days with the aid of a backend developer. This was meant to both accelerate the process but also force us to find and focus on the essence of the project.
The deadline was met and the first iteration of Thingful was released on December 12th, 2013. It mapped thousands of diverse kinds of public things that were connected to the internet, even unexpected things like sharks and turtles. You could click on things to find out more and have discussions via comments. It was featured in well-regarded international publications.
With only a few days to put together a simple but scalable identity system, this was an intense period. My approach was to focus on figuring out what the brand should stand for, what its persona should be.
An important aspect was to think big — as big as the idea behind it — which led me away from the standardised branding of technology startups. The identity had to be appealing for the initial tech enthusiasts but at the same time it should not feel distancing or menacing to normal folks who are sensitive to this kind of information being publicly available. I thought the answer was to create an identity system based on values of trust and clarity, and guide our ways with a product mission to help find the humanity in an Internet of Things world.
The name originated from thinking of adjectives for the product, like meaningful and beautiful. It was a matter of merging those with the subject of the product, the things, so it became Thingful. This seemed to communicate exactly what the product was, full of things.