Product design is probably one of the most controversial and evocative subjects that we deal with. The first question to ask before offering an opinion should be, “what is a design”? Well, a design is by definition, something which is planned, invented or devised for a specific or particular purpose. Whether the skills required to realise a design are artistic, skilful, mechanical functional or other, depends entirely on what it is for. If a simple mechanical fix is enough, then it should be considered. If a sweeping complex and challenging visual was the “design intent”, for example the vision that the designer had in his/her head, or the adaptation of another tried and proven process solves the problem then, in it goes.
Our approach to design in , is partly the industry we are in, why we got into it the first place, mostly though it is the bitter experience of getting a product that we cannot get, manufactured consistently. The key to product design is to us knowing how the product will work in reverse. What are the constraints? If we have not assembled a beautiful prototype, from the resource and expertise of our team and our external partners, then we are designing to fail. Badly.
“ We examine what is, before we investigate what is possible, or outwardly impossible ”
We isolate into major features, subdivide into sub features and function and form, and go to our internal and external teams to see what is current and repeatable, and in terms that we understand and most important of all, in terms everybody can deliver. We never take chances on repeatability and that is someway to the key of what we are trying to do here. We do not and will never take full blown engineering specification and ram it down the throats of everybody we trust to know better….……because we know they do.
Typically we will present a finished concept or idea, taking care to identify the key measurables of the output, or how it should all end up either functionally or visually, and listen to the routes to completion as identified by the experts.
™ began life as a diary entry about a tonal and visual concept, and we built from how we saw it, backwards. The visual look of the range was discussed and settled, the prototype chassis were specified and commission, and the cabinets were here and covered in the choice colour before even one component had been inserted onto a board! But………we knew that we had to have the board at twice the thickness for stability, printed layouts and eyelet construction for repeatability and tonal accuracy, star grounds and specific component specs for the package to be quiet, and transformer specs so far in excess of what we would need, that you would hear the difference and never risk getting close to killing one!
“ We found ourselves leaving components out of the tone path, because they served no purpose being there in a ™ package ”
Another key for us, is that we design in isolation. We do not reference any competitive product, or market information, rather we keep one eye firmly on who our audience is. Our customer, the guitar player who is looking for something innovative, individual and striking to see, killer reliability and tone to die for. We are all guitar players here. We do not recruit non guitar players because what can they know? You cannot scope and analyse tone. You can use good tools to help your ears though, because the days are very long and the coffee does get too much. Anybody who tells you that playing does not matter, will never get the feeling of a large piece of audio equipment behind you like a friend and an enemy, often all within an instant! That eternal struggle to get that touch tone and feel, and then to deliver it to people who have paid to see it, and to people you could not pay to see it again. We are on a mission to make that performance art so much more fun than fighting with gear, and looking like the last band on!
To explain just a little, have any of you have ever visited a motor show where they introduce you to the concept car? Then, have you eagerly waited for the release of the production version only to discover that the badge is all you recognise. Worse than that, did anybody actually order on that basis?
For Example, the first car you see is the appetiser. The one with the flowing lines, style, attitude to die for. The picture is deliberately smaller to give the production car half a chance. But………………
………………..It clearly has no chance at all. Not close !
Wondered why that is?
We are not trying to use the example as a criticism (although if you guys wish to offer the concept up, we have a few names to put down!) but as an explanation to help Concept V Actual. The chalk and cheese example.
Normally, a designer has a truly great vision that can be only done once and the production reality is very often that………
- It is way too expensive to do in the first place, but doesn’t it look cool !
- It is very cool, but you want me to make two the same ?
- I have no idea how you would make them in production at all !
- Looks great, but you have broken every safety rule in the book!
- I loved it………….yesterday!
- Super concept……………….get me 75% out of the cost and we will make it!
Truly great design stands the test of time………so we take our time! It is a big challenge.
To innovate we understand that you have to be, or appear to be, timeless and classic or new or all of the above.
All of the things we do are deliberately big asks, but our competition is just us and the expectation of our customer.
We never really feel under pressure to do other than that.