Brett Lovelady – Fast 50 2003


Brett Lovelady and his colleagues design gorgeous products, but their toughest job is to design a process of collaboration between brands and business partners. Designing the Nike Triax sports watch meant working with Seiko. Designing the iPAQ PDA for Compaq meant working with Microsoft. The Triax generated $200 million in sales for Nike, and Compaq sold more than 2 million iPAQs.


Brett Lovelady
President, Astro Studios Inc.
San Francisco, California


Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
ASTRO Studios of San Francisco creates high impact products for big companies. Founders Brett Lovelady & Kyle Swen focus their creative teams on blending design, technology and lifestyle to create category leaders. When companies need to leapfrog the expected product re-hash, they hire ASTRO to re-invent and re-fresh their products. Two perfect examples. First, Nike challenged ASTRO to extend their brand into sports-watches. They responded by creating the industry redefining TRIAX series, resulting in over 200 million in new revenue. Then Compaq challenged ASTRO to develop a “Palm killer” PDA for Microsoft’s Pocket PC launch. The result is the industry leading iPAQ and over a billion dollars in revenue. ASTRO’s challenge was to deliver on expectations well outside of each company’s typical process. With millions riding on the success of each program, the similarity of these programs was in the confidence each company displayed by empowering ASTRO to lead the way.

What was your moment of truth?
The moment of truth for both the Nike and Compaq programs were similar. For Nike we mediated between them and Seiko, their chosen manufacturing partner. And for Compaq, we sat between Compaq and their OS partner, Microsoft. In both cases we were at the hub of new product creation. In the beginning we set up 3-day brainstorm sessions with all parties to collect each groups hopes, dreams, realities, technologies and expectations. Our greatest challenges at this point were to determine which issues and agendas took priority so we could define an inspired product strategy. We were responsible to be the “end user’s advocate” and it was our job to define and design the best products for real people, transcending their expectations. In parallel, the companies focused on delivering the products to the marketplace. Through our creative process we generated solutions based on what real people wanted and needed. For Nike it was to improve the sport of running for real runners with a series of unique, fashionable features. For Compaq if was advancing the standard PDA for technophiles with style and flexibility. For both we had to make the products desirable: cool, stylish, functional and profitable. And we did. (The exact date? 6/1/1999)

What were the results?
For Nike’s Triax program, the results were over 200 million in new revenue. In the first year, Nike sold 1 million units, over 3 times projections. This was Nike’s first electronic product and spawned their TechLab. Also in 2000 ASTRO received a Design of Decade Award from BusinessWeek for the Triax. For Compaq’s iPAQ program, the results were over 2 million products sold, creating over a billion dollars in retail revenue. During the first year, demand was 10 times the projected volume, creating such a shortage that iPAQs sold on Ebay for over $1,500, almost 3 times retail cost.

What’s your parting tip?
When creating your next big thing, challenge the norm, empower creative talent, step outside of corporate process…and hire ASTRO!