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Q&A On the Outmotoring Arc Armrest

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One of the more interesting accessories to come out recently for the MINI is the new Outmotoring Arc Armrest. The armrest was designed and engineered by the owner of Outmotoring Aaron Cornaby who is also a product designer by trade.

The Outmotoring Arc Armrest is very unique in it's design and construction and seems to be quickly gaining in popularity with MINI enthusiasts. However it's such a radical yet simple design that some who only see small pics on the web inevitably come away with questions about it's design and construction. So in an effort to bring more information about the best MINI accessories on the market we recently took some time to chat with Aaron about what makes his design so unique and it looks like it does:

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MotoringFile: Why did you feel it necessary to create this armrest?

Aaron/Outmotoring: After living with my MINI for a few weeks I realized that an armrest would make the car a whole bunch more enjoyable. I had seen and purchased a few that were on the market and after reviewing them realized that in my mind were just downright poor solutions with little or no design appeal. Basically there was not an armrest on the market that I was content with. As a designer my mind is always moving a hundred miles a hour trying to find out how things could be better, thinking through user interaction scenarios, etc.. So, the ARC armrest project was started. I guess it would not be fair to mention that It's been a long time dream to 'invent' something and retire at 30, and while the retirement is most likely not going to happen in the next 2 months, the invention part of my dream has and it's just as rewarding!

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MotoringFile: What inspired the unconventional design?

Aaron/Outmotoring: The MINI is such a unique car, styled for an emotional reaction and has such a strong design flavor that nothing but a emotionally charged armrest would be at home in the MINI. A block of foam was not going to work with soft, round/oval simplified interior styling of the MINI. So, the ARC armrest uses design language that is built into the car already. The round details that are so prevalent in the MINI dash are directly translated into the rear cup holder shape. The oval shape of the pedals and foot rest are seen in the overall shape of the metal ARC shape and the oval arm pad. The inner rings on the ARC armrest cup holder are very similar to the gaskets front 'cupholders'. The oval door panel insert is echoed in the side view of the metal structure. It just didn't make sense to follow any other form language.

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MotoringFile: Why not go with something more conventional like the MINI FINI armrest?

Aaron/Outmotoring: Actually, before the MINIfini Armrest came out, I was heading in that direction; a simple vertical element that uses the rear cup holder as a base and a horizontal element that holds the main pad. I was actually working on a design that had vertical and front to back adjustability within these two axis', but the whole thing felt static, conventional and overall had too much of a functional/engineered look that was just not at home in the MINI. I also did not want to compete with the MINIfini product. I started focusing on the design as an extension of the car, which is where I migrated, finally reaching the current design. One of the main restraints was how to actually connect this thing to the car. There are no easy ways to do this without damaging the car or asking the consumer to do too much work to install the thing, so the rear cup holder was chosen as the mounting location. It sort of springs out of the center console in a sort of kinetic energy stance. The adjustable oval armpad (with over 13 inches of front to rear adjustment) allows drivers of varying heights to find a comfortable spot. The ARC armrest is energetic, sparks an emotional response and has character, just like the MINI.

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MotoringFile: What all went into the process of designing and building it?

Aaron/Outmotoring: You know this is the most shocking part of the whole deal. I am a Product Designer specializing in consumer products and sporting goods for some of the most respected companies in the world. I do it day in and day out, those are are the skills that I have learned. I love it and enjoy what I do, but I have never had to make a product into reality by myself. I've never designed, 'engineered', prototyped, coordinated manufacturing (nightmare!!) marketed, done cost analysis, packaged, photographed, made instructions, etc., basically done everything that I rely on my clients to do behind the scenes, using, in some case, hundreds of people. I mostly just design the stuff. It is INSANELY difficult to get everything to come together with different vendors, price issues, as well as time and money constraints. So, to everyone out there that is part of this process for other companies, congrats!! As is the norm, this project went from a 2-3 month deal to a 8-9 month deal once you add in design, design refinement, prototyping, production logistics, packaging, testing, vendor delays, etc. Compound that with a full time job, family, etc., and you can see where the time goes. For me, the most fun part of creating products is the beginning, the 100's of sketches, doodles, quick mock ups, researching materials, testing functionality, figuring out pricing, etc. The design development was not a 'sit down and do it' kind of thing, it just evolved and was refined, letting the ideas bake a bit as it moved along. In the end, I got a product that I am proud of and so far has been very well received by MINI owners all over the world.

