📱 Tech

Interview: wearables company Misfit on designing beautiful, durable tech

"We definitely don’t think that every woman would want to wear the same thing"

By Holly Brockwell February 12, 2016

As we’ve reported before, Misfit are one of the brands getting wearables for women absolutely right. Smart (in both senses of the word), stylish and packed with features, their affordable fitness trackers are some of our all-time favourites.

We caught up with Amy Puliafito, Misfit’s Director of Communications to talk about the company, the products, the future of wearables – and the infamous problem with their Misfit Shine 2.

Here’s what she had to say.

Hi Amy!

Misfit is considered one of the few brands that actually gets designing for women right. What are the challenges for designing tech for women?

They’re similar to the challenges in designing tech for everyone, which means something that’s beautiful, comfortable, durable, easy to use – in tech you want your products to be easy to use. And very intuitive – that’s important.

You don’t want someone to have to read a manual to try and figure out how to use your product – which sounds reasonable, in some ways. “Oh, there’s instructions!” But the pace at which people try to adapt and get rid of technology is pretty fast.

What do you think women want to see in their wearables? Some brands seem to think it’s just bling – chuck as much diamanté as they can on it.

I think taste is a very complex thing, it’s hard to sum it up. But we’ve tried to make something that is really elegant, and can be customised to a bunch of different styles. We definitely don’t think that every woman would want to wear the same thing, so we tried to make something that was really customisable and versatile, so even the same person, even if they’re wearing a different outfit can wear the product.

So it’s all about choice?

Yeah!

You recently unveiled the Ray, not long after the Shine 2. Why another product so soon?

Shine 2 is really a reinvention of our iconic Shine. With Shine 2 we added the vibration motor and the multi-coloured lights, two of these ways of giving feedback to the user, with activity nudges, and text and call notifications… I think Ray is just another versatile option.

Like I said, I don’t think everyone wants to wear the same thing. And Ray is supposed to be more versatile in the way that you can even wear it with a watch. It looks a little bit funny to wear two circular type things. Some people like that aesthetic, and some people would rather have just one device, and not change. Ray is meant to be stacked with bracelets, to be stacked with a watch, or just worn on its own.

Misfit Ray

It’s a very different form factor to the Shine. Is that partly because of the problems you’ve had with the discs falling out on the Shine?

No, I mean, we’ve had this in development for a lot longer than since we launched Shine 2. For Shine 2 we’re definitely addressing those issues.

So there’s a fix on the way?

Yeah. We have an immediate fix, and then we have a long-term fix. The immediate fix is I think probably a new action clip for it to hold it in, and then long term hopefully it’ll be maybe just one band that is really secure. I mean, it’s challenging, because you don’t want a big band that covers the device, because it’s so beautiful.

The other thing that I will say is that part of the problems that people are having with losing their device, is because they’re not putting the action clip in correctly. So we have a little video that shows how to do that. And it’s really on us to make it an easy experience for the user. That said, the video does make it a little easier to figure out how to put the action clip in.

So when the immediate fix comes out, is that going to go to everyone who’s already got the Shine 2?

Yeah, it’s gonna be for people who email help@misfit.com So if you have any issues with any of your products, just email help@misfit.com.

[This includes UK customers.]

Are you going to be doing a Swarovski version of the Shine 2?

Well Swarovski has actually updated the Swarovski Shine to have new features, so that’s really a question for them. But yeah, they now have the link button functionality and text and call notifications. They also have some concepts, like different colours, and different accessories for the Swarovski Shine. Actually, this a big piece of news for UK readers! In the UK, the Swarovski Shine collection will be available, finally!

We checked with Swarovski and the collection is due to launch in the UK this quarter. Hooray!

Misfit is pretty innovative in their product range, and you’ve been diversifying into lightbulbs, and other areas, so do you still define yourselves as a wearables company?

Misfit Shine 2 Swarovski

Yeah. Wearables and smart home.

Just those two areas?

Well they’re pretty big areas! I mean, we’re a technology company at our heart. If anybody asks what sort of company I work for, I would tell them I work for a technology company – hardware and software.

Which tech companies do you think are doing really well? Which ones do you admire?

Netflix. I’m really impressed with them. I think what they’re doing is basically just the future of media. They’ve done so much on surveying customers with content that they’d like, obviously they’re really innovative as far as providing personalised, customised content based on what you like. They were really one of the first companies to do that.

The innovation on the technology side I think is very interesting for Netflix too. The streaming technology. But in addition, the stuff they’ve done on the original content side is just incredible. I really love Chef’s Table, I’ve just been watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I love, and Narcos, House of Cards… I just think their original content is so good. And it’s not generic at all, which is I think what people’s concerns are when they think about mass media and large media companies. It’s very, very cool. So I love Netflix and really admire everything they’re doing.

I also think LinkedIn is a hot, hot company. LinkedIn is really changing the way people communicate and find opportunities, and get news about what’s going on… just completely changing that entire industry. So my two favourite tech companies – other than Misfit and Fossil of course – and Fossil is now becoming more of a tech company, now that it has Misfit, but it’s an accessories company and a watch-maker I guess primarily, but my favourite two tech companies other than us are Netflix and LinkedIn.

What’s the gender split like at Misfit? Do you have policies in place for hiring and keeping women on?

Since we’re now part of Fossil, that’s really a question for Fossil Group. But yeah, we’ve got some really amazing female folks at the company. We have Amy Lee, who’s on our hardware engineering team, our head of visual design is a woman – Julie Kin – and she’s fantastic. We have an amazing industrial designer, she’s the industrial design lead, under our VP of product and design named Diana Chang. She developed Specter, our headphones, as well as our Bolt lightbulb last year, so she’s really an outstanding industrial designer. She was formerly with Fuse Project, so she’s got a lot of experience under her belt. .

And, you know, a bunch of others. We have an amazing software engineer who’s a woman as well. I mean, I think the diversity split could always be better in Silicon Valley, we need more women for sure, and that’s something I’m very passionate about, and that I think a lot about. It’s interesting, because people who don’t work in tech, don’t really know what it’s like, you know? Here we are at a tradeshow – and actually there’s quite a few women in the Misfit booth right now – but generally, it’s mostly dudes in blazers.

Have you had any techniques that have worked for you in terms of hiring women in Silicon Valley?

Yeah, I mean, I can’t really speak to hiring, as I don’t do a tonne of hiring myself. I think the main thing is having a great team of people who are open minded and who want to mentor; want to educate; want to bring up the best people. I have lots of female engineering friends, and they’re in really high demand! So I just hope more young women are encouraged to get into engineering.

It’s challenging because people need role models. And so if they don’t have the role model, even if they have the opportunity, they might not take it. So it’s really important to promote people, and share their successes. One of the great things about Misfit is, I’m basically in a non-technical role, but I’ve had a lot of interaction with engineers and different folk.

What do you guys think you’ll be making in ten years from now?

Gosh, I don’t know! I think that this space is going to continue to change over the next ten years. I think the next year we’re going to be really focussing on Fossil Group.

Do you think we’ll still have wearables in ten years?

Yes, absolutely. I think they’re going to continue to become invisible – the technology – and the design’s going to become more and more beautiful.

Check out our hands-on with the upcoming Misfit Ray here.


Main image: Misfit