15 MacBook Pro Backpack - Behind the Bold Design
This is the fourth in a series of interviews about the story behind the design of MacCase products.
For this interview, we are again speaking to MacCase President and Chief Creative Officer Michael Santoro about the company's new 15 MacBook Pro Backpack.
JKD - I know you've been working on the new iPad Pro cases, so thanks for talking the time for this.
MS - No problem. It's always a pleasure to speak with you Jody.
JKD - So we started with the Universal Backpack, then the 12" MacBook model, then the 13" model, now the 15" MacBook Pro Backpack. In the spirit of this series, what's the story?
MS - Many many years ago I designed and MacCase released a backpack called the MacPack Combo Backpack. The MacPack Combo was a "one stop shop for all your backpack needs!" Whenever you have a design that tries to be too many things to too many people you have to make compromises. It's inherent. Now we didn't start out staying let's make this really compromised product. We wanted a backpack that could transport and protect a 12 iBook (I told you it was many, many years ago!) the 13" models, all the 15" models and then finally, all of Apple's now retired 17 MacBook Pros.
Well in order to do that you need a really large form factor. The old 17" MacBook Pro was a monster of a laptop compared to today's wafer thin ultralights. The problem was that the backpack shell that had to hold the 17" was the same one that was also going to transport and store the 13". This is like parking a compact car in a garage designed for a dump truck. It fits but it's not necessarily efficient.
JDK - But it sold well?
MS - Yes, that was the interesting thing. The extra space gave people room to put lots of other things inside. But again, it was not the most efficient use of the space as most of it was vertical. It was tough, well padded and comfortable to wear. Those three things had a lot to do with why it was successful for so long. IT guys liked it a lot as well. It was a real favorite with them. You could put two laptops in it as well as a bunch of tools for doing that kind of work. So for them, it was like having a mobile repair shop they could wear on their back.
JDK - If it was so successful, why replace it?
MS - All products have lifecycles. For whatever reason our products tend to have very long life cycles which I think our customers like. But with the demise of the 17" Pro model, the writing was on the wall for the MacPack Combo. The market was changing. Apple laptops were changing. We sold a lot of MacPack Combos to 13" MacBook owners for whom the extra space got to be a burden not an asset. We were having great success with our Premium Leather models which are all custom fitted to each size Apple laptop. While all was going on, the MacPack Combo was coming up for a design review.
Typically, when we do a design review, we look at the product very objectively and try to improve it before we do another production run. Customer are constantly sending us, and me in particular, feedback, ideas and suggestion on how to make our products better. It's a great thing. We are truly grateful to have people who support us, who are so passionate about our products, as to take time out of their lives to offer ways to make them better. These submissions are reviewed and ideas implemented in these design review meetings. So see everyone, we do listen and use your feedback!
So when we put the Combo on the table we all looked at it, we knew it was time for it to ride off into the sunset. Not having to house the 17" form factor opening the door to do something new. I got started with a massive rethink of our overall backpack strategy for our Standard line of products. I wanted a general use bag that was "best in class" but that I could also offer to our core base of Apple users.
JKD - Hence the Universal Backpack.
MS - Yes, this was the genesis. I knew if we were not going to have one form factor...
JKD - Can I interrupt you there and ask you to define "form factor" for our readers? I know you used it in all of these interviews but I received an email from a young reader asking for the meaning.
MS - Sure. When you're designing three dimensional objects that live in the world, though I suppose you can have virtual form factors in digital space, that thing has a form. Using the term form factor is just another way of saying shape, or describing said shape. We tend to use form factor a lot to describe the styles we make. Backpack form factor, Jacket form factor, Sleeve form factor etc. It's a term we use to describe the general shape or description of a designed object.
JKD - OK so back to the backpack story...
MS - Yes, well we needed a good solid form factor to build this new backpack line around. Now the design could be compact, lightweight, highly protective and comfortable. Keyword there being compact. From that we built up each model to work specifically with each size Apple laptop and tried to create the best value in a MacBook Pro backpack on the market.
JKD - How does that translate to the 15 MacBook Pro Backpack?
MS - Well for the 15", we again, wanted something that was much more compact that the Combo it replaced. If the shell of the new design was any smaller, the 15" MBP would not fit. It's as if the nylon and polyester have been shrink wrapped around the computer. Yet there is still sufficient room for other items including a pocket specifically designed for an iPad. Plus the entire front compartment as well. So despite looking small, there is actually a lot of room inside. It's very functional.
JKD - So what's next for the MacBook Pro backpack? Is there another size or version lurking in the wings?
MS - The next MacBook Pro backpack is not going to have anything to do with the MacBook Pro. I believe the iPad Pro is coming in November. That opens up yet another door. Just like with our laptop models, not everyone is going to want or be able to afford a $200 Premium Leather iPad Pro backpack. Our goal is to have something special for them as well.
JKD - It looks like we'll have to meet again when that launches.
MS - I look forward to it.
JKD - Thanks again for taking the time.
MS - Anytime Jody.
"Well for the 15" MacBook Pro backpack, we wanted something that was much more compact that the Macpack backpack it replaced."