An Evolutionary Process

Karthik Subramaniam
3 min readMay 27, 2017

This entry is part of an ongoing series. Please refer to the first entry here.

Originally, the group tried to adhere to more traditional dock design language: phone at the front with the electronics attached to a protrusion on the rear. Users would place the phone at the front of PowerDock, and the solar panel would be placed right behind the phone, with the wiring being stored in a body underneath the two objects.

The above images are one of the more general concepts that were created to showcase this vision. One of the elements in this design that reappeared in other concepts and ultimately in the final product is the support structure that the back of the phone would rest on. This would put less stress on the Lighting connector itself to balance the weight of the device.

Another thing to note is that this design was dictated by the width of the phone, not the width of the panel. As such, the device was a lot more compact and less practical than we needed it to be, as we soon learned.

Our designs once again evolved once we knew the dimensions of the solar panel; it became clear that this traditional design philosophy was the wrong approach.

These designs were more logistical and less aesthetic than previous iterations. With the panel measuring in at 5.1" by 5.9", we needed the body itself to be larger than those dimensions to give everything adequate breathing room.

The image in the bottom left gave us an x-ray view into the device, looking at the electronics. Within the inch of body depth, we needed to fit a Lightning to USB cable, a rectifier, and leads that would be soldered to this rectifier and panel. The rectifier was perhaps the most important component because it achieved the current conversion necessary for proper power flow.

The lack of beauty in this design notwithstanding, there was also the natural issue caused by any scenario involving the panel being placed behind the phone. The sun would hit the phone first nearly half the time and cast a shadow on the panel, ultimately reducing efficiency.

The next revision involved placing the panel to the left or right of the phone. This limited the amount of shadow placed on the panel, but still wasn’t satisfactory to our standards. This device was unwieldy, ugly, and didn’t perform to maximum efficiency — a failure on nearly all levels of our goal. Then, an idea hit us.

Click here for the next entry in this series.



Karthik Subramaniam

I’m an empathy-driven UI/UX designer who focuses on accessibility, well-being, and joy. Check out my work at