Once upon a time (over seventeen years ago), college students Bryan White and Joseph Hei pulled an all-nighter in the Product Design department at Stanford University to finish a project. In the early hours of the morning, they talked about their dreams of starting their own company. Fresh with college idealism, they wanted to build anything that worked smarter, looked better, and addressed a challenging real-world problem.
In the intervening years, Joseph and Bryan each got married and went through various jobs in design, engineering and manufacturing. They soon found themselves working together again at the celebrated design firm, IDEO, in Palo Alto. On the cusp of starting families, they realized the challenges of child transportation were enormous and the existing solutions stale. They left IDEO around the same time to embark on their next great adventure: Orbit Baby.
Trained at Stanford and at IDEO to approach design with the most modern user-centric processes, they took stock of the lessons they’d learned caring for their own children, nieces, and nephews, but also spent hundreds of hours observing families in transit, speaking to other parents, and tapping the knowledge of leading experts in child safety. They pored through libraries of reviews, parenting blogs, and baby magazines. All this happened before they settled on any look, feel or design, so they could be sure they were headed in the optimal direction and could go beyond solving personal frustrations with baby gear.
The user research led to the first simple prototypes of the many concepts that would grow into the Orbit Infant System, and those prototypes excited a small team of talented designers and engineers enough to pull them onboard. Ten patents were filed (and eventually awarded) for the first Orbit Baby product family: the first NHTSA-approved modular car seat system that accepts both infant and toddlers seats, the deep-cradle design of the Infant Car Seat, the ergonomic fold of the Stroller, the integrated Paparazzi Shield™ sunshade extension, and more.
The Orbit Baby design fixed some of the big problems of child transportation: the complex and stressful transitions between home, car, and destination were solved with ergonomically carried seats and the 360-degree rotating SmartHub; the single-use nature of most baby gear was solved with a modular solution that grew with your family and featured powerfully over-engineered frames and shells. Perhaps most importantly, the alarming statistic that 80% of all car seats are installed incorrectly was addressed with a potent combination of the StrongArm™ tightening system, positive visual and tactile indicators of secure docking, and some of the most comprehensive instructions and guides in the business.
The design team didn’t stop at the big problems; they went further and optimized all the little things they could. They noticed when you have a child, you have one free hand at most. All the adjustments and interactions on Orbit products are designed for one-handed operation (except where safety is involved). They saw that the vast majority of stroller folds result in lifting the stroller – to place it in the car trunk, or to lean against a wall – so they designed the stroller fold to be a lifting motion (one-handed to boot!) instead of the common practice of mashing a stroller into the ground with both hands and a foot. They experienced the frustration of digging through the basket of traditional strollers every time they parked it, so they invented a detachable cargo pod with a shoulder strap (and it looks pretty good too).
The synergy of all these features was undeniable, and the thoughtful styling infused by decorated industrial designer Chris Loew (a fellow IDEO alumnus) made the Orbit Infant System a truly distinctive product in look, in feel, and in real-world functionality. With thousands of pre-orders placed at their first tradeshow, Bryan and Joseph had a company on their hands.
To round out the founding team, their wives – Farrah White and Vivian Chiang – joined Orbit to energize the operations, sales and marketing efforts with their strong backgrounds in business and management. The company quickly grew to include a diverse team with varied backgrounds that encompass architecture, electrical and mechanical engineering, pharmaceutical research, marketing, business, and of course product design, and continued hitting it out of the park with groundbreaking additions such as the beloved Sidekick Stroller Board™ and the one-of-a-kind Helix double-stroller attachment.
Three product generations and countless improvements and inventions later, Orbit Baby remains a company of passionate, committed, community oriented individuals who spend their personal time volunteering as mentors with local youth, coaching sports teams, supporting environmental causes, enjoying outdoor sports, and participating in local parenting groups.