“We’re going to change the game.” It worked for Brad Pitt’s character in Moneyball, and a new business model is working for swarm, a progressive industrial & engineering design studio in Salt Lake City.
Over the last decade, exceedingly more emphasis has been placed on companies to be innovative in order to be relevant, making innovation an overused word and a key function of today’s business plan. Brand image relies on the creation of new intellectual property (IP) to thrive. However, the roadblocks are numerous that prevent corporations from generating products & services that are unique, well defined, and truly innovative.
Businesses stuck in an R&D rut and searching for market-redefining products are turning to find fully formed new additions to their offerings through the outsourcing of IP development or creation. With this surge in the quest for outside innovators, a new style of product design studio is taking shape and swarm is at its forefront.
Today’s product designers apply their skills to design more than just products. By combining critical, creative, reflective, and visionary thinking skills with behavioral traits such as curiosity, resilience and the ability to collaborate; they craft user experiences, systems and optimize manufacturing processes while going well beyond CAD drawings. They take a product, technology, or brand image apart from the inside and then partner with the original company to release a better version on the outside.
You should always know what your customers want before they do, so swarm set out to create IP that the audio industry hadn’t yet realized. Typically, swarm had followed the conventional product development timeline based upon their client’s needs, goals and ideas. While they are not entrenched in the audio industry, they knew a bit about its products and wanted to position their firm as a design leader. By recognizing a distinct product gap, they put themselves in the inventor’s chair and developed a revolutionary solution independent of an audio client.
“Our experience as a design consultancy means that we are constantly developing products in many different industries- industrial equipment, outdoor gear, electronics, furniture, and more,” says Jon Hart, a Product Designer at swarm. “We benefit from a natural cross pollination as we’re solving drastically different problems, and this often leads to novel solutions.”
The swarm team knew the industry they were building for and they knew the challenges and pain points of existing products. By turning the tables and focusing their knowledge, they created very a specific and finely executed patent-pending mechanism that reduced home and commercial speaker installation times by up to 75%.
“We’ve worked in and around the audio industry for over a decade, developing products for many of the top brands, which has given us deep empathy for the end user, and for the challenges they face when installing speakers,” says Hart. “SkyHook was the product of our intimate knowledge of the audio industry coupled with our outsider’s perspective. This blend helped us create a solution that the industry craved, even when they weren’t looking for it.”
Sky Hook™ is a tool-free, fully automatic, self-adjusting clamp that eliminates the need for power tools and makes speaker installation far easier, streamlined and cost-effective. The next step was to find a partner.
Klipsch®, a tech-driven 70-year old audio company, decided this design solution was a perfect fit to gain significant edge over their competition. A wholly-owned subsidiary of VOXX International Corporation (NADAQ: VOXX), Klipsch recently announced the addition of more than 50 new high-performance custom speaker solutions for residential and commercial applications featuring swarm’s, “revolutionary new installation technologies, designed to save integrators time and money.”
“Incorporating Swarm’s exclusive Skyhook technology into our architectural speakers allows us to offer a faster, more efficient installation method for installers, while providing the ultimate sound experience to end users,” said Rob Standley, vice president and general manager, component audio solutions of Klipsch Group, Inc.
The idea was first developed and realized by swarm, who then brought a finished prototype built around Klipsch’s existing technology to the manufacturer. A major spark happened and Klipsch was instantly interested in establishing a formal collaboration with the studio. The end results were nearly as instantaneous. Just one year after their first meeting, Klipsch debuted the new line of speakers at the September 2017 Multimedia Tradeshow, CEDIA, co-branded with swarm.
The story of how swarm identified a potential area for design improvement and delivered a fully-formed differentiator to Klipsch is indicative of how existing brands can disrupt their own market through collaboration with independent product design studios. A company’s cumulative R&D trajectory is tough to alter, even when a drastic new direction could mean a big payoff. To get to the next level, sometimes it takes a spark of ingenuity from an outside source — an independent team of designers who see the product not for what it has been, but for what it could be.
ABOUT SWARM: An industrial design and engineering firm headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, SWARM is engaged in advancing product development to turn ideas into real, working products – no matter how complex. Swarm is built on the idea that physical products must be human-centered, solve a problem, make an emotional connection, and ultimately, they have to work. Swarm combines a DIY fabricator attitude, 3D printing, CNC-routing, welding, cutting, soldering, sewing, coding, serious engineering & design horsepower to efficiently build products that people love. For more information, please visit swarmeffect.com.
ABOUT KLIPSCH: In 1946 Paul W. Klipsch, inventor, acoustics pioneer and maverick, founded Klipsch Audio with the sole purpose of bringing the power, detail and emotion of the live music experience into his living room. Through the use of highly efficient speaker designs, handcrafted cabinetry and a thirst for real engineering breakthroughs – Klipsch, the great American loudspeaker company, was born in Hope, AR. Today, our diverse range of quality audio products includes speakers and headphones for almost any consumer and professional application – including cinema, whole-house, wireless, home theater and portable offerings. Honoring our founder’s legacy, Klipsch continues to be the legendary high-performance brand of choice for audiophiles and aficionados around the world. We are the Keepers of the Sound®. Klipsch Group, Inc. is a VOXX International Company (NASDAQ: VOXX).