Quirky's Overnight Race to Design Cool iPhone 5 Products
Few workers burn the midnight oil with an open bar and a live DJ on deck.
But that was the scene at Quirky's New York headquarters on Thursday night as the company raced to develop accessories for the new iPhone 5, as well as a few other Apple products, in just 24 hours. The company, which makes products that are collectively designed by its customers, intends to have a working prototype of each of the products ready to deliver to its manufacturer on Saturday, says CEO Ben Kaufman. The products will go on sale on Fab.com on Wednesday, September 19. They will begin shipping in four to six weeks.
"Fab has done an amazing job of selling Quirky products in the past few months," says Kaufman. "With this excitement for the new iPhone, we felt joining forces would deliver some of the best, brightest ideas and intelligent designs."
The rapid development process began on Wednesday, as Quirky announced the launch of a permanent vertical for Apple accessories on its site. It invited its community members to submit ideas for products to be developed during the special 24-hour event. Quirky received more than 1,500 submissions.
On Thursday evening, 53 of those submissions were chosen by Quirky's staff to be reviewed during the company’s live-streamed evaluation panel, held before an audience of several dozen employees and guests. The panel included representatives from each of Quirky's departments, as well as a buyer and a merchandising specialist from Fab.
Roughly 15 ideas, including a wristband that converts to a charging cable for the iPod Touch and a case that would transform the iPhone into a full-fledged camera, were selected. Among the rejected ideas: a metallic iPhone case with "a real James Bond look," an iPhone case that could diffuse the camera's (already miniature) flash, and a vibrating iPhone attachment that would serve as, well, a vibrator.
Quirky's employees and guests then began drafting sketches and brainstorming product specifications, which were voted upon and refined by online community members. Participants in the design process at Quirky's headquarters wore bright badges specifying their role in the process, such as "designer," "community member," or "shitter"--someone designated to point out flaws in a proposed idea.
By the next morning, initial concepts for each product had been finalized, and the company began soliciting suggestions for product names and taglines. The engineering phase will begin Friday, and photos of the prototypes will be available this evening on Quirky's site. Though relatively simple products such as the phone cases will be available within a month, other products may take longer to develop, says Kaufman.
"But they will still be brought to market within months--significantly faster than most consumer product companies take to develop a plastic spatula," he says.
This is not the first time Quirky has worked around-the-clock to put out a community-designed product. One of the company's first products, a cord wrap for Mac computers called PowerCurl, was designed and launched in a 24-hour period. In September, the company partnered with Sony to organize a daylong event to develop a bicycle, which was unveiled at the premiere of the film Moneyball. Quirky billed the event as "reinventing the bicycle" as a counterpart to the "reinvention" of baseball depicted in the film.
"It's really exciting to see how people go all in and hustle to get it done," Kaufman says. "It's fun for the team, it's fun for the community, and it shows what the Quirky machine can really do."