¶ … Pro: Form, Function and Inspiration
GoPro refers to a form of a tiny, professional camera which captures HD footage and which is extremely lightweight and extremely versatile. It is marketed most strongly to adventurers and travelers along with professional and semi-professional athletes who engage in extreme sports. The brand is American and the personal cameras are high definition, and are lightweight, rugged, wearable and mountable in places where ordinary people generally aren't used to placing cameras, such as outside cars, planes, watercraft or even army tanks. Nick Woodman, the founder of the company, was inspired to start it as a result of an Australian surfing trip that he took during which he hoped to capture quality live action photos of his surfing, but couldn't. This was a result of the fact that non-professional photographers weren't able to get close enough, and the equipment that they needed they just weren't able to rent at the most accessible prices. Ultimately, this paper will explore how the content and footage produced by the object of the GoPro camera is an extension of the object itself. The form and function of the GoPro camera inspires a very small community of users: but it is a highly engaged community. The content produced by the GoPro camera becomes as important and the object itself. This paper will examine how the form and function of the GoPro camera creates a practically symbiotic relationship with the community of users. The users help the camera brand to thrive, and vice versa. The users create a thriving community of sharing viral videos and pictures which one can even argue becomes an extension of the original product itself.
Thus, part of the invention of Go-Pro cameras were strongly related to function: there just wasn't a camera on the market which was able to capture professional angles in such extreme environments. Part of the philosophy which underscores the company in general is that of organic form to fulfill function. For instance, Woodman was initially able to raise the money for his company by selling bead and shell belts out of his vehicle -- an act which inspired him to offer a strap with each camera that was more fashionable and more durable than the awkward straps that came with most cameras. Thus, in this case, need had influenced the form and function that the design embodied. In many ways, this company was the first camera brand company to consider form and function in the fabric used with their brand straps. "Coated woven fabrics have been used in state-of-the-art structures for over 40 years yet their design is not codified and relies heavily on experience and precedent. The mechanical behaviour of fabrics is non-linear and time dependent... The shape of a tensile fabric canopy is fundamental to its ability to resist all applied loads in tension" (Bridgens & Birchall, 2012). Essentially, the GoPro takes nothing for granted, understanding the importance of material properties and structural geometry in design and analysis.
Hence, a combination of function and need turned out to be extremely influential in the overall design and creation of the go-pro camera. "Nick Woodman: Before GoPro, if you wanted to have any footage of yourself doing anything, whether its video or photo, you not only needed a camera, you needed another human being. And if you wanted the footage to be good, you needed that other human being to have skill with the camera. The result was that most people never had any footage of themselves doing anything" (Cooper, 2013). Go-Pro has allowed its camera's to be attached to hula hoops, vultures, kayaks, and even helium balloons: it has a wide angle lends that can take photos, record time lapses and journeys. The function of the camera is not just capture this extreme footage in a succinct, vivid and meaningful manner, but to capture it so that it can be relived and shared with others. Fundamentally, Woodman was able to take a snapshot of the needs of the industry and meet those needs through a design function and form which fit the bill (Bucolo et al., 2011).
The materials which make up the camera are both simple and complex, echoing the occasional contradictions between form and function found in literature (Hendrix, 2013). The camera is made up of a lightweight, durable metal and the glass which makes up the lenses is also lightweight and durable. Thus, the camera in many ways is a living contradiction: it's so small and delicate it looks like something at first glance that one has to treat with kid gloves. However, it gets its strength from its compact size and its durable materials. In a sense, the camera is a manifestation of the inherent contradictions in founder. Nick Woodman, the founder, is often described as a type of "man-teenager": a man who looks young and acts even younger (Mac, 2013). That is precisely the type of mentality which has informed and influenced both the form and function...
The inherent youth (and some might say immaturity) of Woodman, the founder, is one which has had a huge impact on what the camera can do and the entire functioning of the machine. As one journalist explains, "Kids these days don't film their wave rides or half-pipe tricks. They GoPro them, strapping the $200 to $400 cameras to helmets, handlebars and surfboards. The cinema-grade, panoramic 'point-of-view' footage that comes out of a GoPro transforms mere mortals into human highlight reels, without blowing a huge hole in the budget" (Mac, 2013). Thus, so much of the form and function of a GoPro is informed by this sense of youthfulness and wild abandon.
In fact, even the price of the GoPro demonstrates that its marketed for those who are young at heart: it doesn't have the thousand-dollar price tag which is generally attached to professional cameras, but it still manages to capture images which are just as high-caliber as any of them. "Shaun White, who says he used to tape old cameras to his hand, used GoPros on his runs during the Winter X Games. Hollywood directors, including Michael Bay, keep crates of them on set. The NFL has tested them in their end zone pylons to capture touchdown replays. The Rolling Stones deployed them on stage. Police forces and the U.S. military have started to incorporate the cameras into training exercises" (Mac, 2013). Thus, what this indicates is that the camera has been embraced by a range of active professionals: they have been able to harness the inherent capabilities and death-defying aspects of the camera in order to capture footage that would previously have been impossible or too expensive to capture. Woodman appears to have done his own market research in terms of product design and was able to tap into the veins of the industry and the needs of the professionals there in a way that any strong brand needs to (Creuson, 2011).
One aspect of the camera which is built into the form of the product is the fact that it has inherently evolved into an extremely social camera, and one which has been able to harness the love and adoration of its fan base. Because the product was created and marketed for an extremely niche audience -- extreme athletes -- that core base of users were the ones which have been able to leverage the camera into a higher arena of success. The small size and overall functions of the camera mean that it was innately going to appeal to a more specific segment of the population and that this segment of the population was either going to embrace it or reject it. The marketing of GoPro was able to speak directly to the brand and was able to address directly the needs of their users (Luchs & Swan, 2011).
GoPro users have helped the product to evolve, by contributing to its success by their promotion of it over social media. "Perhaps even more impressive than the revenue growth is the passion GoPro's users have for its products, as expressed by the flood of GoPro videos spreading across YouTube and Facebook. GoPro's Facebook fan base grew from 50,000 to more than 1.3 million in 2011 alone" (Foster, 2011). In comparison, Canon USA only had 135,000 fans and Panasonic USA only had 134,000 (Foster, 2011). However, because the form and function of the camera is so specific, it appeals not only to a niche audience but the "niche-y-ness" of the audience and how there is an inherent desire among the niche audience to bond and to share with one another. This has been an undeniable aspect of the success of the brand (Byrne et al., 2011).
The form and function of the brand have appealed to an audience which has demonstrated that it inherently wants to engage with…
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