Stands the test of time
(From left) Simon Lowther, Melvin Choo (standing), Patrick O'Connell, Alon Tamir.
THE motto, spread in black, angular capitals a metre high and six metres wide across the white wall of Studio Proper in Prahran, tells it all: ''Good design lasts''.
In a world where high-street shops are crammed with cheap and ugly plastic wares as inconvenient as they are unbeautiful and items that are designed to be thrown away rather than repaired, those words warm the heart, telling us that all is not lost to the Philistines of the global marketplace.
That the four young men who are the passion, the brains and inspiration of this small enterprise have built a global reputation for their products in less than two years is an encouraging sign that quality is still appreciated, and eminently marketable.
iPad on the Wallee mount.
Studio Proper designs and markets the Wallee (thewallee.com) range of iPad and iPhone accessories that, as the firm's founder, Alon Tamir, says, is designed to extend the utility of the mobile devices and also remain true to the design principles espoused by Steve Jobs and his chief designer, Sir Jonathan Ive. And in keeping with that Silicon Valley spirit, Tamir started Wallee in the garage of his parents' house in Caulfield.
Industrial designers Patrick O'Connell and Melvin Choo, formerly of Motorola, and Simon Lowther, a designer who also handles marketing and customer relations, have since joined him.
Their products so far range from the original Wallee wall mount to a sleek iPad desk stand, not unlike the ''leg'' of an iMac, to an ingenious car headrest mount for the iPad and a go-anywhere magnetic iPhone mount. Along the way they have become involved with a revolutionary portable point-of-sale system for the iPad that involves a credit card reader about the size of a 60¢ postage stamp that plugs into the iPad's headphone socket.
The reader is called the Square and is at the core of a mobile retail system developed by US designer Jack Dorsey. The Square is changing the face of retailing in the US. It started with small operators such as street-food stallholders and rock bands flogging merchandise at concerts but is now moving into the mainstream. Along the way, it is promoting the Wallee Pivot stand (pictured below) for the iPad on which the card reader sits.
The Wallee system involves fitting an iPad into a form-fitting soft plastic case, not unlike many others on the market but with the difference that on its back is a rounded cruciform cutout into which any of the Wallee mounts fits and locks.
The whole range is modular, using this nifty four-armed fastener (the shape has become an icon of the brand) that holds an iPad or iPhone securely in its case to any of the Wallee accessories but also allows the device to be pivoted from landscape to portrait mode. The iPhone mount, however, uses powerful rare-earth magnets and adhesive discs to hold the phone conveniently on almost any surface without the need for clamps or other bulky add-ons.
The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with Pixar-Disney's waste-collecting robot, WALL-E, but rather reflects that the first Wallee device, a simple circular mount, could be secured to, you guessed it, a wall.
Wallee has never been marketed, Tamir says. ''And now Wallee is globally recognised,'' he says. ''It all happened very quietly and organically.'' The company sells directly and globally via its websites but also has resellers in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
But digital word-of-mouth has been the biggest factor. ''We were first to market with a product of this type and the blogs raved about it,'' Tamir says.
All the design is done in Studio Proper's spacious, loft-like studio in an alley-like thoroughfare off Chapel Street, dominated by the massive expanse of Swinburne University's Prahran campus.
Manufacturing is done near Shenzhen, China's equivalent of Silicon Valley and the home of Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that makes most of Apple's mobile and portable computing devices.
Clearly, Wallee is off to a great start but the men in the studio with their big, black motto know they're only starting. They hold frequent brainstorming sessions and, as Tamir says, ''Ideas come in all sorts of ways.''