an overhead shot of OtterBox designers pouring over a table full of potential patterns

Behind OtterBox Designs

Talking shop with OtterBox's in-house style gurus
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Data-heavy trend reports, globetrotting artistic inspiration gathering and a huge dose of fun. A lot goes into cultivating the colors and designs for OtterBox Symmetry Series cases. Designers Annelise, Erika and Dave are the “Otters” behind the scenes developing the stylish cases that are redefining what you know about OtterBox.

While creating the designs that will cover millions of phones is serious business, this crew also knows that creativity flows best when you’re having fun – maybe that explains Dave’s amazing toy collection. Between jokes aimed at Dave and lots of laughter around the room, we were able to dive a little deeper into a day in the life of these phone case designers.


OtterBox designer Dave Russel at his busy, knick-knack filled workspace, staring down at a touch screen display

Annelise, how and when does inspiration strike for you?
It happens a lot when I’m out shopping. I especially love seeing how colors come together. I was out shopping, and I found this chair that has all these typically clashing colors like orange and red and pink. I couldn’t help but buy because of how much the colors clash but come together to make something beautiful. These clashing pinks and oranges and reds are so electric to me. Even when I’m driving, I can’t help but think about how colors in the sunset all come together and how cool they would be as a design.

Erika, can you share a quick overview of your initial creative process?
I’m always asking questions of who we are designing for. I ask what would be relevant to them because what I like, not everyone else likes. Once I have a creative moment, I get out of the office. I’ll go to a coffee shop or my home studio so that I can get some ideas down. I don’t think that every great thing has to happen within the walls of an office space. There are caves by my house that I go to that have graffiti all over the walls. I like it there because it’s this union of natural and urban in one space.

You must have times when you get stuck on a design or idea. Dave, what is the artistic struggle like for you?
The struggle is real! Sometimes things look really cool as a sketch and people even fall in love with it. But when you go to execute it on the computer it just doesn’t translate the same as you had envisioned it. Some things can’t be done on a computer that can be done when sketched. There comes a point where you just should move on and try something else. On the other hand, some things can be created on the computer and it looks great, but when it gets farther down the line towards actually making a real copy of the case, it might not be possible to make the design happen.

OtterBox designer Erika Johnson uses ink and a leaf to print a pattern onto a fresh white sheet of paper
OtterBox designer Annelise Ingrahm points out an element from several images spread across a table as Dave and Erika look on

Watching your interactions makes it seem like you are all pretty close as a team. Can you all explain your collaborative process and how that impacts your designs?

Annelise: Collaboration is a large part of our process because we each bring something to the table that the others can help take to the next level. I look at colors and trends and hand that information off to Erika who can create a really cool design out of it. Erika and I also talk a lot about color and pattern trends that we get from top trend houses like WGSN, which predicts trends 2 years before they happen. It makes the design process fun because we are challenged to stay ahead of the times and we have to create something that will stick with people before it is even a trend. Plus, all the great fashion brands use trend houses, which put us, as case designers, on the same level as big-name fashion brands.

Erika: Yeah, we have a small team, but everyone is pretty vocal, so we can always build off each other. One time, I took an idea and presented it to the team after many rounds of making it the best I could, and Dave was able to help me make it compatible with a digital copy. Even then, it needed some adjustments to get it just right.

Dave: For me, I work really closely with this team, but I also have a wife and daughter that are artists, so I can bounce ideas off of them as well. I can always get a good read if something is working or not based on everyone’s reactions. If they don’t vibe with it here, it probably won’t work to a larger audience.

I’m always asking questions of who we are designing for. I ask what would be relevant to them because what I like, not everyone else likes. Once I have a creative moment, I get out of the office. I’ll go to a coffee shop or my home studio so that I can get some ideas down. I don’t think that every great thing has to happen within the walls of an office space.

Erika creates a novel, natural pattern by tracing tree rings with a stylus on her touch screen display

Erika and Annelise, what is the most exciting part of finishing out a project?
We get to make up fun names for cases once we have the finished product. It’s so fun when people look at our cases and say, “That’s TOTALLY me!”. The fact we get to make people happy through our designs makes the entire process so much fun and rewarding at the end.

To be a part of the fun and learn more about their creative process, watch the video here.

a still-life hodgepodge of protype cases, inspirational magazine clippings, paintbrushes, and monitor cables from the OtterBox design area

DECK OUT YOUR DEVICE WITH OUR DESIGNERS' FAVORITES

iPhone X Symmetry Series Case in the pale blue-green Muted Waters colorway
iPhone X Symmetry Series Case
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Galaxy Note9 Symmetry Series Case in the angular, understated orange, pink, purple and gray Love Triangle pattern
Galaxy Note9 Symmetry Series Case
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iPhone 8 Symmetry Series Case in the transparent blue fade of the Aloha Ombre design
iPhone 8 Symmetry Series Case
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Galaxy S9 Symmetry Series Case in the leafy, line-drawn, gold-on-white of our Throwing Shade option
Galaxy S9 Symmetry Series Case
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