Cisco Webcast

Premium audio recording with an undisturbed focus on content creation.

Designed by Nils Achenbach and Felix Wildberger in 2022

“Your life, your Cisco”

My second term project of the first study year focused on implementing a strategic design process into my design approach. Starting with a company with a clearly defined brand or corporate identity, the objective was to analyze and name the company’s history, brand, products, core values and brand personality.

In a second step, strategic design opportunities were identified, and a product was designed to reflect the characteristics of the company’s current and future design identity.

My class had the great pleasure of collaborating with the American company Cisco. Cisco helps businesses, governments, agencies, organizations, and numerous nations as strategic partners to create secure, high-performance communications networks that enable them to collaborate better – so that critical processes succeed faster and evolve in a digitally protected way.

Cisco offers solutions for almost all areas of network operation. The most popular products include routers, switches (LAN, SAN), WLAN systems, video conferencing systems, TelePresence applications, network management, security firewalls, virtual private networks, and digital authentication capabilities.

Following the motto “Your life, your Cisco,” I began working with my team partner Felix Wildberger: the task was to gain an overview of Cisco’s overwhelming product range and, in particular, to identify the company’s unique feature propositions, design language, CMF formulas, and iconic design elements.

In this analysis, we limited ourselves to product solutions that are directly operated by the user – such as all Webex products, conference cameras, table microphones, and HotDesk booking systems.

Pure audio and video recording is at the core of Webex products

When analyzing the product portfolio, we quickly realized that video and sound recording play an essential role in Webex products – a unifying element that is visually reflected in the design language. A chamfered metal ring encircles the camera system, creating a distinctive element of the Webex product family.

The Cisco-owned communication platform Webex has been optimized to represent each participant in a videoconference in the best possible way, using intelligent software enhancements in the background.

We wanted to use this unique know-how from Cisco as the basis for our strategic product development. So it felt natural and logical to explore new opportunities in video and audio communication.

To better understand the background of the camera and audio systems, we contacted Cisco engineers and learned about their development processes. Then, at a later stage, we could draw on this knowledge, and together we optimized the design of our desk microphone for optimal recording results.

Designed for vertical and horizontal orientation

To address the versatile usage scenarios of podcasters, we decided to design for two recording modes at the beginning of the design process.

The Desk Microphone is magnetically attached to a tiltable stand in Single Recording mode. It can optionally be connected to a MIDI device or computer with a USB-C cable on the back of the attachment plate. This mode is especially suited for video conferencing, phone calls, or VoiceOver setups. A condenser microphone in the unit’s center can pick up voices with optimal clarity. The microphone is ideally located 10-15 centimeters from the speaker, pointing in the normal direction towards the presenter. In this vertical configuration, the center recording button in the front is easy to reach: The capacitive metal bar on top serves as a mute button and can be tapped without leaving any noise on the audio track.

In another usage scenario, the microphone is placed horizontally on a flat surface and can thus be used as an omnidirectional recording device. Six microphones optimized for this purpose are arranged in a circular pattern. A light ring under the metal grid indicates the exact position of the recorded voices and provides visual feedback to each individual guest in case the voice should be too far away from the microphone.

Early prototyping

We decided to build semi-functional prototypes for the table and clip-on microphones in the early concept phase to better understand the various usage scenarios and dimensions.

To ensure the functionality of the prototypes, we had to improvise and experiment in many ways. For example, we found ways to insert magnets into the 3D print by pausing the 3D printer at about half the print time. This allowed us to significantly reduce the volume of the silicone, resulting in a more realistic prototype. We then inserted a shortened Lavalier microphone into the prototype and were able to use our prototype in a fully functional way. Hooray!

We created the table stand for the condenser microphone using a simple division of the 3D-printed parts and long screws.

Making these prototypes was essential for us, as this process allowed us to iteratively refine and try out both devices in a very short time frame.

WebCast – audio recording that grows with your skillset as a creator.

With the Webcast product family, Cisco offers a series of premium sound recording devices designed specifically for entry-level podcasters and streamers. The DeskMic, DeskStand, WirelessGo Transmitters, and LavalierMic have been developed to be a modular product family that grows with the user’s skillset.

Webex builds the foundation for the Webcast product lineup as a reliable and secure communication platform. The software provides podcasters with a centralized place to organize, record, post-process, and share their creative work.

The Webcast Desk Microphone was designed for maximum recording flexibility to allow more guests to be invited into the conversation with uncompromised audio quality. Podcast hosts can expand their audio configuration with optional Lavalier microphone clips to achieve optimal recording quality. In addition, the ultra-light clips can be matched to the guest’s outfit using interchangeable silicone cases.

All audio products communicate with the “WirelessGo Reciever” via radio connection to ensure a secure and reliable data stream. All this happens to manage the audio setup intelligently so that the podcaster can focus on content creation.

Lean more about the design process and features of the Webcast product family.

“At first, I had difficulties getting used to the technical specifications, which are one of the biggest obstacles for podcasters today. For me personally, Webcast would make both the transport and the technical setup easier so I can focus entirely on my guests, no matter the location. For me, this concept would undoubtedly revolutionize the way we do podcasts in the future.”

Julia Czutta Muñoz, spanish-austrian podcaster.
Mujeres del Mundo is a spanish podcast starring women working in diplomacy.
mujeresdelmundo.org