Excellence in Product Design and Development

Creative Labs Nomad

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At The Forefront Of The MP3 Revolution

As the year 2000 approached, the music industry was on the verge of dynamic change. With the increasing popularity of MP3 compression technology, a recording industry revolution was in the making. More and more WEB destinations were offering free and low cost MP3s, and the Apple iPod was still just an idea in Apple’s Cupertino laboratories. One full year before the introduction of the iPod, the convenience, durability, and vast accessibility of MP3 technology was pioneered by the Creative Labs NOMAD Jukebox. The design for this high capacity, mini hard drive system, developed by IDE Inc., was a technological and industrial design milestone. A new horizon was upon us and the NOMAD Jukebox, a virtual music library, was poised to embrace the future of music listening. IDE Inc. and Creative Labs were at the forefront of this surging progression.

The NOMAD Jukebox, a USB, multi-format, portable, MP3 player/recorder that featured 6GB of built-in hard drive storage was a huge success. The NOMAD could hold up to 150 music CDs and 2,600 hours of spoken word. It had a Line-In for analog recording and a dual “Line-Out” connection for multi-media speaker systems. The NOMAD featured an onboard, real-time digital signal processor (DSP), and an onboard, real-time effects processor, both of which produce superior audio playback and customization. It also supported multiple formats including MP3, WMA, and WAV files, and the Headphone-Out supports headphone spatialization and equalizer effects.

Design Excellence Leads To A Competitive Edge

Creative Labs, having worked briefly with a prior consultancy, brought a rough concept for the Nomad Jukebox to IDE in September of 1999. IDE developed and completed the industrial design and mechanical engineering for the NOMAD in roughly four months. This remarkable turn around time was possible because of IDE’s comprehensive approach to product design. Far too often companies developing products based on emerging technologies fail to embrace the need for product design excellence. Packaging innovative technology in an intelligent, elegant design complements the potential of its technology, and demonstrates the competitive edge that can be achieved by utilizing a product design firm such as IDE Inc.

IDE’s product design and development program is a proven multi-phase process. It analyses every aspect of the product design including color options, surface textures, and other esoteric details such as the sound a button makes when it is pressed. For the NOMAD several design options were developed to achieve the elegant crease details along the sides of the case, which encompass the headphone jacks, volume control, and lock out button. Precision CNC prototypes were modeled for a side-mount volume control study, and the mounting details for the display window and upper housing were studied and developed to achieve optimal part design.

IDE’s product design and development program is a proven multi-phase process. It analyses every aspect of the product design including color options, surface textures, and other esoteric details such as the sound a button makes when it is pressed. For the NOMAD several design options were developed to achieve the elegant crease details along the sides of the case, which encompass the headphone jacks, volume control, and lock out button. Precision CNC prototypes were modeled for a side-mount volume control study, and the mounting details for the display window and upper housing were studied and developed to achieve optimal part design.

It’s In The Details

With IDE, no small detail is left unattended. For example, the development of the user controls on the NOMAD, which to a user may seem simple and straight forward, encompassed an array of usability and mechanical issues. A plastic model was developed and used by IDE to evaluate the ergonomic function of the keys. The relative height of each key was then tested and evaluated by adjusting their heights by four thousandth of an inch increments. Similarly, a second model allowed the IDE team to measure and evaluate the actuation force of each key to insure that all keys had a similar feel to the user. Creating prototypes that are both analytical and empirical in their function allows IDE to associate a quantitative value to a subjective response. Human factors research and engineering models are essential ingredients to successful product design.

For IDE Inc. the success of the NOMAD design lies in a balanced approach to each of their contributing disciplines. The form of the NOMAD could have taken any shape, but was respectful to Creative’s initial concept, a form reminiscent of a portable CD player. Factors that were involved in the packaging of the NOMAD included manufacturing’s desire for a single PC design with the hard drive mounted to the PC board, and, of course the intelligent facilitation of all technology and function. Ergonomic considerations were paramount and each user control was analyzed for maximum user satisfaction. IDE’s design sketches and eventually their final design concepts (computer generated using sophisticated 3D NURBS modeling) were directed toward a softer more integrated look that evoked elegance with an emphasis on surface transitions.

Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Award

Creative Labs’ aggressive launch schedule left IDE minimal room for error and IDE achieved Creative’s goals with virtually no mistakes. The NOMAD was selected by Popular Mechanics for an Editor’s Choice Award at the 2000 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Steve Thompson, project leader and IDE’s interface at Creative Labs, sent a message to IDE President Dave Moriconi. He wrote, “Myself and the rest of the development team are extremely happy with the excellence of IDE’s work. The CES show was a HUGE success. We received nothing but compliments on the Industrial Design. Dave, once again you and your staff did not let me down. In all of the projects we have done together, this is definitely the finest.” Constant deliberation between designers and engineers creates a trade off that in the end produces the best possible product for IDE customers. At IDE, engineers and designers form a symbiotic relationship that progresses in a critical union of analysis, reanalysis, and creative problem solving.