Design stalwarts Orbitkey recently took out the prestigious iF Gold Design Award (!!), winning over the 63-member jury and standing out amongst 6,400 entries from 54 countries. Out of the 75 Gold Award winners, Orbitkey was the sole Australian company to win a Product Award.
This month also saw the launch of their brand new range of accessories and add-ons designed to help people be more organised. We visited the team during the busy design phase of this new range for a sneak peak, and to understand just how much of a role design plays at the company.
Photos by John Tan & Orbitkey.
Orbitkey, Melbourne, Victoria.
Who is involved with Orbitkey?
Originally founded by Charles and myself, there are now 13 of us in the team. We’re a small team of creative and passionate individuals based in Melbourne – who want to make an impact in the world of organisation.
What was the founding moment? How’d you know to keep going?
In 2012, Charles was training for a half-marathon run and he hated the sound of jingling keys in his pocket during morning runs. Sick of having to detach the house key from his keyrings every single time, he made a quick prototype using simple bolt and nut to stop the keys from jingling. When he showed me the design, I explained my own frustration of keys scratching my phone and wallet whenever I put them in my pockets or bag together. This was when we decided to take the idea further.
It was not all smooth-sailing. There were quite a few challenges in the design, especially when designing a screw-mechanism that is secure and will not loosen over time. Fast forward 9 months later – after many long nights and more than 10 different design iterations – we had refined the idea further into something we really believe in.
You launched originally on Kickstarter. How long did it take from making the decision to the launch of the first crowd-funding campaign?
It was an easy decision for us. Back then, Kickstarter was becoming increasingly popular, for start-ups and individuals with little to no capital to launch ideas. Having worked on the idea for so long, naturally we grew fond of our design. However, we didn’t know if others would like it too. This was also a driving factor in us deciding to launch the idea on Kickstarter. In a way, It allowed us to test the market.
In what way has crowd-funding influenced the company?
We are extremely passionate about crowdfunding, it helped “kick start” our brand and we were able to continuously go back to our community for new products and launches. Having this direct and open connection with your core audience is very special. We’d like to think of our backers as part of the family and an extension of the team.
Besides from the point of view of project creators (we’ve created 4 now), we are also passionate about backing other projects. It’s fun and rewarding to help new ideas and projects come to life and be involved in the process.
What made you ‘reinvent’ the Orbitkey 1.0 with the relaunch of Orbitkey 2.0?
In short, our community encouraged us to do it. Orbitkey 1.0 was a great key organiser, but we quickly realised that it can be even better. Alongside the praises and excitement from our first campaign, came valuable constructive feedback on how we could improve the design.
Two years after launching the original idea, as a company that values innovation, design and more importantly, our community - we took on the feedback we received from our customers and instilled it into the design of Orbitkey 2.0. The launch went very successfully with a lot of very happy supporters.
Can the Orbitkey 2.0 be improved?
Definitely. As designers, we can’t help but continuously look for improvements. In addition, as technology develops and the way people interact with keys change, we will also need to adjust our product to provide better value.
You’ve successfully completed four crowd-funded campaigns in the space of four-ish years. Is this now part and parcel for Orbitkey’s future growth?
It’s certainly a big part of who we are, and will continue for future products. It’s great to be able to go back to our crowd funding community when we launch new products, to get their opinions before the product is officially launched. The funding also helps us focus on creating innovative and thoughtful products, rather than being influenced by outside investors.
What was it like on the days where your campaign goal kept multiplying itself?
There were a lot of high-fives to start with, then the nerves started to kick in. Our hard work was starting to become a reality and we knew that in order to make it a long term success, we needed to make sure we deliver on quality also. Half way through the campaign, Charles handed in his resignation, and I did too shortly after. It was a tough one. Having said that, I’m glad that we had done it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made as it really allowed us to focus on Orbitkey.
Half way through the (Kickstarter) campaign, Charles handed in his resignation, and I did too shortly after... It turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made.
Do you aim for, or are you conscious of, an overarching style or common aesthetic of the Orbitkey product range? Is it important each product is identifiable as an Orbitkey design?
Being a product design-led brand, it is very important that we have products that are uniquely Orbitkey. In essence, our products aim to have the perfect balance of quality, aesthetic and function. They feature very clean aesthetic with minimal branding, resulting in understated elegance that you can carry everywhere confidently. We blend traditional craft with the modern production process, to create something that’s uniquely elegant and functional. Together with our manufacturing partners, we aim to create consistent, high-quality goods that are going to serve you for a long time.
Your ‘O’ logo is just brilliant… it’s one of those golden logomarks where it says everything. Are branding, marketing and packaging all done in house? It’s all so clean and concise and does an excellent job of portraying what’s inside. From a retailer’s perspective that’s so important, and rare!
You’re too kind. The name “Orbit”key actually came about when we thought about the movement of keys around this central pivot point. Other than very minor tweaks, our logomark has been the same since day one. All branding, marketing and packaging are done in-house and we’re very lucky to have amazingly-talented and hard-working bunch of designers in our team. It’s certainly hard work so it means a lot when retailers and customers pay attention to all the details we have considered. Thank you, again.
How did you develop the skills to go from careers in very different industries to becoming self-employed and taking on the many facets of running your own company?
It was (and still is) quite challenging for the both of us. Charles had an industrial design background and I worked as a community pharmacist with a passion for business. It involves a lot of hard work, late nights and steep learning curves. So much of what we do is trial and error, but thankfully we found that people are generally willing to lend a helping hand. You just have to ask!
Today, Orbitkey is supported by a few more very passionate individuals. So it certainly helps open up the doors of possibilities.
In what way does design play a role day to day?
Design, innovation, and our customers are always at the forefront of what we do. Every detail and component of our product has been designed and manufactured from the ground up. It’s something that really helps our company stand out from the crowd.
Having said this, we believe that it’s our responsibility to be conscious of what we’re designing. To focus less on the quantity, and instead focus more on quality of the small but considered selection of products. Our hearts, minds and even weekends were poured into every single product we come up with.
Do you ever feel any restraints being a product design company located in Australia?
With the tools we have today, the world is becoming smaller. It’s becoming easier for anyone to promote their work or launch their idea to public on a global scale. After all, it was how we started in the first place anyway.
Any companies in Australia should take this opportunity to fully pursue their dreams and gather their tribe/community who support them along the way. We hope that Australian brands will continue to create great designs that are original, purposeful and impactful.
Having pushed the idea of the Key Organiser for a few years now, we start to realise that at the core, what we offer as a brand is a way to get your life more organised. We believe that when your life is more organised, it is easier and better. It’s the little changes can make the biggest difference. In short, our vision is to help our community improve through clever organisation! There’s quite a lot planned for the rest of 2018 and 2019, but you’ll have to follow us to find out!