We've periodically covered Big Ass Fans (here and here), the Kentucky-based company that shrewdly changed their name from High Volume Low Speed Fan Company. Due to their no-nonsense marketing approach, the efficient, sturdy design of their product and periodic design refreshes, they've grown into something like the Dyson of overhead air movement systems. And now they've moved into a new product category, with another line of overhead-mounted objects: Big Ass Lights.
So here we see how selling directly to customers can help a company develop new products: Direct feedback, which would likely get lost or mangled if filtered through a distributor middleman. By interacting directly with customers and visiting their facilities, the company is in a position to overhear their needs—and gripes. "One we heard over and over again: employers' once-bright lights now glowed a dim yellow, making it difficult for workers to do their jobs and forcing maintenance teams to constantly replace bulbs," the company writes. "Those inefficient bulbs also kept energy costs high."
Seeing an opportunity, they then hired new talent, adding lighting experts to their stable of engineers. The resultant design of their LED-sporting Big Ass Light isn't actually that physically big—the smaller model's a little over three feet in length, and the larger model just under four—but the company reckons they've created "The last light you'll buy," as it's energy-efficient, well-designed and durable.
The main body of the light is an aluminum extrusion, finned to serve as a heat sink:
While that's a pretty standard approach to heat diffusion, Big Ass Fans managed to solve a more niggling problem with LEDs. One reason LEDs have not caught on in industrial settings, according to Industrial Machinery Digest, is "the vulnerability of the LEDs to dust and the many other after-effects of work like welding and fabricating." Thus the company has intelligently designed these no-tools-required slide-out lenses, which not only seal the lights off from dust, but focus the light to the customers' preferred application (swappable lenses range from a 55-degree spread to 105 degrees).
Light levels range from 10,000 Lumens up to 26,000.
The Big Ass Light's design was good enough to win both a 2014 A'Design Award and a 2014 Best Product for Efficient Lighting in the U.S. Green Building Council's Best of Building Awards. But design aside, we see something similar here that we did with Geek Chic's gaming tables: A careful consideration of the customer experience beyond them merely using the product. As with Geek Chic, Big Ass Fans has designed not just the product, but every step of the process to get that product into the customers' hands. "[It's] complete project management from start to finish," the company writes. "We handle everything from measuring, modeling and recommending [the customers'] custom solution to complete installation and follow-up." They even deal with the local/state/federal rebate paperwork, passing the savings on to the consumer without pocketing any of it.
We think that this kind of approach to product design, where the process of selling and delivering the object itself is as carefully designed as the product is, is one that companies will have to adopt in the near future. With an already-crowded product landscape, good design of the product alone is going to cut it—those that go the extra mile for the service will get ahead.