"Mr. Lovelady, your firm is going to save our company." I'll never forget the intensity of that comment. Brett Lovelady, Astro's CEO, sat to my left, looking a little overwhelmed by the statement. The company in question was Radioshack, and in October of 2014 they had just struck a last-minute deal with hedge funds to stave off a bankruptcy filing. Part of the investment- which included $120 million for use as collateral to keep inventory flowing through the holiday sales season- was money for a special project to revitalize the Realistic Brand. 

Realistic launched in 1954. The brand's most notable products include the extensive line of TRC series Citizens Band Radio Transceivers, which dominated the CB Radio marked during the 1970s. Though discontinued in the mid 90s, Realistic products long stood for quality, durability and value for hundreds of thousands of consumers.

Radio Shack hoped to leverage the equity of the Realistic Brand. We created the positioning, visual identity and two preliminary audio products: over-ear headphones and a portable bluetooth speaker.

Evaluating the Audio Market


The audio market has changed radically since Realistic was in the mix. Consumers are inundated with options, features, and styles. Claiming space in the saturated audio market is becoming more and more difficult to do. Where does Realistic belong? 


Current brands either appeal to the generic masses or focus in on a specific audience. The “Tech Forward” Consumer does not currently have a lifestyle offering. There’s an opportunity to appeal to a broad base of consumers but still offer a strong, soulful point of view. Realistic can be a lifestyle brand that leverages its signature audio expertise.  

Though it's difficult to pin down exactly what a heritage brand is- Realistic has meant many different things to many different people over the years- it's easy to establish a couple of things it obviously isn't.

As we were considering the saturated audio market, we saw goods geared towards almost every type of consumer. We saw headphones for hipsters, street-style fans, audiophiles, business people, and gamers. Despite the deluge of brands and product, an opportunity surfaced. None of the aspirational targets seemed likely to shop at Radio Shack. All of the products geared at people who would potentially shop at Radio Shack, however, were boring. We were convinced our consumer wanted an expression of style, but knew none of the current audio offerings were right for him.


From the Archives


To familiarize ourselves with the Realistic Brand, we studied every Realistic product we could find. We scoured vintage audio galleries, analyzed competitors,  and talked to friends and family who remembered the brand. We stumbled across a 1960s pamphlet for sale on ebay that told the story of Realistic. Surprisingly enough, It turned out to be a gold mine.  

The pamphlet explained the origins of the brand and its ethos. We took inspiration from two excerpts, which clearly stated the brand's chief objective: quality, no-nonsense sound. We built our positioning around the idea of delivering a soulful audio experience without any fluff. 

Audio of the Heartland


As the brand began to materialize in our minds, we deliberated how to celebrate our pragmatic consumer in an authentic way. We had to consciously avoid our stylistic defaults: the designer-friendly notions that were easy to turn to but inappropriate for our target consumer. It had to feel right for someone who shopped at Radio Shack. It also had to feel cool. As our client chuckled to us during the kickoff: "We know what our brand is right now. You have your work cut out for you".

This consumer doesn't live in LA or NY. They don't drive a Tesla. They don't have a bunch of Joseph Joseph products sitting in their kitchen. As I mulled it over in my head, though, I couldn't help but think: "there's something fantastic about that".



The Tech Forward


The Tech Forward is 25 – 45 years of age, Multicultural, with a strong Hispanic contingent, and doing well financially. The Tech Forward enjoys brands as an expression of who he is, but is quality-driven. The Tech Forward is sensible, pragmatic, and astute, and is passionate about music. He would like more expressive audio products, but current lifestyle brands do not represent him or deliver the quality he’s looking for. 

Visual Identity


The graphics team took inspiration from worn metal-plating for the Realistic Logo. The logo is simple and unassuming, and the gently rounding corners of the letter forms lend a sense of a patina. 

Product Families


The Industrial Design team then explored product manifestations of the Heartland thematic. The headphones are designed at a $350 price point, competing with Bose and Sennheiser primarily. A portable speaker and sound bar complete the product family.



As you well know, we did not, sadly, save Radio Shack. On February 5, 2015, nearing the end of this project, RadioShack corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. We had been anticipating the call- things had grown more and more grim for the corporation by the week- but it was unfortunate nonetheless. The work had been incredibly well-received and the internal RadioShack team was thrilled with Realistic's evolution. While RadioShack is now officially a thing of the past, there are talks to sell the brand. Realistic products inspired by this work may grace store shelves one day soon.