Astrobotic Technology, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, was selected by NASA's Small Business Innovation Research in 2017 to develop a small lunar rover architecture capable of performing small-scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. In March 2018, the team was awarded funds to move on to Phase II, and under this agreement, Astrobotic will produce a flight-ready rover that will fly on the Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021. This rover will be the first derivative of a CubeRover, a spinoff called IRIS, being developed completely by Carnegie Mellon University students
Oxcart began work on the new IRIS branding through a series of client interviews, surveys, and working sessions. While I participated as a member of the Oxcart team, the brilliant final logo and patch design was the work of Chris Logsdon. The client feedback from this branding exercise was crucial for the direction of the website as well. The goals of the IRIS team were to inspire other students and "space geeks" by telling their story of a tiny rover with huge ambitions. The brand should be memorable, simple, and sleek with a sense of movement. Red Whittaker, Chairman and CSO of Astrobiotic, stressed that anything put out would also need to be approved by the CMU brand team.
The final logo concept included subtle nods to the bottlecap style wheels of the rover and inverted R and S hinted at the the origin of the IRIS name being Siri backwards. The patch design included stars that also represent the camera flashes from the photos that IRIS will take.
Market research was done by analyzing and cataloging features and the design of other related sites. These included similar space programs such as NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover Mission and other "competitor" rover groups Spacebit, Dymon Co Ltd, and Puli Space Tech, other CMU sites such as the CMU Field Robotics Center, and sites from other organizations like the University of Minnesota Robotics Group.
A Project Goals Venn diagram document was completed to help keep all the stakeholder needs aligned:
A living Feature Roadmap document was started to map out the site requirements and potential features based on the client interviews and market research:
Three primary archetypes were created:
The Stargazer is a self-proclaimed "space nerd" and enthusiast. They watch Apollo documentaries, know astronomy facts, enjoy visits to the National Air & Space Museum, and have read Stephen Hawking. The group has an enormous amount of variability though in terms of other hobbies and interests, occupations, geographical location, and marital status. The Stargazer could be a teenager that loves sci-fi and video games or a grandpa that actually watched the first moon landing on TV. What unites this archetype is their love of space.
The Student may be an aspiring CMU engineer, an existing CMU student, or an engineering student in another school. They have a lot of demographic overlap with traditional students and a lot of interest overlap with The Stargazer. Note, that while STEM generally skews male, IRIS is a female-led team and there could be an opportunity there to specifically attract female STEM students to become fans of the project.
The science blogger is a member of the media who is writing a story on IRIS. They think they just want the hard cold facts and a quick download of the media kit, but giving them aesthetically appealing and engaging content it will subconsciously make them more enthusiastic, and accurate, in their writing.
Other potential users, whose goals will be similar to the above archetypes include:
- Friends and Family
- CMU faculty
- Aerospace recruiters
- Other lunar rover teams
Before design began, UI Requirements were formalized and a basic site map was created. Because the IA was relatively straightforward, no formal user or task flows were needed. As the client was already familiar with the Webflow, the site was designed specifically to work well for that platform. Based on client interviews and existing collateral, a punchy and bold artsy design aesthetic was chosen. Quick concept sketches were created with basic layout ideas:
The design went through a few minor changes, mostly aesthetic, based on internal feedback and tinkering, group crits, and a few rounds of prototype user testing. There were no issues with the general flow and usability of the site, which was expected as it was designed to be simple, straightforward, and bold.
Once the desktop designs were finalized, mobile versions were created.
The concept will be presented to the client for feedback and to get final copy and any updated graphic assets. User testing of a mobile prototype will then be conducted for any final iterations before moving onto building the final site.