Ex-Apple Designer Told Me To Make Socks. Yes, Socks!

at SXSW 2015 in Austin
Jeff Zwerner (Evernote design chief) and Steve Nitzschner (founder Wildstyle Network, Compass.to, Holyo.com and Little Bird)

Evernote’s design chief and ex-Apple chief packaging designer Jeff Zwerner recently met with Wildstyle Network’s (creative agency & tech atelier) founder Steve Nitzschner in Austin. They had a conversation during this year’s SXSW about “offline design” and how line extensions could help a brand do it’s visual marketing. All aside the average digital eye balling every brand is throwing at their audiences. The key findings and marketing strategies from Jeff Zwerner were summarized by Steve here.

1. Care about the “umwelt” of your audience
Umwelt is the German word for environment and I just heard it several times while working here in the US. It’s a bit like “zeitgeist” – another German Phrase People love to use.
Well, the reason why Jeff was referring to everyone’s environment is simple: As an ex-Appler he cares about the haptic and visual experience. But it’s not that easy with a digital product like Evernote. Therefore, he carefully observed Evernote’s users and what their every day umwelt looks like: “Because the environment is important and will influence how products and ideas are designed”, Jeff says.

2. Bring your personal stuff to the office and learn
Jeff asked himself “What can I improve and what item of this user’s environment is still related to Evernote’s brand DNA?”. To foster this idea he also asked employees to bring their favorite personal items to work to create a different workspace: “It’s also important that employees bring personal items from home to give the office space more personality”.

By bringing their personal items, the Evernote design team learned about on-desk behavior – the Evernote Originals were born. Evernote was then creating items around productivity with the goal of giving value to its users.

EvernoteMArketEvernote Laptop Stand 2

3. Turn it inside out
Evernote was then creating items around productivity with the goal of giving value to its users.


After the physical notebook, a microfiber business card holder and business rucksacks were designed. Even socks were crafted, business socks of course. Although everybody at the company hated socks as a topic. But Zwerner was convincing the team that even socks could be part of the brand extensions. It was a test and after the socks appeared on the marketplace, it seems, the team has at least created an inspiration for your next Business trip to San Francisco.

4. A new visual language on ALL platforms
Before getting the physical products market up and running, Evernote needed a newer visual language which works on all platforms whether it’s digital or physical. But all of this takes time. The levels of details and tests needs lots of attention. And you have to consider how these physical objects work with your physical product – like a iPad holder for instance.

5. Business Impact: $13 Million in sales of physical items
The impact on Evernote’s business is huge. 47% of Evernote Market’s revenue comes from users who pay for the Evernote service. And 53% of physical item buyers are “free users”. It’s a breakthrough for a business model; Now people pay Evernote money who usually refuse upgrading for $2/month.

The revenue effect is huge: $13 million in sales in 2014 while their first year and a half year was only/already $600,000 in revenue.
It’s not such a thing compared to the digital business but remember, physical products, huh?!

6. Never try to be Apple!
Jeff had one last advice for me when I was asking how he tried to integrate and teach his team what he’s learned at Apple. He simply replied with “Never try to be Apple. If you ever start to think about it, then just stop!”.

I’m currently figuring out how this business model and the strategic creative approach could fit with Wildstyle Network‘s business or at least with our Atelier attitude. And believe You me, I can already see 2-4 rising stars at the physical horizon!

Go to Evernote
Go to Evernote Market

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