Orbitkey is a revolutionary new way to carry your keys. Founded in Melbourne, Victoria by childhood friends, Charles Ng and Rex Kuo, Orbitkey was created with an aim to inspire and change the way people interacted with their keys.
Serving as a Rushfaster favourite, Orbitkey has already shown impeccable growth since joining us late last year. With out first batch of Orbitkey products selling out within the first few weeks, it was pretty clear from the beginning that these guys were on to something.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Charles and Rex to discuss the idea behind their successful brand, and also to find out a little bit more about the designers themselves.
Thanks for the great interview guys. We look forward to seeing how the Orbitkey brand will evolve, and are happy to be apart of it!
Can you please introduce yourselves. Who are the masterminds and team behind the Orbitkey brand?
Hello everyone, first of all thanks for the opportunity to be featured here. We are Charles and Rex, the co-founders of Orbitkey. Charles holds the position as the creative director of Orbitkey whereas Rex acts as the Business Development Manager. In other words, Charles draws and makes stuff and Rex thinks of ways to build a sustainable business out of it. Focusing on creating beautiful, elegant and practical solution to everyday carrying, we are set on a mission to change and inspire the way people interact with their keys. In short, we want everyone to love their keys.
What sparked the initial idea for Orbitkey?
Initially, the first prototype of Orbitkey was made to solve Charles’ issue of jingling keys when exercising. It was as simple as keys stacked together and fastened with a screw and nut found in the toolbox. Remembering it now, it was pretty crude but it did what we wanted it to do, which was to eliminate noise.
Can you describe the process from concept to product for us? (including a timeline)
The entire process of concept to product delivery took around 18 months and it includes back and forth process between prototyping, design development, research, engineering, fund raising and manufacturing. Unlike typical product design projects Charles had been involved in previously where it starts with research and lots of sketches, the design process for Orbitkey started with a series of prototypes and lots of trial and error.
Originally Charles was the only target audience and the whole purpose was to eliminate key jingle during exercise. With this goal in mind, taking off individual key off the keychain and carrying it separately makes the most sense. However this quickly became troublesome especially when you forget to re-attach it to your keychain and lock yourself out of the house.
Keeping the keys together by using a simple rubber band kept the keys neat and quiet, however it was very fiddly and difficult to access the keys. Towards the end of this initial stage, Charles transitioned to the idea of running a standard screw through the key holes and keeping them fastened with a nut.
Although theoretically the screw and nut mechanism was a good solution, Charles quickly realized that the device would come undone and he ended up with keys all over his pocket. Using mechanical glue to lock the thread of the screw was an effective solution but it prevented Charles from disassembling the keys altogether and restricted the mechanisms ability to accommodate for different number of keys.
When Rex saw the opportunity in the idea, we shifted our approach and tailored the brief to suit a lot more people. This is what lead us to look at others way to challenge the traditional ways of key carrying, we looked at what needed improvement (unorganized, bulky, key scratches etc.), what was available already on the market and set out to design something that people can be proud to carry.
One of the biggest challenges in the design process was to come up with a mechanism that works with different number of keys and will not come undone accidentally.
It took us a while until we came up with a solution in which the locking tabs in the mechanism drops into a designated slot when locked. Spring washer was incorporated to keep this locking tab in position but also to the user to fasten their stack of keys to the tension level desired.
6 months later, after more design development, prototypes and testing, we settled with the design which is known today as the Orbitkey. The next step was figuring out how we should launch and introduce the idea to our customers.
We were aware of the growing popularity in crowd funding and thought it would be the best way for us to launch our business idea. It took us almost 3 months to construct our Kickstarter campaign and the process includes filming, photography, the 30-day funding period on Kickstarter was the perfect way to launch Orbitkey as through the campaign, we gained media attention, invaluable feedback and of course funding.
The next 4 months post Kickstarter campaign was one of the most exciting, stressful and fulfilling experiences we had. We flew to China, lived there for 3 months until we settled with the production quality we were happy with. At the end, we delivered Orbitkey to a lot of happy supporters within the promised time frame.
So far we’ve seen an incredible response to Orbitkey, what direction do you foresee the brand going in with future designs and products?
At the moment, we’re looking at more ways to improve the Orbitkey. There will be more variation in the strap design as well as new accessories coming in the near future.
Whilst it’s in our best interest to expand our range, we do not want to launch another product just for the sake of it. But whatever it is we come up with, we aim to stay true to our brand and current customers. We want to create innovative products that are both beautiful and functional – not just one or another.
When do your best ideas hit you?
They didn’t happen in any specific time, kind of wish I could say all the time! Guess when you’ve been dwelling on the problem for a little while, you’ll never know when it will hit you. It could be anytime and anywhere.
In the past, I had thought of solution to a design problem lying in bed when trying to fall asleep. I even dreamt of something once and got out of bed just to sketch it out on paper / note it down on my phone.
When the idea of the special locking mechanism hit me, I remember getting very excited and driving down to Rex’s house close to midnight to show him the rough idea of how it might work.
What innovative everyday carry products are we likely to find in your workspace?
Where should we start..? Coming from crowdfunding background, we are huge supporters of other projects so we do have a lot of them lying around in our workspace.
Here are some of our favourite gears:
– MaCo Cable Organiser by ThreeOneDesign – We love how it keeps our cords from falling off the desk when not being used. During transit, it works as a magnetic cable tie.
– Slide Camera Strap by Peak Design – One of the nicest looking and comfortable strap. Also love being able to take off the strap and put it back on very easily with the smart anchor system.
– Note Sleeve – Everyone probably knows why we love anything Bellroy, they probably would have owned one too.
– Convoy by Madera – Convoy case comes with a compartment for sim card and pin. Also check out their slim wallet especially if you’re wood lovers!
– Crumpler ASO Outpost – This bag is unreal. Carried it through workspaces in China + Japan over 5 months and it’s holding up really nicely.
– Swell bottle – Bottle looks great and we love the fact that it keeps your liquid warm in winter and cool in summer!
– Nomad Charger USB Cable – Working on the go, we rely on this a lot. It’s saved us trouble so many times.
Can we see a pocket dump/desk organisation pic?
How about both?
In the world of product design, specifically those focused on everyday carry, what brands or products are currently on your radar?
Everyday carry world is getting crowded very quickly. There are quite a few strong brands that seem to know how to stand out. Some of the ones we really look up to are Bellroy, Mujjo, QWSTION, Cote et Ciel, Grovemade and Gravis.
What did life before Orbitkey incorporate?
We both came from very different backgrounds.
Rex was in the health industry, having worked as a pharmacist for a few years. On the side, he’s also run a few other businesses in the clothing industry.
Charles was working as an Industrial designer for a product design consultancy based in Melbourne + Sydney. He was involved in the development of a wide variety of including medical, consumer and business technology products.
A year before launching Orbitkey on Kickstarter, we were doing a lot of the work on the project after work and on the weekend. Actually this hasn’t changed because we still work after hours and on the weekend even now.
What relative trivia could you tell us about the Orbitkey brand that our readers don’t yet know?
– Charles + Rex were high school friends
– We were planning to launch on Indiegogo before Kickstarter
– The parts in our locking mechanism are individually CNC-machined from a block of Aluminium 7075.
– We spent 3 months in China working closely with the manufacturers until we were happy with the product.
– Charles quit his job working at one of Australia’s top product design firms halfway through the crowdfunding campaign.
And lastly, how about a happy snap of the geniuses behind the Orbitkey brand?
Hope this photo expresses the happiness in us.
You can shop our complete range of Orbitkey products over at Rushfaster.