MacCase Flight Jacket - Still Going Strong | Pt. 2
This is part two of my interview with MacCase President and Chief Creative Officer Michael Santoro. We are discussing the enduring success of the MacCase Flight Jacket. It's a design Santoro penned in 2007 and was released in 2008. It continues to be a top seller today with more variations available than ever. The second part of my interview, we discuss the current state of the MacCase Flight Jacket and what in store for the future.
JKD - Looking at this final sketch, what makes you say "this is the one" vs. the others?
MS - There's nothing left to take away. It's all there. In automobile design you have three elements you have a control. In movies it might be 4 or 5. Each discipline has it's variables. It's car design it's proportion, surface and details. In case design, it's proportion, materials and details. When I look at this last sketch, it's all there. The dominate, sub dominate and sub-ordinate relationships of any good design are present. I was going for something timeless, that would not become dated. I wanted the MacCase Flight Jacket to be a design that would have "legs". It had to have that balance and perfect proportion.
JKD - So after eight years later, this model is still popular and resonating with technology users. Why do you think that is?
MS - As much as people love technology, at the end of the day, it's inherently disposable. A new iPad will be unveiled in 90 days and the current models begin their quick trip down the road of obsolescence at best, or irrelevancy at worst. Our MacCase Flight Jacket, all our Premium Leather models actually, stand in a stark contrast to this disposable culture.
I had a customer call from Miami a week ago to ask about our leather briefcase and I found out that he purchased one of our original premium leather shoulder bags 9 years ago. He said the bag has outlived all his laptops and it looked better today than the day it arrived. This type of thing resonates with people who are surrounded by mostly temporary, short term things. With the MacCase Flight Jacket, all the elements are there, the materials, the proportions, the build quality and despite the market being flooded with cheap, poorly proportioned knockoff made from plastic, people who want the purity of the Flight Jacket design will continue to seek it out and purchase one.
JKD - I noticed on the MacCase website you have the product listed as "MacBook Pro cases" vs. calling the product Flight Jacket. Is there a reason for this?
MS - Yes and it makes me sad to say. While our hard core group of customers knows what the Flight Jacket is, the rest of the world thinks it's a piece of clothing left over from WW2. And for a long time a flight jacket was a piece of outerwear left over from WW2. But potential customers are looking for MacBook Pro cases when they are looking for a case for their Apple laptop. In order to be found, we needed to have what it was that people are looking for on the page, not our model name. It's a cause of consternation.
JKD - You compared the MacCasse Flight Jacket to having a number one song and how hard it is to have two number ones, to repeat the process. Do you have that in you, is there another number one waiting to be released?
MS - I knew this was coming... (laughing). Of course, that is what you work for. Creative people who only want to exist in a vacuum and complain when people like their work are liars. But having a hit is much more than doing everything you can to make the product perfect. Your iPad or phone is full of songs that should have been big hits that most everybody else has probably never heard of. So having a successful product is about a great product yes, but it's also about the right product at the right time for the right price to a market that is looking for it and can find it. Every product we have done since the Flight Jacket has been one of the best products in its category. It's takes a combination of many elements, many of which are out of your control to get it to the top of the charts. But you never stop trying!
JKD - Speaking of new products, you "Flight Case" leather briefcase looks just like the Flight Jacket. Was that on purpose or just a lack of creativity?
MS - Ouch! The Flight Case leather briefcase was designed for Flight Jacket customers who had, maybe, outgrown the compact design or for professional customers who needed more space than the minimalist design allowed. When it came out it was the perfect form factor for a generation of road warriors who were sick and tired of lugging around these giant, heavy, 7 " wide backpacks and briefcases. The MacCase Flight Jacket allowed these people to choose between back and shoulder pain vs. leaving stuff home. There is only so much room in a Flight Jacket.
I'd speak to customers who would ask all the time if we were planning on making a bigger Flight Jacket or one with more storage. Things tend to swing like a pendulum. Everyone threw away their bulky old heavy cases when they saw the Flight Jacket. Then realized it might be nice to have a bit more room. The Flight Case is the answer. It's a super sized MacCase Flight Jacket.
From a aesthetic point of view, no, it was not a lack of creativity. People love the Flight Jacket design. Having a larger, more functional version of the same theme just made sense. Again, look at the car companies. Look at what Mercedes Benz is doing, I think to a fault. There cars look so much alike it's hard to tell a smaller C Class from the top of the line S Class. But they all look like Mercedes Benz. Having our designs look similar is just smart. It helps build awareness and integrity for our brand. We also own that aesthetic, that design vocabulary. Nobody does modern/ timeless, retro/ future better than MacCase Premium Leather.
JKD - One thing that sets the Flight Jacket apart is the backpack option. Where did you come up with that idea?
MS - I'm a big fan of hands free functionality. The first product under my own company was a backpack for artists. With the Flight Jacket, it was just a question of "why not"? I didn't know if customers wanted to pay $110 for a laptop sleeve. I didn't know if a case as small and compact as the Flight Jacket was going to be accepted and having a backpack option just seem to make it all even more difficult to predict. But that what makes it fun. Customers love the backpack option. It really expands the functionality of the case. It's not for everyone, but I am always surprised by how many people go for the backpack option and how cool it looks when it's worn that way.
JKD - So where do you go from here? What's next for MacCase and the Flight Jacket.
MS - Well we have a new iPad version coming but a bigger change that will start soon is the replacement of all the leather shoulder straps with hi-end smooth, fine nylon ones with leather detailing. This is being done for several reasons. One is that the leather is heavy. Taking out some of the leather will save some weight and customers are concerned about weight, as am I. Second is the current leather straps a kind of hard to adjust. Sure, one you adjust them you usually leave them. But the nylon ones are smooth and really a pleasure to use. Another big improvement is the nylon is wider and therefore will be more comfortable spreading out the weight over a larger surface area. So we see these are really moving the MacCase Flight Jacket forward in a small but significant way. This is change to improve the user experience, not change for the sake of change.
Long term, we'll have to see. The market is changing a lot. Not only for bags but for all consumer products. Will you need a laptop case if you can fold up your laptop and put it in your pocket? Whatever happens though, one constant will remain. MacCase will continue to provide the best customer service in the industry. Name another company where you can call and talk to the boss? If you have a problem, I make sure it gets fixed. If you have a product question, who better to answer it than the person who designed the product? This is one of the things that sets MacCase apart and hopefully people will continue to value this.
"People who want the purity of the MacCase Flight Jacket design will continue to seek it out and purchase one."