Crafting the size and shape of the Boombot REX required a direct focus on the end user, and the true meaning of the product to these users. In design, this is paramount, to build the feature set into your product your beachhead market will value the most, and focus mainly on those few items. Luckily, in the design of the Boombot REX, our founding team is ideal representatives of this beachhead market, as we all share the traits of our desired end user. Our active, outdoor roots led to the inception of this company, so designing for this active, transient, outdoor persona was natural and accessible. An essential element of human centered design is to know exactly who your ideal end user is, and it makes a huge difference to be the designer and also the intended end user of the product.
The most important design element to our speakers are their size, mainly how they fit and feel in ones hand. We call this size ultraportable, for our meticulous efforts go beyond where any portable speaker on the market go. In the preliminary design process, we were very focused on the shape of the speaker. In a competitive landscape already saturated by bricks (in 2011), an(other) ultraportable brick or klondike bar would not be right for our progressive brand. After landing on the final, irregular dodecagon Boombot REX shape, consisting of a dual-axis chamfered hexagonal prism, we hit print. Here’s what we ended up with:
The very first Boombot REX prototype.
Side of the prototype circa December 2011 (known as the Hex at this point)
Now, at first glance, these photos look like the Boombot REX you see today. Aside from the brushed grill covering the entire front of the speaker (now an ABS/brushed combination), and a single, 75mm driver (now dual 36mm drivers), the overall shape is the same. The size, however, is not.
When this speaker was set down on the table, it looked like it was meant to stay there, in a stationary state. This object did not invite people to pick it up and put it in their hand, rather, it invited people to admire the object without touching it. While it was aesthetically pleasing, it was a stationary object intrinsically- dictated primarily by its 4-inch by 4-inch size. This is where we pivoted in the design, and went back to our ultraportable roots.
The original Skullyboom speaker (Boombot1 for the new wave folks) had a size that fit in ones hand phenomenally. This palmable size, paired with it’s non radial curves, made for a great experience with the speaker in hand. People would literally see these and the next second, whether consciously or unconsciously, the would be holding it in their hand. This state was the goal of redesigning the Boombot REX, as to attract people to see AND hold it.
Armed with only a block of modeling clay, I set out to meticulously carve this chunk of clay into the exact size needed to achieve this goal. Without worrying about what size PC board or how large the battery needed to be, I created a clay mockup at the exact size we needed. Not only does this size invite people to grab the object, but once it is in hand, to be delighted by the feel of it. After days of adding and shaving clay to find the ideal size, I arrived at the 85*80*40mm shape we now have shipped over 10K Boombot REX speakers of. At this point, we marked the foundation of our product, and went back to the drawing board to fit all of the internal components inside of the speaker in harmony.
Customizable from the beginning.
By designing for ultraportable first, ultimately designing the most important feature our end users desire, the Boombot REX came to life. The delight one gets from picking up this speaker and holding it in one hand is paralleled to none, other than holding a beating heart (KALI-MA!). This size became the first design constraint, with every other feature secondary. Moving forward, we packed as much audio firepower inside the speaker as possible, knowing that whatever we did, the speaker would still have it’s ultraportable DNA.
Next week, I’ll be discussing the firmware design of the speaker, from button commands to why the LED turns green when you connect a male to the female line-in port…