GENESIS OF A HEADPHONE (PART 1)

Consumer electronics, especially in music, are a unique and challenging beast to tackle. Between killer performance, dope design and a brand message people care about – delivered on-budget and on-time – what we’ve set out to do is a tall order. Headphones complicate matters by bringing to the table ergonomics and portability. Here’s how we designed the next homerun product in this category.

Every globally recognizable brand has at least one visual element that they own. Sometimes it’s a logo like the McDonalds golden arches but it can even be a color, like Ferrari red. Attempting to follow the success of Beats, our competitors focused on loud hues and large branding – and not a single interesting or worthwhile alternative to Beats was created. While a clean and memorable logo would go a long way towards brand recognition, we knew developing an iconic design language in our products that customers could come to know us by and rely on would be a much more solid foundation. We wanted something anyone could recognize from across the street as a Plugged product.

We spent weeks with our design team looking at all kinds of products, from cars to clothes, which we thought did something very right at a visceral level. These were products that produced a gut-reaction – less mass-produced tech-stuff and more expert craftsmanship. For better or worse, Apple’s success has spawned a whole industry of copy-cats attempting to execute their profound minimalism but that end up with sterile, soulless objects. Music deserves products that, when you see them for the first time, before knowing anything about sound or price, make you think “damn, that’s the one”.

Our designers went away for 6 weeks to bring together all of our ideas into a single concept and came back with something that we knew was a winner the moment we saw it. Crown marries classic with clean in its form and line while offering an entirely new design thinking in audio products. The premium materials and subtle branding are a nod to a heritage of hi-fi gear and a salute to a user deserving of the respect not to be treated as a billboard. There would still be months of development ahead but we saw then that this design was an aesthetic and philosophy on which we could build an authentic experience.

Imran