**DISCLAIMER: The face of the product is not final, we're quite literally going through another prototyping round as we type this***
One of our major tasks as a reinvigorated company, is to evolve our flagship product, the Etchr Art Satchel - btw it is no longer known as the Nomad Art Satchel due to trademarking reasons which you can read about on our other blog post.
WHY WE STOPPED SELLING
Demand is still strong even though we stopped selling the original inception last year.
In short, I felt a moral obligation to hold off production on a new batch until I had evolved the design to solve the shortcomings of the original Nomad Art Satchel. And frankly, until now I didn't have the capacity to undertake such an involved process without more time up my sleeve and money in the bank.
When I launched the original Nomad Art Satchel, it was as good as I could make the product with the resources I had, but there were definitely things I wished I could have improved if I had more time / money. Now I have the ability to take it closer to the level of functionality I wished the original had due to an upgrade in working capital as well as a better and faster prototyping process.
Over the last couple of years, we've gotten some pretty consistent and helpful feedback on a handful of important things that we needed to improve and we're going about this right now.
We've undertaken two prototype iterations, and we've been performing field tests in order to finalize and dial in the detailing for our 3rd and final prototype before moving the workload over to the manufacturer to do samples and cost up production runs for KICKSTARTER PART DEUX!
We've added a TON of new functionality to support a wider group of artists, but we'll talk about that another day - discussing the improvements to existing issues is hefty enough as it is as a blog post.
THE FIXES ARE IN
Before we delve into the improvements, I wanted to mention that while we improved on the weak points, we kept a very keen eye on preserving the functionality of the original Nomad Art Satchel.
Quite often, when companies improve their initial offerings, their new solutions sometimes trample on the good points of the last iteration, and we were very keen to avoid that mistake.
We're happy to report that we've preserved much of what people loved about the first, and just amped up everything else while also adding a ton of new functionality that does not negatively affect the original functionality in any way.
With that said, let's look at what has improved.
1. MORE INTERNAL SPACE
By FAR, the single biggest issue for most people was that the main internal compartment was too slim and thus wasn't able to hold enough materials and tools. Even a fairly slim sketchbook and a few pencils on the other side meant that closing the Nomad was a very tight affair.
Our prototype increases the central compartment internal depth significantly, while not adding significant external size - you can see below, that the thickness of the prototype is not much more than the original Nomad Art Satchel.
We have reworked the internal system from the ground up to save space and weight - so no more strap boards! We found that with our new internal design we added more than an inch of depth, which is an optimal size for most people.
The added room allows people to carry much thicker regular sketchbooks as well as thicker art tools such as primacolor markers without causing any squishy-ness. We actually pushed the depth much more in our first prototype, but we found that depth excessive and compromised on both the rigidness and function of the product, as well as having a negative visual impact.
Anyway, because we saved so much room, we can rather hilariously, actually fit an entire original Nomad Art Satchel within the central compartment, which would have been preposterous to even suggest trying with the original.
And apart from the extra depth, we added a little bit of size to it too - here is the prototype with my Cintiq Companion inside - it actually makes a rather sexy little laptop bag ;)
2. REDESIGNED INTERNAL SYSTEM
Apart from more depth and size, I decided to completely redesign the system used to hold your tools and pad. Although most people were pretty happy with the original, I found a few things about the original strap boards less than ideal:
- Very heavy
- Takes up excessive limited space
- A huge number of failure points
- Didn't hold pads / books / tools very securely
- Excessively expensive to replace
- Straps took up a lot of drawing real estate
The new system replaces the backing with a velcro friendly felt material that feels nicer and simplifies the visual look. The functionality of the strap boards is now replaced with a combination of repositionable corner tabs and a center-line tab.
Looks a bit different right? Let me assure you, they are much much much more secure, much less prone to failure, easier and cheaper to replace, they save a ton of weight, they take up 80% less real estate on your pad, and they have a huge amount of flexibility in how you deploy them to allow for a wider variety of tools / devices to be held securely in place.
