When Susan Taing left her product marketing job at Google, she went to New Jersey to help run her family’s manufacturing business. Taing soon found herself caught up in a belabored transcontinental design process. “I was trying to prototype with the manufacturers, shipping each version back and forth. It was inefficient,” she says. “I thought, What if we could 3-D-print all of this?” That idea forms the bedrock of Bhold, Taing’s product design company that asks users to play with prototypes and give feedback. It’s like beta testing, with accessories. Taing’s latest is Bsonic, a $69 seashell-shaped acoustic iPad speaker that went through 39 versions.
Here’s how the product evolved:
“The horn shape was obvious at first, because of gramophones and horns,” Taing says. “But when you channel sound through a tube, it seems far away. So this telescope-looking one didn’t work out.”
Next, Taing tried mimicking the shape of a boom box. “The shape inside it was square, and I found rounded shapes just work better,” she says. “A lot of times, sound takes on the shape of the physical object it’s in.”
In pursuit of a rounder shape, Taing thought of a seashell. Put a shell to your ear and “you can hear the ambient noise around you, amplified,” she says. “The Bsonic needs to do the same, by acting as a resonating chamber for the iPad’s speaker.”
“This one has a good stand, and the iPad fits in it well,” Taing says. “It’s sturdy and doesn’t shake.” But the sound fidelity needed improving.
With the rounder shape in place, the sound was better but wasn’t trapped as well. Taing also had to contend with the tab -- the small protruding ledge that supports the iPad -- and its tendency to block the screen. That’s bad for Netflix-ers.
“This one gets closer, but we still had to deal with the tab,” Taing says of this version with a more closely furled tab. “It had the aesthetics I wanted but wasn’t smooth enough.”
Taing says her final design is like “an egg.” With rounded corners, “the experience is smoother and there’s nothing to run into and bump into,” she says. The finished speaker features a graphic, inside the shell, of an arrow. Adjust the iPad one way for louder sound, another way to view more of the screen. “Now it felt right,” Taing says.