New spark

17 June 2015

Once a brand found in almost every British home, Goodmans was in need of a twenty-first century makeover. Stephen Holmes speaks to Rodd Design, the design agency helping it to recapture customers’ hearts and minds

Goodmans turned to Rodd Design in order to prepare the brand for a future of ‘connected lifestyle’ electronics

Not so long ago, the Goodmans brand was a mainstay in many British households, stamped on audio appliances such as loudspeakers and radios that offered customers affordable solidity.

The company’s history stretches right back to 1923, and more recently, it had carved a profitable niche for itself in set-top boxes for satellite TV. With the availability of digital content services killing off satellite viewing, however, Goodmans was experiencing a change of heart. It was time, the company’s management decided, for a makeover.

More accustomed to rebadging products than designing its own, Goodmans approached design consultancy Rodd Design for its thoughts on where they could take the brand next.

For the last two years, the two companies have been collaborating not only on new products, but also on Goodmans’ overall plan for the future.

“[Goodmans] wanted to explore how they could reposition themselves to acknowledge the audio history that they have but, at the same time, prepare themselves to become more associated with ‘connected lifestyle’ electronics,” explains Rodd Design’s managing director Ben Davies.

Together, the two companies decided that a new design strategy should take priority over simply building a new product line, but first, Davies and the rest of Rodd Design’s five-person team had to explore what the Goodmans brand truly represented. This was an issue for the business, says Davies.

“What the business wanted to achieve, what the shareholders expected from the brand and how the consumers perceived it – there was a big disconnect.”

The Aspect soundbar can be stood upright by popping off an end cap held on with magnets

The first part of the makeover involved creating a roadmap for future products that would launch in 2015, with a continued focus on the home audio market. Fewer products, offering great audio quality at an affordable price, but adhering more closely to contemporary technology trends, Goodmans felt, might help the company recapture its past glory.

As part of the brief, Rodd was asked to design three new products and to take them through to manufactured completion.

These designs should be stripped back as much as possible, leaving the bare minimum needed for customers to be able to take products straight from the box and use them immediately, whether connected via Bluetooth or plugged instead into an existing system.

But first, the designers needed to establish the look and feel of the ‘new’ Goodmans brand. That work had to happen, says Davies, well before they took to sketching their concepts in Alias or adding fine details for manufacture in Siemens NX.

“A lot of what we do is getting the strategy right before anyone puts pen to paper, and a lot of that is about setting the right tone of voice,” he comments.

Rodd Design helped Goodmans appreciate the added value of good design, including the use of materials and manufacturing

With the focus on affordability, design had to take precedence. The goal, after all, was to counter the fact that Goodmans offers fewer features than more pricey competitor products by adding extra value and desirability through slick design and smart manufactured finishes.

That required Rodd Design to collaborate closely on day-to-day manufacturing decisions with Goodmans’ China-based suppliers and assemblers.

“You can make a beautiful Keyshot render, but if the thing comes out of the factory looking like a dog’s dinner, then it ain’t about the software!” jokes Davies.

“A very big part of what we do is making sure that the integrity of the concept is delivered [right] through to production, making sure that stuff comes through factories as beautiful and well put-together as the price point allows.”

One of the first products to be completed was Aspect, a dual-format horizontal/vertical home speaker and soundbar that packs a powerful punch but which, at just 50 centimetres wide, can be accommodated even in homes where space is at a premium.

“If you sell TVs, you’re now expected to sell soundbars. We needed to understand where the gap in the market was and, weird as it sounds, nobody was doing short soundbars,” Davies explains.

The designs wanted to explore Goodmans’ audio history, but with modern components

“A small soundbar means a small TV, and a small TV tends to live in a second bedroom or a kid’s bedroom – and we found that was an untapped market.”

Using a simple magnetic stand, the speaker can lie horizontally and fit under a screen.

But where a small room is particularly short on space, the speaker can be stood upright by popping off an end cap held on with magnets Already, the first batch of new Goodmans products are hitting the market and achieving positive reviews to match the design team’s high hopes: they’re affordable, they over-deliver on expectations and they’re aesthetically desirable.

By changing its client’s way of thinking and helping it to appreciate the added value that good design and manufacture can bring, Rodd Design has built the foundations for Goodmans to become a household staple once more.

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