As you can see, the tabs allow for out-of-the-box secure tablet attachment too, which is a pretty cool feature. Furthermore, the corner tabs allow you to BYO tablet cover without requiring you to remove it in order to securely attach it to the interior of the Etchr Art Satchel.
3. CARRY HANDLE
A seemingly small item, but one that was widely requested in a follow up product - the ability to grab the satchel by a carry handle is something that was greatly desired by many people, so we not only gave you one, but two. The Etchr Art Satchel can be carried by handle in both portrait and landscape mode.
4. MORE FRONT POCKET STORAGE
Because of their overlapping padded layout and shallow profile (to allow the Nomad panels to overlap when open), the dual front pockets weren't able to hold a significant amount of carry, meaning they were largely not-very-useful.
Between the lack of space in the main compartment and the lack of space in the front pocket, we found a lot of folks who actually liked the functionality of the Nomad Art Satchel were having to carry extra bags to transport their tools. Obviously this is far from ideal and the call for more front pocket storage was strong.
You asked, and we delivered - while the original Nomad Art Satchel could barely accommodate much more than a Naked iPad, the new Etchr prototype can...well...see for yourself....it is able to cram two of my biggest, heaviest art tomes into the front pocket...imagine all the art books you can buy and carry home!
Feed your art book addiction!
On the flipside of the Etchr Art Satchel's ability to expand quite dramatically, let's see that sexy pic where it's able to collapse to almost the thickness of the original Nomad Art Satchel again. Look at that! I like the idea that the user isn't forced to lug around an oversized empty art bag if you're not hauling a lot of stuff on a particular day.
One of the biggest changes to the Etchr Art Satchel from the original Nomad, is that the default orientation of the bag has turned into landscape.
This wasn't a light decision. We consulted with a very wide range of artists on its field use and their creative preferences and found around 80% of them were more inclined to sketch in landscape mode.
As you'd imagine, this has a significant impact on a lot of things which forced some significant redesigns, but I think the benefits will become very apparent in our subsequent post documenting the new functionality.
But if you're one of the people who prefers portrait, never fear, you can still sling it in portrait view with no issue - what this default orientation allowed us was slightly clearer guidelines when design trade-offs needed to be calculated.
A few artists gave feedback that the weight of the original Nomad was actually quite prohibitive for its small profile, and we agreed. Part of the reasoning behind removing the strap boards and replacing it with a better system for the Etchr Art Satchel was to reduce the weight - if you think about all rubber and material used to create them, it's a lot.
Another area where we were able to save significant weight was in replacing the acrylic board of the original art satchel with a stiff corrugated backing. This backing is braced by the tripod attachment plate in the rear compartment, allowing equivalent strength of the acrylic plate with much less weight.
These two changes mean that while the actual overall size of the bag is slightly larger, the weight has actually dropped by two thirds - so the Etchr Art Satchel weighs a third of the Nomad Art Satchel despite being larger and more awesome! Great news for people who are on the smaller side.
Here's the reading on a luggage scale:
- Nomad Art Satchel: 1.5kg / 3.3lbs
- Etchr Art Satchel: 0.5kg / 1.1lb
So that's where I'm going to end for now so you can get back to your busy lives, but, before I go, I'll arrow two things:
- If you're not already on our email list, I'd love to invite you to put your name down for our new newsletter. Similar to the blog, we're going to re-invigorate our email newsletter and share some pretty awesome stuff there first, including various art-centric resources, art tips and tutorials and new products for artists. In case you didn't know, we're also going to be running a new Kickstarter to help us fund the new Etchr Art Satchel, and we'll let people know first via our mailing list.
- Our Instagram is up and running where we share art, visual updates and other cool art stuff: http://www.instagram.com/etchr_lab
If I've missed something, feel free to ask questions below or give your thoughts on other things we might be able to improve and, of course, feel free to share our progress with other like-minded creatives!
I look forward to showing you some of the new stuff <3