For a product with no GI tract to speak of, the iPad sure comes with a lot of buts. “I love it for surfing on the couch, but…” or “I love it for writing my emails, but…” These aren’t even necessarily flaws with the iPad itself, but a difference in the scope Apple imagines for the product and the user imagines for a product.
It’s a clip-on iPad keyboard with a milled aluminum chassis and integrated speaker that ostensibly converts the iPad into a MacBook. Other products like this exist, but Brydge is a bit more minimal than the others, and doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to make the iPad look exactly like a Macbook Air:
“We love the Apple products’ aesthetics, but when it comes to the iPad it felt like every keyboard or case is made from cheap materials, didn’t offer any range of iPad positioning or completely covered the entire iPad. Brydge was designed to complement the iPad, to improve productivity and enjoyment of the device,” explains Sam Gordon, one of Brydge’s three creators. “Because it’s made of aluminum, the costs to manufacture Brydge are high—we turned to Kickstarter to raise the necessary capital to do manufacturing run. We also wanted to test the market and see if there was room for a high-quality aluminum keyboard.”
Apprently there is some room in the market for that premium keyboard. In a week, Brydge raised over $400,000, promising units at an introductory price of $150 (about the same cost as a refurbished Kindle Fire).
You could call it beginner’s luck for a project pioneered by just three Menlo Park designers (Sam Gordon, Brad Leong, Eddy Vromen) who don’t even have a collective studio behind them. But the thing is, the Brydge is the group’s second successful Kickstarter product. Previous to it, Gordon and Leong raised over $130,000 for an iPhone stand called the Oona. Corporate or not, there’s a strange and wonderful alchemy going on between these designers.
“We all have eclectic backgrounds. Brad grew up designing gadgets and gizmos, self-taught in design and film work. He attended the USC Film school and has directed several features, but now he is focused on product design. Eddy is from the Netherlands originally, he has worked on everything from an electronic cigarette to a 3-D printer,” Gordon tells Co.Design. “Brad and I have talked about different products to make since college, I went off to work in politics and then in New York for several years, and just came back last year to work full-time with Brad. I handle a lot of the day-to-day operations and relationships with distributors, retailers, manufacturers, etc.”
Eclectic backgrounds aside, they’re clearly striking a chord with the Kickstarter community. And I was curious, with all this success, Kickstarter must be giving them the white glove treatment, but Gordon insists that isn’t the case, and offers some insight into this explosion of crowdfunding: “Kickstarter is very serious about knowing that any product they allow can and will be produced,” he writes. “They asked a lot of questions about our experience and our timeline. Nothing too difficult if you know what you’re doing…[but] they made sure we knew what we were doing before letting us on the site.”
Gordon attributes the Brydge’s success with the design collective’s ability to package the product (sometimes at Apple’s expense), to express what made it stand out from other keyboards in the space. “There are a lot of keyboards that are painted silver and look decent on a computer,” he writes, “but what really sets our keyboard apart is when you hold it in your hand and it feels like it belongs next to an Apple product.”
The Brydge crew isn’t the first to attempt to duplicate Apple’s legendary build quality, and without seeing the device and grasping it for ourselves, it’s tough to know if they truly have. But one thing’s somewhat certain: With $400,000 in the bank hinged on an enticing promise, at this juncture, that stipulation really doesn’t matter so much.