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MotoringFile: Where is the armrest manufactured?

Aaron/Outmotoring: Right here is Columbus, Ohio. We use one vendor to do the Stainless Steel laser cutting, forming, welding and assembly of the main structure. We use a second vendor to laser cut the wooden base/insert of the oval armrest. A third vendor is used for the foam and upholstery of the oval pad. A fourth is used for the two die cut rubber rings on the rear cup holder. A fifth vendor does the stickers. A sixth vendor supplies the hardware, and a seventh supplies the boxes. In the middle there are a few steps that I do and in the end, the rubber rings need to be glued and final assembly and packaging takes place. Yes it is a headache, but it's working so far.

MotoringFile: Did you have any inspirations when designing it?

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Aaron/Outmotoring: I was mostly inspired by the car itself. The interior design team made up of the Designworks staff, Frank Stephenson as well the original Rover team (before it got to BMW) have all contributed to a fantastic interior. Why try to compete with it? There is plenty of inspiration as one sits in the driver seat and looks around. However, I did throw in some spice to make the product feel like it was jewelry. The structural grace that makes it sort of magically be where you need it, while allowing maximum adjustability and the brushed finish that accents the MINI turn signal stocks, facias, etc. It has a sort of sculpture-like effect that accents the MINI styling. I guess one could consider it usable sculpture.

MotoringFile: What other products are you working on at OutMotoring?

Aaron/Outmotoring: Well, this one just got ironed out and while there is a world of potential products out there I am looking for things that NEED design to increase their value, appeal and functionality. I could have sway bars made, springs can be spec'd out, stuff can be private labeled, but that does not interest me at the moment. The market is saturated with 'low hanging fruit' products so I am working doing stuff that no one else is doing or or can be vastly improved through design. So, there are a few small things in the works, but I'm not in a rush. I am just having a good time. After-all, I'm not retiring anytime soon!

A big thanks to Aaron for agreeing to take time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. It's not only a glimpse into the making of a great product but a fascinating look at what it takes to create a professional MINI related product.

The Outmotoring Arc Armrest sells for $169.95 and is available at Outmotoring.com.

Written By: MF Staff

  • RB

    Aaron…

    Very well thought out and very attractive, if I was ever to buy a armrest this would almost be the one.

    I have one area of complaint that would stop me from purchasing the unit. From the pics on Outmotoring the construction has a high quality finish except where the fabric is stapled. Maybe the unit displayed was an early prototype? If not there must be a better way to attach that area. It looks tacky, sorry, when in comparison with the high quality construction of the unit.

    IMHO…RB

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    RB – I can't answer your questions but if you want to see an unfinished staple process check out what's under the seats of your MINI.

    Personally I think it's all pretty cool fabrication myself considering.

  • Adam

    I saw on NAM that you were offering a group discount… any chance on passing this over to motoringfile community or maybe mini2. BTW looks like a great product!

  • http://www.outmotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    Yeah, I'm not thrilled with the staples either, but that is the only way we could a cover on the lower half. I wanted black staples, but that did not work…I've looked into laser cutting a oval bottom plate out of plastic, but then there are attachment issues, etc, as well a substantial material and process cost involved. So, since the unit is never seen from the bottom side, it seems to be a good solution that our vendor is familiar with.

    As far as the group buys go, that one is over and at the time, we are not planning on doing any sales on the item until we really get a sense for how many to stock and how long we can get restocked, etc.

  • MadisonMini

    Looks good Aaron,

    Will it be adaptable to the 2005 Mini S Convertible and will there be any different color choices?

    My interior will be blue and orange, don't think that color will fit too well.

  • Zach Senders

    Great idea, and great design too.

    Wont MINI be offering a factory armrest later this model year?

  • Bukowski

    Superb, Aaron. Congrats!

    An exciting design venture. Pricing is proper. Betting many will prefer your natural ARC over the long-awaited, pricey & limp FINI offer.

    Your ARC brightens the MINI's interior [rear included!] with the metallic sting & quality-feel MINIers prefer.

    Do let us know what colors may be available, – Cordoba Beige, Dark Blue?

  • RB

    Gabe…

    That's true but I can't see under the seat under normal circumstances, but there are those lost nites in… well let's not go there.

    Aaron…

    My comment was not a put down, as I like the product, just a comment.

    Have you thought about moving the staples farther towards the center of the oval? Or how about a recessed area in the base where the staples are located that would hide them and negate the need for another element, or a two peice base that would interlock with that material. It seems, as I deal with architectural signage, that there must be some kick ass glue out there that could seal it all together.

    It's the only area that would cause me not to buy one as I can see staples/gathering in all product shots.

    But I'm just a humble environmental designer so what do I know.

    …RB

  • H Franks

    Great design. After reading the interview I just went to your site and ordered one.

  • dgszweda1

    Aaron,

    Excellent product. This is one of the best integrated products as far as design of any aftermarket product that I have seen. It really looks stock. You did a great job and this and hopefully some of the money gained will be a good reward.

    I started a thread on NAM a while ago complaining about the lack of innovation of products for the Mini and how many of them were cookie cutter type products. This armrest really shows the innovation and vision that some people are infusing into this community. I agree with your idea of not just recreating another set of sway bars or something else. Those products in my mind are getting depressing since they are all basically the same and many of them aren't even engineered exclusively for the Mini.

    Keep up the excellent job. My new Mini is coming in a couple of months, so you should expect my order by then.

  • Amit

    Aaron, I've read that the size of the rear cupholder is different in '05 cars. Will this hinder the armrest fittment? I'm selling my MCS next month so I can have an '05 w/LSD delivered in the spring. I wanted to put your product on my Xmas wish list.

    thanks

    Amit

  • http://www.outmotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    …I've casually looked into doing a Lapis blue and Cordoba Beige Armpad, as those are the most popular next to the Panther Black. I am certainly open to other ideas too. One other option out there is doing a powder coated version that may be WITHOUT the cupholder and would be in the same finish as the facias, turn stocks, etc. If there is enough interest in that or other options I will pursue them!! So, feel free to suggest finish options, etc.

    And the idea about the subplate that is glued on the bottom of the armpad; that is a great solution, which just happens to be where I was headed when I mentioned cost and assembly issues. Right now the pad part costs nearly 1/2 as much as the metal part, so I am hesitant to go with a more expensive solution because that would in turn bump up the retail price point, which i think is at a sweet spot right now…who wants to pay over $200 for an armrest???

  • Hai

    Wow… it looks great the the price is a huge drawback. too expensive for my taste.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Actually it's the lowest priced armrest I know of beyond the small pad type. I think if you looked at what's caomparable you'll quickly see this price is really quite low. To be honest I was surprised it wasn't around $200 after I saw it.

  • GSKChicago

    Whenever I see something I have an interest in buying, my head automatically takes me to what it is worth, prior to looking at the price. When I first saw this at Outmotoring.com, my head took me to $200.00. In my humble little opinion, it is likely worth that. I have not seen in person, but I'm sure it's as solid as it seems. Of course, none of you likely care what my opinion is, but I like seeing my name in orange. :o)

  • Patrick Masterson

    It is this kind of enthusiasm generated by the MINI's design that so separates this car from every other… I can't imagine even a Corvette owner stepping in to design an addition to that car. And this armrest is SO cool in it's design and execution. Thanks for a great story.

