"Ten o'clock, Nemo."
"Nemo is occupied. Let's go to Wall-E."
"Meet you at Buzz Lightyear."
Don't get confused. We are not at the Pixar Pier.
James, the founder, and CEO of PITAKA and a big fan of Pixar (& Apple) decided to name meeting rooms after classic characters from Pixar animations soon after renting our offices. More than that, he even created a tagline 'to be the Pixar of gadgets & electronics' and mounted it at the office entrance.
Before we start, I genuinely suggest you go and watch at least one Pixar movie if you haven't seen any. You won't regret it.
James watched the first Pixar movie, A Bug's Life, at university when he was about eighteen. The second animated film by Pixar totally blew him away, and that he "never imagined an animation could be filmed that way."
He's been a Pixar enthusiast ever since. Duh! I mean, if you've ever watched a Pixar movie, you probably are too!
Lightning McQueen from Cars impressed James a lot.
He enjoyed Finding Nemo.
Every single Pixar movie is so special that James couldn't decide on a favorite.
What makes them unique? People at Pixar will tell you that they pour all of their creative energy into crafting the stories. They know that characters and plots have to relate to the audience, so kids or adults will find those monsters, animals, or even robots heartwarming.
When asked why Pixar movies are so popular, "It's the human side behind those stories that make them great," James said, "They are like a ray of sunshine."
Back at university, James wasn't sure what he would be doing in the future. But deep down in his heart, he aimed to inspire people like Pixar did.
Make It Great
Years later, when James received his first Apple product, he was surprised to find that Steve Jobs, who co-founded Pixar, was at Apple's helm.
Six months after Jobs left Apple, in 1986, he bought the Graphics Group, part of the Lucasfilm computer division, and found Pixar Animation Studios. In the beginning, Pixar mainly focused on making computer hardware. After little success, Pixar devised a workaround to show what their hardware could do through animation.
Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter at Pixar
A few years later, when Jobs was about to sell the company, Toy Story hit the big screen and raked in $362 million worldwide, becoming the 3rd highest-grossing film that year. In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple and was soon wowing the world with his exceptional hardware designs.
If Steve Jobs hasn't returned to Apple, would he have been able to make ground-breaking hardware? Was making animations only a side project for Jobs?
In James's opinion, whatever Jobs did, whether it was movies or computers, amounted to the same thing: serving humanity and creating value for society.
It doesn't matter where you are or which industry you are in; "make it great" – like Jobs always said.
How Did PITAKA Came to Life?
Inspired by Steve Jobs's innovations, James pictured himself doing something completely different, not "trapped by dogma."
When rock music became popular in the late 80s and early 90s, James had just entered university. He probably would have ended up as one of the million graduates trying to find a decent job if it wasn't for a Nirvana cassette tape. After listening to the sobering lyrics of Kurt Cobain, James quit his job and set up an independent music studio with his friends.
While producing music, James often browsed digital forums looking for studio equipment. As a musician pursuing originality, he soon realized that most accessories look identical. "You can barely find any trait of "design" in those products." He realized that most of the products were made with only functionality in mind.
When the music studio closed, James shifted his attention to gadgets and electronics. Eventually, he established his company, hoping to build a brand that offers unusual and innovative devices to simplify and inspire while positively impacting society.
To ensure his newly formed team was on the right path, James introduced Pixar as the model for PITAKA to follow and aspire to.
Steve Jobs once told a story about connecting the dots in his commencement speech at Stanford – "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." Looking back, all the dots in James's life connected, leading him to PITAKA.
How does Pixar do it?
As I discussed above, Pixar keeps creating those touching stories that resonate with almost everyone. But the question is, where do people at Pixar find inspiration for all these stories?
The documentary series, Inside Pixar, provides us with an inside look into the making of those stories. Every storyteller takes their life experience into art creation.
Deanna Marsigliese, Character Art Director at Pixar, would wander around the streets to find inspiration when her mind went blank. She would admire graffiti, observe passersby, and even sketch strangers in cafes. Remember Edna Marie, the cranky character who designed clothes for the Incredible family? She once walked Elastigirl down an aisle with cool dresses hung on either side. Guess what? All those dresses came from Deanna's own wardrobe.
Deanna Marsigliese created a character from iron wire
All the little things we experience in real life are infused into the stories. It's not just technology but also humanity you see in Pixar animations. Those characters aren't just puppets on the computer. They are "real."
Steve Jobs emphasized many times the importance of art and humanities. Not just Apple products, Pixar movies are also a great demonstration of the intersection between technology and what it is to be human.
How does PITAKA do it?
PITAKA's brand vision is that of an innovative design company. We create our value by accommodating the users' needs through innovative and emotional design based on human perspective and experience. We are continually researching, planning, and designing new technologies for the ever-expanding line of products. At the core of every product, you can find humanity.
To figure out what products we should be making, our designers and product managers do a lot of research, observing, and analyzing.
Take the design of a power bank as an example. The market is already stuffed with power banks, but what is missing from the market? What do people really need?
James thought about his own power bank experiences. One of the biggest headaches of using a power bank is that he often forgot to charge it before taking it with him. As a result, he ended up buying new power banks. That's where the idea for the MagEZ Juice, a power bank you don't need to worry about charging, came from.
Getting the idea is the first but most crucial step. Of course, there's a long way to go before the actual product comes into being.
Made to simplify men's everyday carry, the modular magnetic wallet MagEZ Wallet is one of PITAKA's signature designs. Most of the wallets out there are bulky, heavy, and easily misshapen. You also need to use both hands to open it.
Can we fix all those problems in one design? Can an everyday wallet be more useful? Our designers thought outside of the box, using a new material and experimenting with magnets. The modular design allows you to add or remove modules such as the box layer or the money clip to tailor to your needs. You can flick open the wallet with a single hand and slide out the card to pay.
There's never been a wallet quite like it.
The past three decades have seen many incredible animation movies from Pixar, are they continue to keep telling human stories.
Six years ago, a few designers and material experts gathered together to do something great. Now, as the PITAKA team expands, so does the product line.
We now have a magnetic ecosystem that includes magnetic phone cases, car mounts, and wireless chargers that allow people to charge their devices "without thought."
The story continues...