START WITH AN IDEA:
In 2001, my aunt and uncle were starting construction on a unique beach house in California. It was new construction designed to feel like an early-century beach home. The only thing missing was the retro refrigerator. My aunt wanted a vintage refrigerator but my uncle didn’t want the hassle of a mid-century appliance. His concern: old fridges were small, inefficient and had to be defrosted regularly.
I was studying Product Design in college when they approached me with the concept. As a retro enthusiast myself, it was a great fit.
We looked at hundreds of vintage refrigerators and stoves while designing our first product. We were inspired by each of the different makes and models; from handles to chrome caps to logos.
Note: At this stage in the design process there are no bad ideas. The key is to document everything and refine your ideas later.
FIND COOL STUFF THAT INSPIRES YOU:
To come up with a truly unique concept, we found it helpful to look outside of the appliance world. We spent time researching the mid-century automotive industry to see what materials and colors they were using at the time.
This is where the process of refining ideas started.
Note: The ideation process doesn’t have to be beautiful. It’s where I begin to get ideas out of my head and onto paper.
After we finalized the Big Chill “look”, we quickly went into prototyping. This is where we honed the proportions on the fridge.
Note: On most of our products we will go through three or four prototypes before entering production.
When all design and engineering was complete, we went into production. This stage took us 18 months from start to finish.
At Big Chill we use a metal stamping process just like they did in the 1950’s. It’s a time-intensive, expensive process but we refused to cut corners and build our products from plastic or fiberglass.
GO TO L.A. AND TEST IT OUT:
We knew that California was going to be a big test market for our company. To know whether we had a successful product, we had to get early feedback. Our idea: Fly to LA with a freezer and bang on doors. After two days, half the retailers thought we were crazy and the other half loved the concept. We knew we were onto something, but we also realized we were going to have to build a market from scratch.
After three years in design and prototyping, we finally had a product we were proud to launch. We shipped our first fridge in 2004 and soon after, began to concept our first stove.