Breadboard view of Fritzing (more recent version)

Fritzing is an electronic circuit design software focused on makers and enthusiasts, rather than engineers. For this, it takes special care to explain electronic circuits and to make them accessible, e.g. by a dedicated view that reflects the physical appearance of electronic parts. At the same time, it contains everything to design and document a full project and make it production ready.

Initiated at FH Potsdam (Reto Wettach & André Knörig), it was built for but also heavily with the maker community. Its open file format allows easy documentation and sharing of electronic projects, enabling and boosting open source in the hardware area. It’s widely used in the community for presenting open source projects, for feedback, and for learning.

I contributed as a UX and visual designer, mostly in the area of the “Parts Editor”, that helps users modify or create parts, modify their internal logic such as connection points to wires, and provides a taxonomy for the parts library. I also explored user interfaces for potential new features, such as electrical rules checking.

  • Parts Editor: Error messages for connectors

Remarks on Service Design

You can even order a professionally produced circuit board from within the application. This is a remarkable feature from an interface and service design perspective: From the user’s design, the software creates the necessary production files, shows prices directly within the app, collects information for shipping, and sends everything to a factory. The user doesn’t have to deal with file formats, production standards, researching a production facility, or negotiating contracts. All of this is taken care of through the application and the Fritzing Fab server. Considerable technical and commercial coordination has to be negotiated and operational in the background but it doesn’t come to the user’s attention.

Besides its merrits for advancing the open source ideas in the hardware sector, Fritzing has also explored a number of business models around an open source core software.

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