Article taken from Forbes
Like many bohemian creative types, product designer Tim Chu is not yet 40, but his taste for aesthetics and culture is much older. Having spent 15 years designing more than 130 electronic products for renowned Chinese electronic brands like TCL and Skyworth, Chu had to constantly shelve his love of vintage culture for the modern/futuristic look that electronic brands -- especially upstart Chinese ones -- covet. Three years ago, Chu decided it was time to pursue his dream and started Lofree with several other like-minded designers. Their vision was simple: to create products that combine modern tech with an oldschool vibe.
With their first product, Chu and his team wanted to play it safe and go for a somewhat low-tech product: mechanical keyboard.
"My team and I, we are all into '50s and '60s culture like [the television show] Mad Men," Chu says. "So with the keyboard we wanted to make it resemble a typewriter."
The blend of Mac compatibility with its unique rounded mechanical keys and stylish looks made the eponymous keyboard a hit on crowdfunding site Indiegogo this past April, raising US$733,639 -- 6604% of its goal.
"We were overwhelmed by the [keyboard's] success and realized that there are many people out there who share our taste for that classic aesthetic," Chu says. "That made us put more time and resources into the Poison."
This "Poison" he speaks of is Lofree's current crowdfunding project, a portable tiny bluetooth speaker that, aside from its modern colors, could look like it a 1950s radio set.
"We at Lofree all love [Japanese lifestyle brand] Muji's design language, so our products tend to be petite and cute," says Chu. "Now a small physical size is fine for a keyboard, for a portable speaker? That usually meant weak sound."
So Chu and his team spent more than half a year coming up with a design that would allow the speaker to pack a bigger audio punch than its size suggests. The first thing they did was decide on using two 10-watt amplifiers to process audio output, as well as build the MaxxAudio DSP (digital signal processing) into the speaker to conserve space. The team placed the bass driver in the back, where it can take advantage of the large diaphragm to push out full-bodied sound.
In my brief testing, the Poison's bass driver sounded really, really good, with a very audible (and visible) kick.
Don't think the Poison's radio-inspired look is superficial, because it has a built-in FM tuner and dial that makes it a fully functional radio.
As of this writing, the Poison has already surpassed its goal, amassing US$79,290 with 25 days left in the campaign. With two straight crowdfunding success stories, what's next for Chu and his team?
"Currently we have about 13 people on the product planning team, and we're all like-minded individuals who believe in simple, vintage designs," Chu says. "We will continue to make products that bring new tech in a retro coating."
So what's next? A Lofree mouse and desktop stationary. It'll be interesting to see how they make a relatively young product like a computer mouse into Mad Men-era aesthetics.
By Ben Sin