May 26 was an exciting day here at REI, because it marked the launch of evrgrn, our new brand of outdoor gear.
We created evrgrn with a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts in mind, people who experience nature in a variety of environments, from woodsy campgrounds to less traditional “outdoor” venues, like music festivals and backyard barbecues. The brand kicks off with 11 items, all of which are designed to be intuitive, versatile and stylish.
“Every generation redefines what the outdoors means to them,” said Nasahn Sheppard, Vice President of Product Design. “With the launch of evrgrn, we’re embracing a new outdoor community in a way only REI can.”
To create evrgrn, we made sure to always put the consumer at the heart of the experience. The result is a curated collection of products that’s rooted in people’s love and passion for the outdoors and is designed to adapt from one social activity to the next.
This is the story of how the evrgrn collection came to be.
It Started with People
Before a single product was built or even a sketch was drawn, our team of designers needed to see firsthand how people use gear and what it is they want. So they hit the road for Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California.
“To understand this new consumer we traveled the country to learn from them. We camped with them, we cooked with them, we roasted marshmallows around the fire with them, all to understand what’s most meaningful to them in the outdoor places that they love the most,” said Sarah Nagle, Design Insights manager.
Our team of designers discovered a few things that fundamentally shifted their thinking. They learned that an outdoor escape doesn’t have to be to the top of a jagged peak. It can be a rooftop barbecue, a picnic in the park or a weekend away with friends at a favorite campground. They discovered that food and drink are always at the center of these adventures, but above all, they learned that the gathering is the activity.
“With this new understanding and hundreds of other insights, we set out to design products that set the stage for memorable outdoor experiences,” said Sarah.
Back at REI headquarters, our designers sharpened their pencils and began translating what they learned into new product ideas. They sketched chairs, hammocks, tents, lights and tables. Day after day, they filled boards with ideas, coming up with new ways of thinking about outdoor classics. The unconstrained creativity was deliberate and purposeful, intended to create an environment where every idea was free to flow.
The team pinned hundreds of drawings to the walls. As the drawings were sorted, shuffled, discussed, revised and tweaked, themes began to emerge. The hundreds of ideas were whittled down until the team arrived at a cohesive collection. The evrgrn assortment is truly designed as a group intended to work together, with every product considered.
“We listened to our customers’ desire to bring the comforts and style of home to the outdoors,” said Nasahn. “Every product in evrgrn is an opportunity to challenge our assumptions and think differently. We didn’t take anything and just re-label it and say, ‘now it’s evrgrn.’”
When the design team turned on the power tools and threaded the sewing machines, they built prototypes that embraced the evrgrn personality.
If evrgrn were a person, it wouldn’t be the life of the party, but rather the individual who gathers your group of friends to enjoy the outdoors. evrgrn is the warm, inviting and charismatic host.
Every piece of wood that the designers cut, every metal tube they bent and every stitch they sewed was considered a trait of the evrgrn personality. “Warm materiality” was the slogan to guide the design, with the warmth of the evrgrn personality manifesting itself in the materials used. When you see wood on the table and rocker, it’s real wood, not plastic. The metal that makes up the foundation of the table and the frame of the rocker is not cold and sterile, but rather has warmth to its finish.
Even the shapes of products display warmth. The rocker and hammock are both wide in the front and narrow in the back, issuing an invitation to “please, come sit down.”
As the prototypes came to life, the team went camping to test them out. Learning from these experiences, the designers let each version of a prototype inform the next. The patent-pending design of the Campfire Rocker alone had close to 20 different designs, shapes and patterns before the team landed on the best idea.
Simplicity and robustness were key areas of focus while developing the evrgrn products. To test these traits, the design team had new campers setup the Starry Night Tent without aid or instruction. They also tried to flood the tent with buckets of water to simulate a downpour. The team used and abused the Picnic Table, loading it up with heavy objects and pressing down hard on it. They even rocked the Campfire Rocker until it wouldn’t rock anymore (it’s rated to handle 100,000 cycles of rocking while fully loaded with its 250-pound capacity.)
“While simple on the surface, there’s a lot of technology, development and testing built into our products,” said Nasahn. “If we do our job right, it’s invisible to the customer. We don’t want anything to get in the way of their outdoor experience.”
Launch and Look to the Future
After roughly a year and half of brainstorming, prototyping, testing and iterating, our designers created a collection that’s clever, well thought out and useful.
“Every idea, product and touch point has been carefully curated, considered and built—from the ground up,” said Nasahn. “The look and feel of our products has shifted, but the technical capabilities have not. Every product is backed by decades of technical expertise, with designs that are relevant to this new consumer.”
evrgrn doesn’t end with 11 products. Building the brand and the initial gear for the launch was only the start. The journey continues and the team is working hard to create more great products. The future is bright.
“We are very thoughtful about what we bring to market. Our goal is to make sure that evrgrn is adding value to the outdoor experience, that it’s relevant and that it’s meaningful to people,” said Nasahn. “I think that you’re going to see some really awesome products coming out over the next couple years. Some of them are going to be evolutions on old ideas and some of them are going to be completely revolutionary to how we think about outdoor products.”
Our designers have set the stage for you with evrgrn. Welcome to the party; it’s time to connect with friends and get outdoors.
Check out the evrgrn line at REI.com.