Interview with ISB Alumnus and Innovator,
Erik Blommers ('09)
International School Basel Alumnus, Erik Blommers, has been busy working as a graphic designer in the music industry since graduation and more recently, founding a company making the first Swiss headphone brand. We interviewed Erik recently about his experiences at ISB and the challenges and opportunities in designing a new product in a highly competitive market.
When did you attend ISB?
I graduated in 2009. I was at the ISB from PYP5 (2nd grade) till DP2 (12th grade).
What are some of your favorite memories from ISB?
I remember having great times during Sports Day or at the International Festival. But of course I was also very interested in my higher level classes - Geography, Biology and Art. I was very proud of my art projects in the last school months as I always wanted to become a designer. I remember creating a great exhibition and having a good relationship with my art teacher.
What did you do after ISB?
After school I started working for a music-club as a graphic designer. I got a lot of attention for my work and so I started to work for more clients and other clubs. This was the perfect tool to develop a good reputation and a network in the scene. In 2010 I became a self-employed graphic designer working for music-clubs all over Switzerland and Musicians/DJs from all over the world — for example DJ Hardwell from Holland (#1 DJ of the World 2013/14). In 2012 I visited a design pre-course. From 2013 till 2016 I attended the Hochschule für Design & Kunst in Lucerne to study Visual Communications and get my bachelor degree. Here I learned a lot more design skills, tricks, and terms to add on to my know-how. A great benefit was that I could immediately bring my newly learned skills and methods into projects that went out to the public, as I was still working self-employed next to my school program.
How did you have the idea to start your own company making headphones?
One of my graphic design clients became a very good friend of mine. We were both fascinated by each other as we both wanted to create our own business. Due to our passion for music & design and our ambition to create something new, we decided to create our own headphone brand. Working together with a sparring partner helps a lot. We can always push each other or add onto each others thoughts — this helps to think out of the box or get direct feedback to ideas.
Why did you decide to start your own company vs. continue working as a graphic designer?
I was always a very passionate designer. My favorite part of Design is the creation of brand identities as I can create visual concepts that can be applied to a great set of mixed media (logo, print products, social media, website, brand image, etc.). When building up my own brand I was able to bring in a lot of my design skills. Till today I still meet new design challenges that I would not be able to fulfill in a normal graphic design job. For example working on product design, packaging design or collaborating with video artists. Design will always have a very important role in the visual presentation of BLOMM & BERGER. Apart from running my own company, I will always be able to bring in my passion and do what I love.
Why did you choose to base your company in Switzerland?
We based our company in Switzerland as we noticed that there is great potential. We are the first Swiss headphone brand and the first headphone brand that can guarantee Swiss quality. We can promise Swiss values which are respected on the market — Swiss engineering & design. Apart from this we both grew up in Switzerland and do therefore have have a strong bond to the country.
How did you come up with your company name and logo?
The Company name is a combination of our names: Erik BLOMMers & Yannick BrandenBERGER. We decided to use our names as we want to show who is behind the company and to maintain a close relationship with our community. The Symbol is a mix of two B’s. We decided to work with orange as this is a very positive, fresh, and sympathetic color which fits perfectly to the brand.
What differentiates your headphones from other brands?
Innovation within the headphone industry has come to a stop. Some of the main unit selling points of other competitors are comfort and noise canceling which have become standards. Our intention was to create a complete new music experience for all music consumers. Meaning to offer all the standards a high quality headphone has but, to also introduce people to new innovative features personalized to the consumer himself. Apart from the newest technology we have 7 USPs from which we see 4 of them as main differentiators — a) personal hearing profile: the headphone comes with an APP where one can manually change the settings of the headphone. Here one can also do a hearing test so the headphone can adapt to your personal hearing and you can enjoy the full spectrum of your music. b) Smart Play/Pause function: We have sensors that notice when the headphone is on or off of your head. So, when the headphone is put on the music plays automatically; when put off the music pauses. c) An integrated charging cable to charge on the go. This way one will never loose or forget his cables. The cable has a fast-fueling function which allows you to charge 3 hours playtime within 10min. d) 2 in 1 exchangeable ear cups: Usually one needs to decide whether he wants to buy an on-ear or an around-ear headphone — we have both. This feature will also allow you to buy completely new ear cups with different material. For example sweat-resistant fabric for fitness.
More Information about the product at ks.blommberger.com/en/
What are the challenges of starting your own company?
The biggest challenge starting a company is to get the right attention. We always say you need to force your luck, you need to create coincidences. Most of the people that helped us build up our company we got to know per coincidence. If we would not have worked as hard these may have never happened. It is really important that you believe in what you do. You should never give up and encourage yourself to continue. You will notice that more and more people become interested in what you are doing. When building up a company you always need to think of what would be the best for the future. Sometimes you have to go one step back to be able to move two steps forward.
What are the joys of running your own company?
The best part of running your own company is simply that you can be proud of yourself. You can build up your own brand, reputation and network. Of course there is a lot of work involved but we want to achieve great goals. The other thing is that we can gather a lot of experience and get to know a lot of new people on our way.
Why headphones vs other products?
We have a very strong bond to music. A headphone is a product that we use every day as music helps in many different situations — for example to concentrate, to motivate, to relax, etc. Apart from that it is also an accessory that completes your outfit. For us it is a perfect product to live out our passion for design, music, and innovation.
Will you expand to offer more products in the future?
Yes, we will offer more products in the future. At the moment we are working on our flagship, following this we intend to build up an assortment of further music products ranging from smart in-ear buds to home speakers.
Your new headphone will be financed by crowdfunding, How does this work?
We will go live on Kickstarter around mid April. Kickstarter can be compared to an online-shop where the product can be bought in advance for a reduced „earlybird" price. For example if you buy one headphone you donate money with which the headphone can then be produced. The headphones will only be produced when the funding goal has been achieved. The supporters bank card will only be charged if the campaign was successful. It is not like other crowdfunding platforms where you can donate money and buy equity of the company.
How can someone support you?
If someone wishes to be informed when we go live on Kickstarter he can sign up on our mailing website: https://pure.blommberger.com/EN. Of course we are also looking forward to anyone who wishes to give us his feedback, a listening ear or even support in any way.
Thank you Erik for sharing your story with the ISB community. We love to hear from our alumni. If you would like to share your alumni story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.