MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve - Behind the Design
The latest 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 MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve. This is the first redesign of the nylon version of the MacBook Pro Sleeve since the MacCase first launched their iconic 15 Powerbook sleeve back in the early 2000s.
JKD: Not counting the development of the leather MacBook Pro Sleeve, this is the first time you've redesigned a 15" MacBook Pro Sleeve since since the PowerBook days. Why address this now?
MS: First let me say, I love our original sleeve. The history of MacCase can be told through the story of that sleeve. Every iPhone case that has a cutout in the rear panel so you can see the Apple logo owes a big thank you to our original sleeve design. Our iBook Briefcase that first introduced the idea of a window to show off the Apple logo to the world never sold in the numbers that our sleeve did. Those 13" and 15 Sleeves brought the idea of a logo window to the mainstream with our tier one retail distribution.
The Old MacBook Pro Sleeve: Saying Goodbye
JKD: There was a lot of design content in that design...
MS: Yes. Our design looked and worked like no other. I'm shocked that we were not knocked off at some point. I guess our design was too expensive or just too difficult to make compared to the neoprene stuff that was out at the time.
We had the window, the vent, the velcro, the expensive nylon, embroidery and the layers of padding along with the perimeter bumper pipping that made them so well at protecting everyone's Apple laptops. I do think the race to the bottom (in price and design) that we have seen with sleeves over the last decade started with the industry's reaction to our sleeve design.
JKD: What do you mean?
MS: We went one way, the way of quality, protection, intelligent design, respect and innovation and the industry went another. They went the way of cheap, a product that damaged your laptop, trapped heat, oh and did I mention, cheap? Our non neoprene, non zippered solution was better and still is. Sometimes the market buys what's jammed down their throats, not what's better. Betamax anyone?
Those neoprene sleeves were super cheap and easy to make, that's why they were everywhere. They weren't better for the customer or better at protecting their hardware. They were super cheap and easy to make so they were better for all the Chinese companies who were turning them out by the tens of thousands trying to find them a home.
MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve : In With the New
JKD: The new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve seems like a departure from your original design. Why the dramatic change?
MS: The market has changed so much. What was important 10 or even 5 years ago is not anymore. Apple users used to happily pay for quality design and most still will. After all they are buying the most expensive consumer electronics, phones, tablets and laptops out there. Most of the them understand that protecting these things is an investment due to the high resale value.
Some Apple users don't make that connection. The purchase a very special, non-commodified laptop and then their brain shifts to finding the most commodified way to "protect" it: a $5 sleeve on amazon or eBay. So the mass market for what do has gone away to a certain extent. Younger buyer have been trained to buy on discount not on value.
When it came time to do a new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve, we had to ask a lot of hard questions. Many of them I didn't particular like the answers to.
JKD: Such as?
MS: Who is the customer for this MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve? How are they different than the customer for our Premium Leather MacBook Pro 15" Sleeve? Why might this person purchase a MacCase MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve vs a super cheap neoprene sleeve on amazon? How can we offer the best value to all our nylon customers through this new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve?
JKD: What were your conclusions?
MS: That we needed to put just as much thought and consideration into the person that buys our 15" MacBook Pro Messenger Bag as we do to the person who will be buying the new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve.
JKD: Why is that?
MS: Because we are selling a lot more 15 Messenger Bags than we are MacBook Pro Sleeves. And we include the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve as part of the 15" MacBook Pro Messenger Bag. This changes your priorities very quickly when you expand the user window to include a whole different category or users. It would have hurt us to design a MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve that was say, "over designed" for the needs of the user of our 15" Messenger. I wanted a MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve that was going to dovetail perfectly with our Messenger.
MacBook Pro Sleeve: New Goals Reached
JKD: How did you accomplish this?
MS: The first thing we addressed was the orientation. As I mentioned, I loved our old sleeve. It was the most protective solution from every aspect, for what is was. Part of that superior protection was the vertical orientation, putting the opening along the short axis so the weakest part of the design, the opening, was as small as possible. If you are designing a standalone sleeve, this is the best solution. When we didn't have a fully padded interior as part of our Messenger Bag, it was the best solution.
But now we have that fully padded and lined interior. It adds a huge amount of protection. This changes what the sleeve design can be. We can tailor it a bit more for the needs of the 15" MacBook Pro Messenger Bag user. And that's what we did.
We changed the orientation from vertical to horizontal. We removed all the extemporaneous details to make it as light and efficient as possible. It's very easy to get your 15" MacBook Pro out of the sleeve if you want to leave the sleeve in the bag and just take out the laptop. It's the thinnest sleeve we've ever made to minimize the bulk inside the bag. Our customers carry a lot of other things in their bags besides their 15 MacBook Pros. We wanted to make sure they had the room they needed after putting the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve inside.
JKD: It sounds like you were looking for a balance?
MS: Exactly. I wanted a MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve design that felt more organic. I wanted it to look like it was supposed to come with the Messenger. Our older Sleeves looked like they belonged with our Messengers. Then we had a period where there was a bit of a mismatch. With this new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve, the match is back. They are very complementary.
JKD: How does the new MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve work as a strand alone sleeve?
MS: I think it better reflects where the market is at. Lighter and thinner is what is happening to the hardware. This sleeve is also lighter and thinner than the one it replaces. We've done things with new foams that keep the laptop protected and the new perimeter pipping is a lot more protective than the older design. If you're looking for a lightweight MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve with minimal bulk to put inside a briefcase, backpack or larger bag, this sleeve will do the job.
JKD: OK, thank you for your time.
MS: Always a pleasure Jody.
"I wanted a MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar Sleeve design that felt more organic..."