Recently I had the extreme pleasure to chat with the folks over at Peak Design. We covered a lot of ground and even got the latest info on some of their upcoming projects. I hope you all enjoy this discussion and be sure to let us know if you would like to see more of these types of Q&As in the future!
First, thank you for taking the time to chat and thank you for making some really great products! How was Peak Design created and how long have you been making awesome gear?
Back in 2010 our founder, Peter Dering, returned home from an around-the-world trip. He had been toting a brand new DSLR with him and was frustrated with how clunky and unwieldy it was to carry around with him. He quit his construction management job and set to work designing a solution. In May of 2011, Peter launched our very first Kickstarter campaign for the Capture Camera Clip, and Peak Design became known to the world. Since then we’ve launched five additional successful Kickstarter campaigns.
Peak Design and Massdrop seem to share the “community first” ideal. Can you talk a little about how Peak Design has been influenced by its community over the years?
We have no true investors...it’s just us, and our community of customers and backers. In a sense, we view our community as our board of directors. We frequently poll them when making product decisions. Their feedback has greatly influenced our product roadmap over the years. And their support during our Kickstarter campaigns enables us to raise the capital we need to continue developing new solutions to their problems.
How did Peak Design initially leverage Kickstarter to launch it’ first product.
For us, Kickstarter has always been a platform for funding as well as marketing. Back in 2011 Kickstarter was still relatively new. Peter happened to learn about it right about the time he had come up with his final prototype for the Capture Clip and thought “well, this seems perfect.” We essentially used Kickstarter as a pre-sales mechanism, as well as a platform for communicating and building a relationship with the people who were most passionate about what we’re doing. That strategy has remained the same ever since.
Why has Peak Design continued to launch subsequent products on Kickstarter (quite successfully I might add!)?
Kickstarter (and crowdfunding in general) lets us maintain a laser focus on doing what we love: designing beautiful, functional products. By crowdfunding instead of seeking outside investors, we’re able to raise the capital we need to continue developing new products without having to adhere to investment-maximizing revenue goals and timelines. We launch products when we believe they’re ready, and we launch them to the very people who are the most passionate about what we do. We believe that our crowdfunded business model yields better products and a much deeper relationship with our customers.
Perhaps one of the most exciting bits of news from Peak Design is the recent launch of not one but three new products! Can you take a moment and tell us about the new Everyday Backpack, Tote, and Sling and where people can find more information?
The release of the Everyday Messenger in 2015 was a game changer for Peak Design. We went from a camera accessory company to a bag company. Immediately after that campaign, our community spoke out and demanded we make a backpack. We don’t like disappointing people, so we jumped right in. The Everyday Backpack takes everything we learned from the Messenger Bag and takes it to another level. The Maglatch returns to make expandability a cinch, the Flex Fold Dividers have been redesigned to provide even more flexibility in how you organize your gear, and the side access panels with pockets galore means you’ll have fast, easy access to all your gear, no matter how you pack it.
The Everyday Tote could arguably be the most flexible bag of the three. With multiple carry modes (shoulder, hand, messenger, and even backpack modes) it can transform into the bag you want for any situation. We again designed special dividers from the ground up to allow complete customization of the interior. Most Totes out there are just big cavernous holes. Not this one. Add to that full side access on both sides, an internal laptop sleeve, and smart magnetic closure, and you’ve got a capable bag that can carry everything you need for the day.
Finally, the Sling is our answer to those who need a quick grab-and-go bag that only carries the essentials. A camera body and a couple of lenses, your iPad, or just a change of clothes you’ll need after hitting the gym. It’s light, easy to pack, and of course functional.
People can find out more at pkdsn.com/ks, which will take you to our live Kickstarter Campaign. There you’ll find overview videos, specs, as well as Design Deep Dive videos that get into the nitty gritty of our design process and features of each of the bags.
How does Peak Design ensure such a high-quality standard for all its products?
Anyone who has made mass-produced products will agree that maintaining high quality levels is darn difficult and often thankless. There are few congratulations when things go as planned, but there are plenty of haters when things don’t. Our team devotes huge effort, including a lot of time on the ground with our partners working to ensure every detail is addressed and expectations are clear. The fact that we are all inspired by the products we make is a huge help in the relentless drive for ever better quality.
What is the typical testing process of a product before it’s decided to bring that product to market?
Every product requires tailor-made testing and quality checks. There are standard tolerance checks at every step of manufacturing, and third-party QC teams performing AQL tests to our specs. That’s typical. But what’s unique is the thought that goes into how these products will be used. What are the fail points, and where are the pitfalls? Our ability to sniff these out beforehand isn’t unique to us, but it’s something that any company hoping to make it at scale needs to get right.
We're also all heavy users of our products and not just designers. We're product obsessed, and we put our gear through its paces during the development stage knowing we've got a lifetime guaranty we need to stand behind.
Being that it’s part of the name, how important is design when creating a new product? How do you keep the design from impeding the function?
First and foremost, the function IS the design. The degree to which function pushes form versus the other way around varies from product to product. But by and large, each of our products solves a problem. If you’re not solving problems, you’re just making pretty things. And that’s not enough, in our book.
Now for some rapid-fire questions: Film or megapixels? DSLR or mirrorless? Canon or Nikon? What is your “grail” camera? What’s the next piece of gear you are most excited to buy?
Megapixels (but respectfully). Mirrorless (replete with nostalgic longings). Divided (but Nikon, really). In this digital world...the grail camera is always the next one around the corner. But we like Sony for now. Whatever DJI has up their sleeves.
It seems like a majority of your team loves to get outside and hike/explore. Where do members from the Peak Design team love to take pictures?
We seem to end up in three places with great regularity: Angel Island (local), Desolation Wilderness (anytime), and Yosemite (in the shoulder season). Many of our adventures, as well as those of our Pro-Team, are documented in the Journal portion of our website. Head over to journal.peakdesign.com
Thanks so much for your time!