The Value of
Good design language tells a story about how a company came to be and how it connects with its users. In 2007, Electro-Voice decided that their audio equipment was in need of a revamp in order to do just that; we partnered with them to inject their roots back into their language.
Feeling the Music - Feeling the Brand
Electro-Voice has been making high-quality, affordable professional audio equipment since the dawn of the electronic age. Founded on the belief that microphones shouldn’t be high-priced, the company has continued to evolve its offerings to cater to their fans.
In trying to develop an even stronger connection to its demographic of amateur and working musicians, Electro-Voice wanted to create even better sound with a bolder look. Cliff Krapfl, TEAMS vice president and creative director, fit closely into that group.
In looking for further clues to appeal to Electro-Voices target group, the design team visited the studios of musicians and producers in the Chicago area and heard about their experiences.
“They were really excited to show us their tools and equipment,” noted Krapfl. “They knew a lot about their equipment and how it worked; there was a lot of passion there.”
Knowing that the customers were passionate experts themselves, it opened the door for a bigger discussion about moving Electro-Voice forward with a design so spot-on that it also matched the high-quality engineering behind it — and at the same time elevated their fans to music stardom.
“Our talent as designers is to take words, feelings, and emotions and to turn them into something tangible."
Rewinding back to Move Forward
Just as music tells a story, so does design. Electro-Voice’s design story goes back into the 1920’s, and has always been identifiable through its use of quality components. As the design team worked with EV to develop connections among the design elements, we saw a strong resemblance to features such as strength, durability, prowess, and performance.
Krapfl highlighted the team’s expertise during this stage, “Our talent as designers is to take words, feelings, and emotions and to turn them into something tangible. Our goal is to show outwardly the depth of engineering inwardly. For Electro-Voice, that meant conveying the strength and power of their products from the inside to the outside — and in a way that closely matched the brand’s personality.”
As TEAMS went to work finding design cues that would communicate EV's attributes on a variety of products, we found a unifying theme in highly elemental forms: the matte black grill echoes the running pattern of a wall of brick masonry; the new cast metal badge has a titanium finish; and design details call to mind structural elements like rolled steel joists. Inspired by the very elements that give birth to the speakers' sounds, we sought a language that was true to its component materials on the product's outside as well as its inside: a design language of strength and purpose.
“In the end, we had a speaker that closely carried the brand’s legacy and met all of our goals for usability, styling, and engineering. Not only that, but it also matched the fans’ lifestyles, who are often left to do most of the work themselves — building up and tearing down their equipment after shows. All the elements came together to visually communicate the sound quality — it doesn’t get better than that,” said Krapfl.
TEAMS selected everything down to the finest details: the placement of the logo, the particular finishes to be used, as well as the other design elements that made the ZLX aesthetically pleasing and well-received. So often, these details go unnoticed, but they elevate a product into a higher perception of quality that can’t necessarily be put into words.
A Brand-Wide Success Story
As soon as the ZLX made its public debut in 2013, the accolades started to roll in. The music press at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show named it Best of Show, and other honors like the iF Design Award followed suit. It quickly shot up to become a best seller for over a year.
Drawing on the same compelling design language, EV's subsequent releases — the ETX and EKX — have been a strong follow-up to the impressive precedent set by the ZLX. Winning NAMM Best of Show in 2014 and 2015 respectively, these lines have helped Electro-Voice take home that prestigious honor for the third consecutive year.
“Because the engineering is so good, it just needed a brand language that was as purposeful and meaningful,” ended Krapfl, speaking for the TEAMS design team.