It might look deceptively plain but the devil is in the details. The Youmans Capsule looks to solve a basic yet common problem – how to showcase creative work to win at pitches and presentations.
As anyone in the creative industries knows, presentation counts for a lot. Over the years, however, Rick Youmans struggled to find a simple yet stylish way to carry and display his work. And he’s far from the only one. Fellow creatives approached him more than once asking him to solve this very problem – and so he did.
The last of those requests cropped up while he was living in Sydney a few years ago. Youmans was not a product designer by trade - his background was in advertising. So he began working with an industrial designer (a former classmate from Wellington Polytech) to build a sleek aluminium case that was self-hinging and capable of standing up unsupported, and hard-wearing to boot.
The resulting product, nearly five years on, was uninfluenced by any existing products and designed from the ground up.
“There were no design boundaries,” he says.
The Youmans Capsule comes in A2, A3 and A4 sizes – there’s also a licensed special edition All Blacks version. Optional extras include document holders, inserts to display products or hold iPads (“in a way, the technology has come to us,” says Youmans) and a sleek leather satchel.
Youmans describes his eponymous capsule as the ultimate in long lasting design, with a simple shape and a finish that’s resistant to scratches and marks. He reckons it instantly lends professional polish to any pitch or presentation by cutting down on clutter.
“We think it’s taking presentation to a new level.”
The real challenge is marketing the product, especially in the context of the Kiwi DIY culture. He anticipates a combination of online, retail, distribution and B2B sales – “but as we go along this mix may well change as we adapt to different market trends and opportunities”.
But there is an audience. As Youmans put it: “Is there a gap in the market? And is there a market in the gap?”
Their target market is a small one – architects, designers, photographers, people who appreciate good design. The Youmans Capsule delivers high impact and that, he says, is its secret ingredient – once people have the chance to see and touch it, they’re usually captivated.
“Until [people] use it they don’t fully appreciate how useful it is.”
Which is just as well, since this is a niche product that can’t be mass-produced, what with the hand assembly involved and the materials used. They have some patents around the product but aren’t too concerned about copycats, given how difficult it is to actually manufacture.
It’s been a major learning curve for everyone involved. Youmans moved back from Australia in order to build the business on this side of the Tasman and forge relationships with suppliers to get the ball rolling.
Few companies were willing to take on the challenge of turning his prototypes into commercial reality. “They probably lacked either the confidence or experience in this sort of manufacturing, which is to aeronautical standards,” Youmans says.
Stainless Design in Hamilton was the only one that said yes. Even then, it still took the company about eight months to perfect the tooling and the processes. “They were certainly willing to push the boundaries to the limit,” Youmans says, adding that Stainless Design’s can-do attitude and belief in the product further set them apart.
Many of the businesses he now deals with are in Hamilton, where he says they’re just a few doors away.
“You couldn’t do it anywhere else.”
Youmans wanted the capsule to be a truly local product – and that’s because he says ‘New Zealand-made’ carries clout overseas, drumming up connotations of innovation and high quality.
Now there are a handful of other products in the pipeline based around the same core concept, including versions for students and trade shows.
“People that are using the basic capsule are already excited about the new products and how it could transform the way they present their company or products,” he says.
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