Fitbit says its new Ionic smartwatch is inspired by space

Fitbit considers fitness a journey. So in designing the Fitbit Ionic what better journey to take inspiration from than space travel? That’s what Fitbit’s VP of Design says motivated the design of its new fitness smartwatch.

Interstellar, The Martian, Gravity. Just a few recent space-themed movies that Jonah Becker, VP of Industrial Design at Fitbit must have in his film collection. Speaking to him at IFA 2017 he gave Trusted Reviews the full low-down into what went into the industrial design of the new Fitbit Ionic, which is the first wearable from the company to be designed completely in-house.

The Ionic is all about space, he revealed. “We talk a lot at Fitbit about the idea of a health journey. Everyone’s health journey is unique. We were thinking about other types of journey and one thing we came to was space travel and exploration. It’s an area where you have technology and optimism and progress and innovation. There’s this boiling down to the essential needs to get you where you need to be.”

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Jonah said that it was this mantra that influenced the design and material selections of the new Fitbit Ionic, such as the slightly spherical glass over the display that “mimics the surface of the earth or other planets. If you think of the GPS, and tracking movement over the surface of the planet, there’s a small parallel, almost a hardware Easter egg.”

The way that space travel has permeated popular culture and optimism is what Fitbit was aiming to capture, and this also drove the direction of the colour palettes. This rings true for the rather eye-catching Burnt Orange model that comes with a slate blue band.

“When we started looking into it, we thought what recent space movies are there? There’s The Martian. And then there’s Elon Musk and the science community wanting to colonise Mars. When in the past space used to mean Star Wars and Star Trek, and black and white, now it’s come to an idea of Mars from an entertainment standpoint and from the scientific community.”

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“The tone of the metal body was inspired by Martian landscapes, pairing that with the blue grey, which is more technical, representing the intersection of human technology with this landscape.”

The other Fitbit Ionic colour options are smoke grey, a more traditional space colour, and silver grey. Becker said that there was a conscious decision to go for something lighter and more optimistic than the black used for previous Fitbit devices like the Charge 2. “We were looking at other recent movies, like Interstellar where you have its icy landscapes.”

“It’s inspired [by space], we’re not trying to be overly-literal about it but it is a theme that permeated both the colours and the materials,” he continued.

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Fitbit Ionic range

Elsewhere in smartwatch industrial design, there’s long been a debate over square versus circular designs, and on this Jonah Becker also had some thoughts:

“Philosophically we’ve been committed to a square design versus round for some time. You can go back to early trackers, or Surge and into Blaze. That’s really driven by the fact that, in my opinion, round displays is looking backwards. It’s what people are comfortable with because there’s history there.”

“That form was defined by mechanical movement, watches that have hour, second, minute hands that sweep in a radial, circular form. When I look at the form of a pixel and how they’re laid out, when I look at typography and type of notifications and types of information you want to display, I think a recta-linear display makes sense.”

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With many smartwatches now moving towards circular designs, this is clearly an issue that has proponents on both sides. The other stalwart of square designs is clearly the Apple Watch, one of the most prevalent smartwatches on the market, so Becker isn’t alone in his view that round designs hold smartwatch functionality back.

What do you think of the new Fitbit Ionic? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.