Darrin Caddes spent more than 20 years designing products for some of the world's most prestigious automotive and motorcycle brands, including BMW, Fiat and Indian Motorcycle. That background would seem an odd fit for Plantronics, but in actuality, it informs the very unique and visceral design philosophy that Darrin brings to the company each day.
"It may not be an obvious connection, but there are some strong parallels between designing high-end motorcycles and luxury cars and communication headsets," said Caddes. "Whether designing a 1100cc motorcycle or a discreet Bluetooth headset, it's critical to fully understand the physical and emotional relationship between the product and the end user. In both cases the product truly becomes an extension of the operator, so it's imperative that the product is not only comfortable and easy to use, but also helps define the user's identity and bolster his or her sense of self. Like bikes and cars, headsets should empower people and support the desire to express their individuality and style."
As vice president of Corporate Design, Caddes has assembled a world-class team of industrial design (ID) professionals from leading design companies, such as Herman Miller, Motorola, Nike, and Nokia. That team works to ensure that Plantronics products effectively marry the intricacies of superior sound technology, for which the company has been known for more than 40 years, with the intimacy of personal fashion and comfort – and do so in a very small and elegant package.
From human behavior and anatomy to color and complex surface development, each member of the Plantronics Design team brings a specialty expertise that collectively inspires innovation and design breakthroughs. It's how Plantronics differentiates itself and continues to develop industry-leading products that consumers identify with and desire.
"Human anatomy is the canvas on which we create new designs and product concepts," said Caddes. "In many ways, we begin the design inspiration process by starting at the end: by examining where our final products will rest. And that isn't in the box or on a table, but worn. If it doesn't look good on the human body, it's not worth exploring."
What's next? Caddes believes headsets will continue to evolve as fashion accessories as we have seen with both watches and eyewear. Headsets of the future may well serve a purely aesthetic purpose as they become more like jewelry and less like technology pieces. "People choose to have multiple watches and pairs of eyeglasses," said Caddes. "These are lifestyle accessories and we make decisions on which ones to wear based on how we feel or chose to express ourselves at that moment. I believe headsets are destined for the same cultural evolution."
Plantronics will stay on the cutting edge by anticipating market needs and creating looks that fit with the diverse tastes of its customers. As Caddes states, "The process is never ending. As soon as you've identified the next new thing, you've got to immediately look for the next big idea or opportunity. Our customers are sophisticated and won't wait for us. We'll continue to innovate and push the envelope to ensure our products blend fashion and comfort with dependability and uncompromised sound quality. This is what we live and breathe at Plantronics."