For this question, we turned to Mikoaj Wiewióra of Poznań-based Industrial Design Studio Mindsailors, which has been developing products for 15 years, beginning from concept through mechanics and electronics to production and sale.

- Mindsailors is a team of designers with engineering experience as well as engineers and programmers with a passion for design, said Mikołaj Wiewióra. - 'We are an industrial design studio creating a product from both the design and technology side. Most products wouldn't exist without electronics, so we took on the challenge of building a team of electronics engineers. For larger projects, we also co-operate with EMS companies, the contractors who produce the electronics for our customers.


Mikołaj Wiewióra and the interior of a design studio in Poznań.



Designing in the Poznan studio starts with understanding the client's needs and ideas. This is a stage that at Mindsailors is called Predesign. The message contained in the project brief, i.e. a list of goals, requirements and assumptions regarding the idea for a new or modified product, written out by the client, must be clear. The designers analyse the list point by point, produce a response to the brief, where they clarify the objectives. Then - in consultation with the client - they create the first sketches of the product in a stage lasting one to three months, called Conceptual Design.


Design process at Mindsailors sp.z o.o.

- From a design point of view, it is a relatively simple and predictable process, but when embedded electronics are involved, it is more difficult, says Mikołaj Wiewióra. - It is not entirely clear what should come first. On the one hand, design can determine the shape and thus what should be inside, while on the other hand, today's production possibilities and the availability of electronic components (semiconductors), which has been a gigantic problem in the world of electronics for the past two years, sometimes determine the shape of the device. This is the point at which we as a design office have to find a way out of this impasse. We make the assumption that design comes first, but underpinned by the knowledge of the number of electronic components needed arranged on a specific area of the PCB. We work on a base sketch of the 3D solid and consult with the embedded electronics team to make sure the electronics will fit. This way of designing allows us to show visual concepts that have a real chance of making it to the next stage without drastic changes in proportions or dimensions. Sometimes we want to go outside the box and change the proportions of the PCB or go for flexible electronics - and interestingly enough, the client often chooses a design that meets all the requirements but goes slightly beyond the brief.

After discussing all the pros and cons with the stakeholders of the new product, the designers at Mindsailors move on to the Targeted Conceptual Design and Targeted Prototype for electronics stages. Up to this point, the risks are not yet very big, but they increase as the project becomes physical, because all the technological problems have to be taken into account, which is particularly difficult with complex or waterproof devices. The end of this stage is the best time to produce a tangible and good quality prototype, which can finally be touched. The original vision can be compared with the real object, after weeks of work and countless discussions.


POTZ BALANCE - an unconventional mechanism for winding watches, provided by a gyroscopic movement mirroring the natural movement of the wrist. Design authors: Mikołaj Wiewióra, Artur Niedbało, Anita Rogoża © Mindsailors sp. z o.o. - 3D mechanical model, prototype and PCB.

The design studio starts the Mechanical Design phase, which involves designing the inside of the product, from the arrangement of components such as latches, ribs etc. to the documentation, to the production of the first (and subsequent) mechanical prototype and Firmware, i.e. writing the software that operates the device's electronics. Often embedded programmers write additional code snippets that allow the team to test further functionality of the new product.

- We need to prove to the client that what we have envisaged will actually work. We make a prototype that shows not only the shape of the product, but also the electronics that fit inside and work well, continues Mikołaj Wiewióra. - At the Mechanical Design stage, we usually try to test individual elements of the prototype, which we make out of foam, metal or with the help of a 3D printer, such as the ergonomics of the solid, the closing of the case on the latches or the flexibility of the cable protection element. This phase lasts about a year.


Test electronics assembly and firmware writing.

The next elements of the process are Design for Manufacturing and Design for Launch, which is the production design of the enclosure, taking into account all the previous requirements, but also optimised for manufacturing and assembly. On the electronics side, this is the launch of the designed device, which is an iterative process. In software, these changes take a few hours or days, while in hardware they take a few weeks or months, sometimes even longer.

- As a design studio, we supervise production in the final phase called Production Supervision. To test a product idea, we are able to produce small series of products in cooperation with a tool shop and a company specialising in injection moulding. The same applies to electronics, which we produce ourselves or with the help of trusted subcontractors (including EMS). During the first trials in the factory, we answer all questions, show photo documentation and explain our intentions during the design process, as well as our expectations regarding the form, surface structure and function of the new product. This is necessary because drawings and 3D models do not always show everything accurately. We always design the mechanical model with all the technological principles in mind, such as the correct inclination of the walls and divisions, so that the housing component comes out of the injection mould without any problems, explains Mikołaj Wiewióra. - EMS’s have a nice benefit that, if they receive the casing, they are able to deliver a complete product. Injection mould vendors do not always have the competence to put in the electronics, as this involves a series of specialised tests. It also happens that the customer himself hands over to the electronics manufacturer a ready-made enclosure found on the market, which does not meet the conditions of the design. In this case, an EMS turns to the design studio to correct it or create it anew. However, these are still rare situations.


Devices designed at Mindsailors sp. z o.o. From left: STEAMIE steamer; AioCare portable spirometer; SARAEYE - AI home assistant with 360-degree rotating camera lens; PREGNABIT - portable KTG for monitoring fetal heart rate, mother's pulse and uterine contractions. There is an interesting story associated with the latter, as it turned out that the designer involved in the whole process was pregnant, so the client went to great lengths to get her idea implemented quickly and gave the designer the finished product as a gift so that she could test PREGNABIT herself as the target user.

It also takes a few months to get a particular device into serial or mass production that is 100% in line with the design team's expectations. At Mindsailors, this is usually handled by two people associated with a particular project, who take care of all the implementation details. They prepare the mechanical and electronic parts list and check the availability of components, subassemblies and PCBs. They also keep an eye on proper communication and the timely transfer of files saved in a universal format between the design team, the tool room and the electronics manufacturer.


Mindsailors Industrial Design Studio team in Poznań.

- When the test injection moulded components come out as we expect them to, and the electronics work and are tested according to our recommended procedure, this marks the end of the design work for us. Once production is up and running, we are still at the client's disposal, but if both parties, the client and the manufacturer, already know what they have to do, then our help is unnecessary for them. We try to bring the project to a point where we no longer need to intervene - concludes Mikołaj Wiewióra.

Interviewed and compiled by Agnieszka Kubasik

Click here to read the interview in the original version in Polish!


We will present our projects as an exhibitor at the one-day fair, which will be held on 30 March at Tarczynski Arena Wrocław. The organiser is the electronics industry information service 


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