I've been meaning to post this for a couple of months but I just never found the time to go through the records and pull together the files. This is one I've been working on for the last two years and included ethnographic research, segmentation, strategy, branding, product configuration, building a design language, product design, packaging, art direction, model selection, working with ad agencies... I think the saying is 'soup to nuts'. In addition to directing, I dot to work hands on with three of the 6 products (with a designer assisting me in each case to do the heavy lifting, I don't have the time to really do the documentation work I used to... bitter sweet, sometimes I miss the days when I could spend hours on a CMF spec! But doing all this is fun too!)
Anyway, I wanted to share it. The goal was to take brand that had 40+ years of history and expertise in making awesome home audio and get them into the personal audio categories of headphones, bluetooth speakers, and airplay speakers in a way that was authentic to the brand, meaningful to the user, and impactful to the business.
We wanted the design language to communicate this sense of history, expertise, and craft. The language is organic and the material pallet is very warm, lots of real wood (mahogany in this case), leathers, gold plated metals... all of which have challenges in working with. We call the aspirational persona of the brand "The Devote", very much a craft oriented person, with a passion for music and how it sounds. Each product has an innovative idea behind it that centers around acoustic performance. For example:
this is one I worked on a lot with one of my designers, Ken Chae. The shape is pretty, but mainly it is that way to minimize standing sound waves inside the cabinet. The housing is made of wood, not plastic, that creates a specific sound, inside the cabinet is split in two and it has two separate amps so it works and sounds more like two traditional bookshelf speakers than a typical dock like speaker. The top is real mahogany veneer that took months to dial in the finish. I wanted it to be very matte, not overly poly'd, which makes it easier for QA, but I wanted focus to be on touch, feel. I wanted the touch of it to feel like the sound of it. Super warm. The speaker has airplay and bluetooth so it can be used with iOS and Android. Plus optical in to connect to a TV, Blueray, or game console, and USB with a high end DAC, plus an aux in of course. So you can connect it to anything, and it is loud enough to be your stereo.
The Camden Sq:
I didn't work on the ID of this, but I did work a lot on the Ux. It was designed by one of the Sr guys at frog, coincidentally the same guy that designed the original Beats Studios, Francois Nguyen. Here the innovation is centered around sharing. 4 phones can connect, which is neat, but the cooler thing is that with an app all 4 phones can create a shared playlist that is stored in the cloud. the cloud then pings each phone and tells each one when to play what song to the device. Up to 125 other people can be logged into the play list and they can up vote or down vote songs allowing the 4 DJs to accumulate points. The top is that shale because there are 4 drivers all pointed at 10 degree off axis angles in a L/R/L/R patented arrangement. The net effect is that when the speaker is placed in the center of say a picnic table, no matter where you are you get a stereo experience. The battery also lasts for 24 hours of playback at real volumes.
The Buckle and Hinge:
The Buckle was also designed by Francois and the Hinge by Luke Saule at frog. They sound more true to the studio sound but with a touch of warmth that gives them that Polk sound. Leather and cast and post machined metal pretty much everywhere you touch. The Buckle has an interesting jog switch that allows you to jog up and down to adjust volume and multi tap in. The first ever approved by Apple like this.
The Nue Era and Nue Voe:
These I worked a lot on and even dug up the early sketches. Both are tortoise shell and gold (some of the original sketches show wood inlay but it proved difficult). The concept was to create something that felt more like cufflinks or eye ware than a piece of consumer electronics. The oblong shape is designed to tuck behind your anti-tragus (that part of year ear just above your earlobe). This does two things; first it prevents them from falling out and distributes that task across a larger surface of the ear to minimize any point pressure, second it releases pressure off the ear tip flange and allows that to maintain a proper seal. A proper seal means more bass response, so the headphone doesn't need to have the bass artificially jacked up, making it a more pure sound. The Nue Voe uses a super high end and accurate dynamic balance driver. I worked with Ken Chae on these as well along with some awesome engineers at both frog and Polk.
Anyway, I could go on about these forever, sorry about the long post. Pretty pumped about these, this is as short as I could make it. On top of all that selecting models, art directing photoshoots, working with ad agencies, our marketing team, and musicians on the go to market strategy... pretty awesome. I think a few of you have actually bought some of these. Thank you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
The collection has a microsite if you want to check it out: http://www.polkheritage.com