Back to the Future


INDUSTRY: Home, Electronics


Founded in 1951, Aiwa’s brand has a strong history of innovative audio equipment. From creating the first Japanese tape recorder in 1964, to leading the bookshelf speaker system category in the 1990s, their name is well known among audiophiles for delivering performance audio equipment. After several organizational changes which put the brand in limbo, Joe Born and team worked with Priority Designs to resurrect Aiwa’s presence and bring it to the 21st century.

Understanding History

The team understood the importance of any new product with the Aiwa brand would have to speak to the millions of Aiwa loyalists and uphold the historic brand values.

Known for making high quality audio equipment for the masses, Aiwa’s core values were embodied in beautiful, architectural themed industrial designs, married with a subtle color palette and pop color. The geometric frames were often intersected with angled graphic lines as a means of disrupting an otherwise quiet and minimalistic form.

This style continued into the 1980s, and the transference of the minimalistic language to larger stereos were embodied by simply showing the speaker cones themselves. The beauty of the product is the quality of audio output, and the interactive elements are visually secondary to the oversized drivers placed prominently for the viewers to admire. The chrome material detail around the cones highlight their massive size by providing stark contrast to a quiet background.

This trend continued into the 1990s when Aiwa rose to prominence with their bookshelf speaker systems. The three piece design featured oversized left and right speaker columns with removable covers, allowing users to showcase the beauty of their investment. The interfaces remained subtle and functional, save for the large, prominent volume knob.

These became the quintessential speaker system of the time as Aiwa created the visual expectation for a bookshelf speaker by leading the category in sales and performance.

By looking into its history, the team wanted to pull the signature elements from the height of Aiwa’s success. Minimalist, architectural forms could be intersected with angular lines. The logos from the height of their market success would speak to the Aiwa purists. The use of colors, materials, and finishes, such as gloss black, chrome, and a pop teal color could be utilized in a modern way while still respecting the past.

Building the Future

The team was comprised industrial designers who grew up in the 80s and 90s, and was well-suited to understand and embody the history and impact of the Aiwa brand. Dozens of design sketches explored the balance between respecting history and speaking to modern tastes, ultimately culminating in a design that struck a perfect balance.

Utilizing a minimal, architectural frame, the overall form is intersected by angled lines bringing the visual energy from Aiwa’s tape deck graphics. The angled lines play homage to the three-piece bookshelf speaker systems within the confines of a single piece design. The minimalist interface falls away to highlight the visuals of the high-performance drivers. The oversized volume knob features a spun metal texture drawing attention to the key element from the boomboxes of the past.

Similar to the products of the past, the front grille was made removable, revealing contrasting rings that highlight the performance features of the drivers. Gloss black, matte black, chrome mixes with polished and textured surfaces to push forward key visual brand elements.

Top of the Charts

With a successful launch and warm reception, the market performance of the speaker has exceeded expectations, carrying a 5-star average review rating on Amazon and re-igniting a passionate fan base. Dozens of YouTube videos showcase the market-leading audio quality of this device within the Bluetooth connected speaker category. In continuing their historic success, we were proud to be a part of breathing life into the rebirth of Aiwa’s brand in the 21st century.

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