Have you ever thought This is so annoying! Someone should invent something to fix this problem... Well, that's exactly why we started our own product-design firm. Everything we introduce was born out of a frustration that someone at Distil Union has been itching to solve.
As designers, we're not product sellers – we're problem solvers.
Together, we believe design is about creating better experiences. From our very first product in 2012 to our newest creation launching in June (get on the list!), each of our own lives is a little better because of an original idea we've been persistent enough to bring to the market. But we're not in this for ourselves – we want to make your life a little better, too.
In order to do this, we take a stripped-down approach to design:
- What assumptions can we challenge? Go back to the beginning; then, take another step back.
- What materials or construction methods might not be considered "standard" but actually work better to solve a problem?
- How can we simplify an overly complicated solution– does it need an app, or will a smart, mechanical solution suffice?
This is the essence of distil in our name: to get to the heart of a problem and solve it with a design that simply works. From the early days we've had a poster of Dieter Rams' 10 Principles for Good Design hanging in the studio as a reminder and inspiration:
1. Good design is innovative.
2. Good design makes a product useful.
3. Good design is aesthetic.
4. Good design makes a product understandable.
5. Good design is unobtrusive.
6. Good design is honest.
7. Good design is long-lasting.
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
10. Good design is as little design as possible.
Wally Pull-Tab: Quick Access to Hidden Cards
Wally was our first patent-pending product. From the stick-on method of adhering to your phone, to the quick access pull-tab, there was nothing like it on the market when we launched Wally for iPhone as the "iPhone wallet, reimagined" on Kickstarter in 2013 and raised $90,472.
Wally Pull-Tab is our signature move– and it's trademarked. This simple trick to reveal your cards means they stay hidden out of sight, tucked inside a slim wallet that's designed with fewer layers and far less bulk than traditional leather wallets.
"It wouldn't be a Wally without the Distil Union pull-tab design. From the Micro to the billfolds, the Wally line features easily-accessed, durably ribbed pull-tabs that reveal your cards from the pockets of your wallet. This feature not only keeps your cards safe when you don't want them and easily accessible when you do, it also just feels great to use, and I'll be damned if you don't catch yourself idly pulling at the tabs at least a few times while you wait in line at the cashier." –Thomas Bender, MacDirectory
We use grosgrain ribbon for its durability and range of colors that help you distinguish pockets and organize your cards on the popular Wally Bifold. One blogger described pulling the ribbon as "surprisingly satisfying" – it creates subtle haptic feedback that you have to try for yourself.
“There’s a small red 'ribbon' that is looped into the wallet slot– when you pull on it, your cards magically rise out of the slot so there’s no need to dig with your fingers to get ‘em out." –Steven Sande, Apple World Today
FlexLock: Secure Your Cards in a Leather Sleeve
FlexLock is our simplified spring-steel pocket that works in perfect harmony with Wally Pull-Tab to reveal your cards stored securely inside. This solves the #1 complaint people have about leather wallets: lost cards due to stretched-out leather.
Originally, Wally wallets were constructed like most leather wallets, which meant they suffered from the same problem. As relative new-comers to the wallet biz, this gave us a competitive advantage: We weren't going to just accept that this is how it is, get used to it. The ah-ha moment happened when we noticed that the coin pouch on our Wally Euro wallet was also great at holding cards securely. We hopped onto Skype with Anson, our manufacturing partner, and with just a few tweaks to construction, FlexLock was born!
"The pockets now have a bit of spring that allows them to clamp down on the cards just enough to hold them in place. Putting a bit of pressure on both sides of the pocket forces the spring open and allows you to grab the cards. Of course, thanks to the Wally-Pull Tabs you don’t need to reach in and grab your cards but that’s the point, the FlexLock keeps the cards in place until you need them." –Dan Cohen, GearDiary
Stanley: Uniquely Bendable Smartphone Stand
The story of Stanley starts with Distil Union's very first product called Snooze. Launched on Kickstarter in 2012, Snooze was a wooden iPhone dock with rubber top that you could slap to snooze your iPhone alarm. The simplicity of having a mechanical solution of pressing on the volume button appealed to us– but it was 2012, and everyone and their brother was developing apps, so we created the Snooze App to turn your iPhone into a dimmable clock display.
"If you're looking for a way to replace that ancient clock radio with its glowing red LEDs, Snooze is a great way to add more utility to your iPhone by turning it into a useful alarm clock while it's charging." - Steven Sande, Engadget
After a round of iPhone form-factor changes and frequent app updates, it became apparent that the hustle to keep up with Apple just wasn't going to be doable for our small team; we'd rather create new products than update existing ones!
Nate went back to the drawing board and reinvented wooden Snooze as a sleek, bendable metal frame covered in felt and leather. These materials and functionality not only looked good on your bedside table, but also held any smartphone or small tablet on your desk, in the kitchen, for video calls – it's flexible in every way. And patented.
"What makes it unique is its ability to be molded to almost any angle or shape that you need. Even the two smaller prongs on the stand that keep your device in place can be modified... " - Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac
Coming this summer: Problem-solving sunglasses from Distil – the first of their kind!
After he lost a pair of pricey sunglasses at a football game, Nate had an a-ha moment. It was the year we founded Distil Union, so he disappeared into our workshop and hacked together a simple fix. Six years later, he still has those DIY shades– so we've been working hard to develop a manufacturing technique to produce them on a larger scale.
The fun thing about bootstrapping your own design company is that your DIYs can become real, life-simplifying products. But we still need your help to make it happen, so watch for our next Kickstarter to launch this summer: