Like just about everyone in the pleasure product industry, Ethan Imboden never set out to become a creator of vibrators. Rather, the founder of Jimmyjane studied electrical engineering before earning his master’s degree in product design and development. Initially, those talents and skills earned him gigs as a consultant for companies like Nike, Motorola and Colgate.
From that point, he said, there were a few things that led him down his current path, the first of which was the nagging thought, “Do people really need a new toothbrush or cell phone?”
Another was the type of requests he was getting when he opened his own consulting firm.
“In the first three months, I had three people approach me to design products related to sex,” Imboden said. “My company’s name was Plink, and I thought to myself, ‘Either Plink means something that I’m not aware of, or there’s something going on here.’”
It was then that he decided to attend his first adult novelty trade show … and found himself tiptoeing around the outskirts.
“I think everyone’s first show is a bit overwhelming—it certainly was for me,” Imboden said. “But then, as I met some of the great people involved in the industry, and noticed how normal the subject matter was for them, I began to acclimate. Soon I was able to see the merchandise for what it was—as consumer goods, just like those in any other category for which I’d designed. That’s when I was really able to focus on the products and what was out there.”
And what was out there at the time, Imboden said, were products that really needed some
“I was immediately struck by how much could be done better, and by how many of the design disciplines that I had leveraged in other categories could be applied in this industry,” he said.
At the time, Imboden said, there were still products on the market that were noisy, underpowered, easily broken, or made from potentially toxic materials. What if, he thought, products were made from materials that were durable, safe for the body and easy on the environment? What if vibrators were designed to maximize the whole experience of owning and using the item, as opposed to only achieving the end result?
That was the start of Jimmyjane, a design-centric brand founded on the belief that “life is better with a sexy twist.”
“Jimmyjane is about inclusion,” Imboden said. “We’re dedicated to creating products of the highest quality, and making them available to a broad audience of discerning customers. Everyone should have access to great designs to support their sexuality.”
From decadent massage candles and natural massage lotions to luxurious blindfolds and the iconic 24k gold vibrator, Jimmyjane has created a number of products designed to heighten sexual experiences. Since the first products appeared on the scene in 2004, Jimmyjane has been honored with numerous design accolades, including AIGA, I.D. and IDEA awards.
Now, Jimmyjane has released yet another innovative product, thanks to collaboration between Imboden and designer Yves Béhar. Béhar is the founder of the San Francisco and New York design studio fuseproject. His work has been the subject of two solo exhibitions and resides in the permanent collections of international museums worldwide, including the MOMA and the Musee d’Art Moderne/Pompidou Center. He has earned numerous awards, among them Design of the Year by the London Design Museum 2008, the INDEX 2007: Design to Improve Life and the prestigious National Design Award for Industrial Design—awarded by Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian Institution’s famed design museum.
“Design can reshape markets by putting consumer experience first. When he founded Jimmyjane, Ethan took on a challenging and controversial subject, and over the years has transformed our perceptions and expectations of sexual products,” Béhar noted. “Disruptive companies like Jimmyjane who lead by design are central to our approach at fuseproject, so it was natural that our friendship and mutual admiration transitioned into an intensive collaboration.”
The newest product from the duo is the FORM 2, the first item in the company’s Pleasure to the People series of waterproof, rechargeable vibrators. FORM 2 is a compact design featuring two flexible vibrating ears that move independently for perfect positioning. Unlike any other vibrator—including the iconic “Rabbit”—the tip of each ear is individually powered for dynamic stimulation, delivering “Sensation in Stereo.”
“FORM 2 is a definite departure from the typical products in this category. It has a refined and simple presence, but behind the smooth and ergonomic geometry we concealed a great number of engineering, material and manufacturing breakthroughs,” Béhar said.
When they partnered in 2007, the pair were only going to develop one product. But as they got involved, they found there were a number of areas they wanted to explore. Hence, FORM 3 and FORM 4, which the duo promises will be every bit as innovative, will be launched in spring and summer, respectively.
All the designs feature medical-grade silicone, are completely body-safe, and are backed by Jimmyjane’s three-year limited warranty.
“If anything should be beautifully designed and made, it’s the products involved in our sexuality,” Imboden said. “For Jimmyjane, it’s not a question of creating a look, it’s about offering an exceptional, new experience. As soon as we get that right, the rest follows naturally. Working together, Yves and I have been able to push the boundaries of these experiences even further. FORM 2 is a great introduction to the innovation that we’ve incorporated into each of the Pleasure to the People designs. When it comes to satisfaction, it’s what’s inside
For more information on the FORM 2, the Pleasure to the People line or any Jimmyjane products, visit Jimmyjane.com.
This article originally ran in the March 2010 issue of AVN magazine.