Small indie companies arguably form much of the backbone of the production industry, and deliver some of the most innovative solutions to end users. They are by and large forward-thinking, in touch with users, and extremely nimble. They also have a unique set of challenges. In addition to producing a polished product that is 100% functional, their gear must be able to hold up to hard use and the daily rigors of production. And while form should always follow function, gear should at minimum look professional and polished. And preferably it should be sexy! Alas, those guidelines are all too often the exception and not the rule. Another area that is consistently overlooked is packaging and manuals. Which is a shame, because those last two items are literally the first things a new owner sees when they tear into their box.
The packaging for Apple’s original iPod Nano was flawless…it unfolds like a beautiful dark flower, the product is the centerpiece. Apple’s iPhone packaging is just as impressive. And any Macbook owner can attest to this. Sleek, understated box graphics. Smooth styro enclosure. Cords neatly coiled, each in their own space, each with their own cord wrap. It even has a carry handle, so you can use it to transport the notebook for the first week while you shop for a proper case. Attention to detail. Unfortunately, this is an area that is all too often lacking in indie gear.
FreshDV sees a lot of gear come through our doors. Products generally arrive in nondescript brown boxes, wrapped in yards and yards of bubblewrap underneath layers upon layers of packing tape. It’s a demoralizing task to disassemble boxes that have been literally taped together around a product. There I am, waist-deep in packing peanuts on the floor as I feebly slash through the last few hundred layers of tape. Most of the time products arrive with no printed instructions…I’m forced to find the latest assembly diagrams on a website, or maybe scattered around an online forum. In some cases the most useful instructions are posted by the users themselves. And the real pain comes when it’s time to ship a review product back…you’ve got to re-engineer what’s left of the packing materials and box(es) to make it work. So when a product arrives that is neatly secured for shipment in packaging that looks like it was actually designed for the purpose of said product…I breathe a sigh of relief and raise my glass in a silent toast to those who took the time to treat their gear like it matters.
All is not lost to small companies and gear makers, and several notable exceptions spring to mind. Red Digital Cinema has done a great job of taking run of the mill electronics and metal and making it look simply amazing! They truly seem to understand the geek factor…yes we make a living using this gear, but we also want it to look cool. Another company that has done a fantastic job of marrying form and function is Zacuto, their products are hands down some of the most solid gear on the market, yet look and feel polished, sexy, and extremely well branded. Silicon Imaging showed that they understand this when they commissioned P&S Technik to create a integrated case for the SI-2K. Our latest Letus Extreme shipment arrived in an (optional) hard case with laser-cut foam enclosing the adapter and every lens mount and accessory in the case. It was easy to unpack, easy to use, and the product remained protected the entire time. Boxing it up for return shipment was a cinch. Another breath of fresh air came from Redrock…their M2 adapter and follow focus units arrive in cardboard boxes surrounded by foam cut for the product itself…perfectly cushioned, and a great first impression for a new owner. And the Redrock M2 even had a professionally printed instruction manual. Printed instructions! Imagine that!
As I stated earlier, form should always take a back seat to function. Extra touches and slick packaging won’t matter one iota if a product doesn’t perform in the field. But when a company is able to bring the two together seamlessly, and takes it a step further by presenting their quality gear in packaging that does it justice, they will always get my attention. Gear companies, are you listening? Form matters. Manuals matter. Packaging matters. And people wonder why Apple users are so loyal to the brand…
iPhone unboxing photo Creative Commons licensed courtesy 7500 @ Flickr