We were invited to the exclusive preview of the amazing new Bugaboo Bee 3 in Amsterdam, and had the chance to interview Bugaboo’s Senior Product Developer and Sustainability Specialist Aernout Dijkstra-Hellinga. Aernout has spent the past ten years pursuing Bugaboo’s creator Max Barenburg’s vision, and according to Max “Aernout’s talent is to create design that answers the needs people didn’t even know they had”.
We’re excited to announce that today is the launch of the Bugaboo Bee 3 stroller, and here’s our interview with the inspiring Aernout.
You’ve worked for Bugaboo since 2003, what do you love most about it?
Working at Bugaboo is a little bit like heaven for a designer. Everything is so focused around the product, and how you can make the best possible mobility solution for parents. The vision of Max Barenburg’s to become a mobility company is exciting; we’re not just about strollers, but mobility solutions. The whole journey we’re on, the way we operate as a company, the way we grow, there’s such an energy about the company.
So tell us a bit about the Bugaboo Bee 3
What we’ve tried to do is make a good product even better, and that’s always difficult. We had lots of meetings and have sought to improve the Bee in every way possible. We wanted to improve the maneuverability – we spent a long time looking at the fittings between the tubes and plastic parts, and consequently reengineered the wheels and suspension.
The way the new footrest is designed is much more beautiful than the old one, it works so much better. We improved the size of the under-seat basket, because we’ve acknowledged the fact that being able to accommodate luggage does matter.
What’s really improved is the offering – being able to make the fabric simpler. It’s a new type of fabric, providing much more elasticity. The way the seat fabric is made on the Bee 3 is by a process called ‘heat press’, a completely new technology, to design lines for a clean, much more beautiful look. If you put this Bee next to the old bee you’ll see the 3 is so much more modern. Of course, the big thing was also making it more suitable for the babies themselves.
How long does it take from initial concept to completion of a product?
Developing the undercarriage is really down to hardcore engineering, to improve the way it fits. It can take up to a week per part; there are roughly 200 parts and a team of perhaps five engineers.
With the Bee 3 we were focusing on a newborn solution, so we had to start over. The cocoon was a nice solution, but we realised that some parents wanted a greater feeling of safety, by putting your baby in a bassinet. We didn’t want to copy the Chameleon, but wanted something to fit with the urban lifestyle, in line with where the Bee is positioned in the market. We wanted to have a soft solution, one that meant you can be really close to your child, a different feel to the more serious carrycot. This proved to be quite a puzzle; it took a while for us to figure out how to produce something that was both soft with excellent maneuverability, but on the other hand, strong and sturdy, for the safety of the child.
If you have a budget for something like this, what’s the one thing you refuse to compromise on?
Nothing. We don’t have budgets, or deadlines, we work until it’s good enough.
Are you already working on the next product?
Of course! We are already working on improving our products, it’s interesting, once you’ve worked on a latest product, you learn so much from that process that you want to put those design elements into your other products too. We’re also working on some very exciting new strollers, which I will tell you nothing about yet! 🙂 We’re very busy!
How much decision-making rests on your shoulders?
In principle, and in the end, Max makes the decision as he’s the boss of the innovation department, but for me, I’m the integrator, the creative leader of the product, so together with Max we both decide. As a designer it’s up to me to think of the design solutions that should be incorporated into the product. Of course, the marketing department, or sales department will come to you with a list of what our competitors are doing – of course they give their input, which you then have to consider, but in the end as a designer you make all the shots. It’s a cool job.
What do you think are the main things that set you head and shoulders above your competition?
No compromising. We refuse to let the market decide our introduction dates, and instead we concentrate on focusing on improving continuously on the maneuverability, the smooth ride, and comfort for the parents, which has resulted in four products that we can now diversify. Originally, we had to put everything into the Chameleon, which was our only product, but now I think that you’ll see that by working on different products they naturally evolve in certain directions. I think it’s important to allow the products time to mature; it’s not that we say ‘we’re done, let’s completely redesign’, but that we believe in the initial concept, the core and concept is good. The Chameleon is 15 years old, but there is a still lot of room for improvement. The core of the concept remains the same, but with time, it gets better and better.
Do you have a personal favourite product?
The Donkey. I worked on this product for four years non-stop, which is quite a long time. During that period I had both my children, and I personally used and tested all the prototypes. It’s such a special feeling to walk along with your ‘three children’ my two children, and my product, which felt really cool.