iPad Bags - Behind the Designs
For this interview, we are again speaking to MacCase President and Chief Creative Officer Michael Santoro about the company's current assortment of iPad bags.
JKD: When starting a design program like this, what's your vision? What do you want to achieve with the designs for these iPad bags?
MS: As the creator of the Apple specific case market, our first priority has always been to protect our customer's hardware. We often tell people we don't make iPad bags, we offer insurance, insurance against the cold, hard world.
Put any Apple tablet in any one of our iPad bags and you know it's going to be protected and safe whether your going to the coffee shop down the street or a coffee plantation on the other side of the world. That's the vision. That's the number one goal.
As we celebrate our 20th year of doing this, and our 8th year of making iPad bags and cases in one form or another, we've never had a single issue of one of our designs failing to protect a customers Apple tablet. Pretty proud of that, actually.
A Time Before iPad Bags
JKD: How does the current crop of iPad bags compare with what you were doing 10 or 15 years ago?
MS: Well 10 or 15 years ago there were no iPads so there were no iPad bags. So, these new designs are way better than the non-existent cases we were making back then, (laughing).
The current crop of iPad bags reflects the "Do one thing, do it well" philosophy we've enacted for our nylon line.
JKD: Tell us about that?
MS: Back in the day, we had a lot of form factors that were a part of the nylon line. This is great if you have a wide open market and don't have a Premium Leather Collection that takes up about 75% of your time.
Over the years the market has changed drastically which is to be expected. The expectations and the buyers are now different. Back before the iPhone and iPad, the Apple-specific case buyer was a certain type of person, a specific type of personality. After the iPhone, iPod and iPad everything changed.
Now the Apple user was anyone who could afford to be one, not just this super creative, talented rebellious person. Our early nylon designs resonated with that original Apple user. This is the customer we took upmarket with our Premium Leather Collection.
So the market expanded but the customers were now much more mainstream, less of the Apple community mindset. If you ask your average iPhone or iPad owner if they know what a MUG is, they would tell you something they drink their coffee out of.
When it came time to address where we wanted to go with our nylon line, we had to have a plan. There was a flood of new, very cheap competition selling to a whole new, not necessarily very design oriented customer base.
Moreover the customers were being trained to buy on discount, looking for the lowest price regardless of quality. Which is the complete opposite of what Apple is about as a brand.
That juxtaposition between wanting the most expensive computer hardware to be protected by the cheapest, most poorly designed case you can find on eBay or Amazon still boggles my mind.
Luckily, not everyone is of this mindset. What we had to solve is how to sell quality iPad bags to the folks who wanted something better than the $8.25 eBay special. Our solution was to pick 3 form factors and design them to a price point way above the actual price they would sell for.
Creating Customer Driven iPad Bags
JKD: How do you do that?
MS: Very judiciously. This is where the 20 years of experience comes in. This is where talking to customers everyday on the phone comes in. This is where reading each and every customer email about how to improve our products comes in. This is where reading each and every post on social media about what design a customers is not finding comes in.
Marketing people love to talk about "big data". That's great if you look at your potential customers as zeros and ones. That's not how we do things at MacCase. We listen. Potential customers are real people to us. People who have dreams and are going places. And when they go, we want to be with them when they do
MacCase becomes part of their support system. We help get them through their day and protect the hardware that houses those dreams. Whether it's a portfolio of work, a drive with a remix or your next album, plans for your dream house, the contract for your next big deal, whatever is important to you, MacCase protects that.
JKD: So how did you choose which form factors to go with for the current line of iPad Bags?
MS: One of the good things, or one might say, bad things, about doing this for so long is you have a closet full of ghost designs from the past that haunt you. Some I love and miss and some, well, not as much.
There are a few of the older designs that I would love to resurrect for the iPad. We're looking at that. But for the nylon line we had to go with what works, at least for the initial phase. This meant iPad bags in the form of an iPad backpack and an iPad messenger bag. These 2 form factors work for such a wide variety of users.
You don't have to sell anyone on the concept of the design. Everyone knows what a backpack is and what a messenger bag is. When slings first came out, it took a while for people to grasp the concept. Why would you make a backpack with only one strap? I heard that one a lot.
So for the initial phase, we felt we could present a solid collection of iPad bags built around these two form factors.
The Most Versatile iPad Bags
JKD: Both your iPad bags come with a custom fit, iPad Pro 12.9 Sleeve. Why is that?
MS: Well this is where the ghosts help. Everyone makes iPad bags with a built in sleeve. And you can get that from us as well if that is all you want. For the 10.5 or 9.7, our Universal models work great. Those tablets are too small to really make a specific bag for them. At that point your designing a lifestyle bag that has a place for that hardware.
But for the 12.9, it's much different. This is a beast of a tablet. It's big and heavy. It needs a specific iPad bag, whether with a shoulder strap or handle. By combining our sleeve with each of our chosen form factors, we can add a lot of value to the customer experience. This set's MacCase apart and endears us to our customers at the same time.
The sleeve also expands what is possible with our products. Again the goal of any MacCase is to first and foremost provide protection. With a sleeve and an iPad bag you can use them together of course, but you can also use them separately. So the circumstances in which a MacCase product can provide protection to the user expands. The inclusion of the sleeve allows for this.
There is a long history at MacCase of offering this type of unparalleled versatility. Doing it for Apple's largest tablet was a natural extension of an idea we have been using for nearly 20 years.
The Future of the iPad Bag
JKD: You mentioned some additional iPad bag designs? Can you give us a glimpse of what might be coming?
MS: There are always more ideas than we have the time, energy or resources to bring to market. It's not any different for what we could do for new iPad bags. But not all designs should come to market. The iPad bag market is fickle and moves very fast. Making a commitment to any number of new form factors could create a real problem if Apple suddenly come out with a 14" tablet.
It's great to be a design driven company. We look at numbers but at the end of the day, design rules here. It's what drive us. So whatever the next iPad bag we bring to market is, you can be sure that the design will be imbued with all the MacCase brand values, be protective and function in an exemplary way. Stay tuned.