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How a Creative Collaboration Launches a New Product

Written by Rachel Forster

On March 1, 2021

The world of work is changing as the world begins to adapt to life post-pandemic and whether we work in an office full-time or part-time, or from home full-time, or rent a corner of a shared office, we need to be more organised.

When Hotbox launched the Shuttle backpack, it was with that flexibility of workspace in mind.

It’s partly due to the first lockdown that the design team can soft-launch the Shuttle in such a short time. The team made rapid progress, making changes throughout the lockdown months because connecting was made more accessible and efficient by holding meetings on Zoom instead of driving to physical locations.

The Shuttle brought together the creative minds of Hotbox’s Jamie Rothwell and Rachel Forster with product designer Barry Jenkins and senior designer Julian Evens of BroomeJenkins and freelance product designer Alys Bryan and external expert travel bag designer Don Wilson.

Don says: “There was a degree of practising what Hotbox preaches about flexible working, so I think we only met in person once for a sample review. It’s probably one of the quicker turnarounds in as much as we did go through a lot of changes by rigorously testing ideas, first by sketches and then sample-making. But one of the good things about working in the soft goods industry is that we can make samples very quickly.”

The process started with illustrations and mock-ups. Barry says: “How to optimise the creation of internal compartments without too much sewing and hemming was one of the issues that came into consideration. That led the way for some earlier iterations where it was a hard box going inside a bag, which evolved into the Folio.”

Don’s experience in the bag, luggage and apparel sector meant the team leant on him to find out what was possible within the production cycle of these types of products and which partner to use. He knew manufacturers working with environmentally sustainable materials, which led to Hotbox partnering with an expert in Indonesia.

Don says: “They’re a reputable manufacturer and, in terms of quality, they’re very good. For reactiveness, they’re one of the best I’ve worked with.”

As a trained interior designer, Rachel is particularly interested in the challenges of blending working from home and the office in the future.

She says: “How we improve our houses to work from home is a fascinating and exciting area. Many people are not lucky enough to have a spare bedroom that they can turn into an office. Similarly, how will office space adapt? All this feeds into Hotbox and what I love about it, which is that something so small can have such a big impact on your life.”

For Hotbox, the collaboration was the first time they’d used an external design team, and it was a bold move. Jamie says: “It was a new experience for us, but we gelled fast. We took decisions quickly, and we weren’t scared to say we chased the wrong rabbit down the hole, so let’s move on to something else.

“The result is the Shuttle, which we’re proud to launch for our customers to streamline their lives. Just as our customers are collaborating in very different ways, so we reacted to the world we were living in and worked with our partners in new and exciting ways to achieve a great result.”

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