I’ve spoken with enough engineers and designers from other companies to know our approach to designing equipment is very different than theirs. Most companies adopt a classic approach: survey the competition, add up features, functions, and performance within a category, then set out to better the score. It is an admirable and often successful path but it isn’t close to what we do.
Ours is not a classic approach. For one thing, we rarely pay attention to other company’s products. Our reasoning is simple: competition’s scorecard is traditionally tallied on the simple metric of price. How do similarly priced products stack up against each other?
That metric has never interested our design team. Even from our earliest days, back when it was just Stan and me, we rarely surveyed the field to see where we stood in terms of price, features, and functions. Instead, our metric was performance and usability. How did our product stack up against others, regardless of price, and was it a product we’d use ourselves?
This observation is not to suggest we do not work towards a price point. We often do: Sprout and Stellar are perfect examples of working to a price point. That said, I doubt many of us on the design team has much of a clue which other company’s similar price point items “compete” with either Sprout or Stellar.
What we focus on instead is giving it all we’ve got with what we have to work with. Whether it’s a $600 price for Sprout or a $1,500 price for Stellar, each is given everything we possess to make it as good as it can be as a standalone product. Is it something we’d be proud to own? We’re not interested in trying it out against someone else’s best effort. Quite simply put, we don’t know how to make it better within those guidelines.
Crafting a product to compete with the price, features, and functions of other company’s designs feels to us like it’s empty of innovation and invention.
From our point of view if you’re going to expend the energy to build something, built it standalone great. It’s a bit more precarious position in the marketplace, but the chance for crafting something special by giving it all you’ve got in service of performance just feels right.