Embody 3D had the great opportunity to talk to Kirsten Black, an industrial designer and entrepreneur from N.A.S.T. International. Kirsten has developed a brilliantly simple design called Halo Headphones which are headphones with an integrated speaker so users can listen to music, audiobooks or the radio on the go or in a more comfortable manner. In this interview with Kirsten we explore some of the challenges faced from going from a major project concept to a full fledged production model that can be found on the shelves of Myer! For more information please check out: http://www.haloheadphones.com/en/index.php!
Article by Embody 3D – Twitter – 13.04.2010
Hi Kirsten, welcome to Embody 3D and thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. To get started could you please give me a quick introduction to yourself and Halo Headphones?
Hi Martin. I am a 30-year-old engineer come Industrial Designer, who has set up a company, N. A. S. T. International with my business partner Alexandre Blanc to launch Halo Headphones & other New Advanced Style & Technology products onto the global market. Halo Headphones are specially designed high fidelity speakers that can be inserted into its paired headband, a more convenient and comfortable sound solution. Catering to audio addicts, Halo Headphones delivers crystal clear sounds in cosy comfort without the inconvenience of bulky plastic casing of traditional headphones or troublesome ear-bud earphones – no more annoying headphones dropping out or niggling cables.
What gave you the confidence to take your industrial design major project from a concept to a manufactured and marketed product? How did you know there was a market willing to purchase this product?
Taking a thorough look at existing headphones gave me the confidence to develop Halo. I realised that Halo’s unique, streamlined design makes them more functional for applications such as running, sleeping & travel. I had a lot of positive feedback while developing Halo form people around me and people in the industry.
Did you ever consider a licensing model with a larger company like Nike Running? What do you consider to be the positives and negatives of going down the start up model for Halo rather than licensing?
Yes, there have been opportunities to license Halo. The positives of going down the start up model route are the experience and satisfaction of building a company from the ground up. If I had licensed Halo exclusively, I would potentially have more money (but less control) and more time to pursue other projects and ideas. There are many different ways to set up a licensing deal, such as co-branding and it is part of our business plan.
In hindsight would you make any significant changes to how you have developed Halo headphones to its current state today?
So far, I have invested a lot in protecting Halo through patents, registered designs and trademarks internationally. It is a bit of a gamble and the future will tell. Also, I can see how bringing the wrong people into the business could go wrong very quickly. It’s important to trust your instincts.
If you ask 90% of young males when they hear the word ‘halo’ a popular Xbox game comes to mind. Have you had any issues with this trademark or approaches from Microsoft about this?
No approaches from Microsoft. The Halo Headphones trademark is registered in a different class. (Similar name but different products like Dove chocolate and Dove soap).
You studied industrial design at UTS what did you think of the design program? Has the course helped you develop business or commercialization skills in any way?
Graduating from Industrial Design was a really rewarding experience because it such a tough course. I particularly enjoyed the later part of the course, where the learning is more self-directed. Business & commercialization skills would more likely be developed in the field. In retrospect, I can see how valuable a combined Industrial Design/ Marketing degree would be.
Do you have any general advice for students studying industrial design who are perhaps contemplating starting their own business once they’ve finished university?
My first hand industry experience has been really valuable. That said; if you believe in your idea, go for it! If you stretch yourself, there will always be people willing to share their experience with you.
What do you tend to spend the most time on with Halo Headphones? Designing and making iterations? Communicating your ideas and manufacturing? Or just simply trying to sell and market your product?
Despite being an Industrial Designer, I spend a lot of time doing Graphic Design! Alexandre looks after the sales, marketing & promotion, so that allows me to focus on design, so that’s great!
The Halo Headphones are just an ingenious product, it is so simple and just so cool, and it even makes me want to start running again! Where did the idea come from initially to design this product? Was it from first hand experience or was it very research based?
Halo is such a simple idea, but there was a lot of research behind it. I had actually written my dissertation on music therapy for people with dementia. I learnt how powerful music is in making people feel comfortable & familiar in an increasingly hostile and unfamiliar environment. In designing for the least abled, the design becomes much more usable by everybody.
Could you tell me a bit more about the design process for the Halo Headphones? What were the main challenges in getting the product resolved to its current form today?
If you were to take a look at the earlier prototypes, you would see the design has come a very long way. Halo’s design is simple, but there was a lot of development in achieving its simplicity.
I understand you spend a lot of the design process optimizing the speaker quality and comfort, could you tell me a little more about this?
I spent a lot of time sourcing the speakers and working with audio technicians and sound engineers to optimize the speaker sound. We now have sound engineers saying Halo Headphones are comparable with their $300 headphones.
The Halo Headphones look beautiful not only in person but also throughout all the advertising images used on the Halo website, not to mention the packaging of the headphones. What was the main message you wanted to achieve in marketing the headphones and how were you able to achieve such great looking advertising?
Thanks! We always try to communicate the Halo vibe, while keeping the visuals simple & fun.
What styles, and colours do the headphones come in and how much do they cost?
Halo Headphones are available now online at www.haloheadphones.com or through selected retailers – full stockist list at www.haloheadphones.com under ‘Stores’. RRP AU$49.95, additional ORIGINAL, SPORT & KIDS headbands also sold separately, RRP AU$14.95
Kirsten thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Embody 3D. Do you have any last thoughts for the Embody 3D readers?
Thanks for the opportunity. If your readers have any more questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]