  • Alfred

    Hey, what about a built-in stash box. I've gone total euro mini one front dash with shelf under steering, '05 center stash tray and removed/replaced glove box with shelf under. Much cleaner, more mini….mize.

  • http://www.outmotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    Yes, the 05's have a different cup holder in the rear so the ARC armrest will NOT fit the 05 model as far as I can tell. I need to get into one of the 05's to see what they changed and then make a version for the newer cars….

  • pete

    wow thumbs up aaron. i like the design and all the well thought out fabrication. it would be very nice though if you offered it in the same colors as the factory seats, i like the design way more than the factory armrest, and all the other after market ones. im definately picking one up. outmotoring is a great site! keep up the good work

  • Robert

    I love the look of the armrest, I really like the price, I like the simplicity of installation…

    BUT I am concerned about how much weight the armrest can take. I looked at the directions at OutMotoring.com and there are only two screws through the plastic cupholder base which hold the armrest in place. I've seen the instructions for the MINI Fini unit and the mounting arm appears to have a very sturdy installation, albeit more complicated than the OutMotoring offering.

    I'm torn… the really sturdy, pricey, and less appealing MINI Fini or the beautiful, nice price, arguably less sturdy/weight bearing OutMotoring design.

    Anybody have experience with both armrests? Can I lean just as hard on the OutMotoring armrest as on the MINI Fini version?

  • Pat Crowley

    Please make one for the 05 model asap. I will be in line for it. I'll keep checking your site until I see it!

  • Doug

    I also would like to see an arm rest for the '05 model. Just 'Do It'!

  • Joe K

    Ditto for an '05 model

  • http://www.outmotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    That's a good reason to sell our current project car and get an 05 version!!!

    Any takers on the our BRG/W MCS?

    Check it out under “project car” on our website..

  • norm

    I jumped in on that group buy and consider myself very fortunate. What Aaron said about sculpture is so correct. This is a case where I get to use art as furniture and enjoy it everyday, it truely enhances the interior of my MCS. Thank you, Aaron

  • karatay

    is this also fit for '05 model year cooper s??

  • http://www.OutMotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    We're working on a version for the 2005 version…MINI changed the rear cup holder diameter, depth and a few other things that we will need to update on the current product…it should be ready by mid November

  • http://40watthype.com Darren

    hiya. i did a review of the designamg armrest, and i like the look of this one alot. i echo the 'weight stability' concern as well. can it hold up ender the heavy-shifting-in-seat issue? im still not down with drilling into the car, but this one does have the look and style of mini…

  • David

    I have just purchased a Mini S and was hoping to resolve the armrest situation. I like your design much better but am also a little concerned with mounting through the plastic cup holder base. Any updates?

  • http://www.OutMotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    The 2005 version is out and selling like hotcakes. The design is identical with only a minor modification to the mounting structure….

    The only drilling needed is in the base of the cupholder and is limited to 2 14″ holes, which could be covered if needed once the armrest is removed. In the 2005 center console MINI has a removable rubber base that covers the bottom…

  • Ray

    Just a couple of comments on my experience with the ’05 version of the armrest…

    • Be careful when pulling up on the console. When I put my fingers under the edges (per the directions) I managed to slice open my fingertips on both hands. The edge of the plastic console is extremely sharp, so use a towel or something to protect yourself.

    • The metal edges on the metal cupholder and armrest “arc” are also somewhat sharp. People squeezing into the backseat (particularly with bare legs) need to be careful.

    • After installation, I glued the leatherette insert from the bottom of the original cupholder onto the metal bottom of the new raised cupholder (using Gorilla Glue). It gives it a nice finished appearance.

    • Thus far, experience with the armrest in general has been good. I’m a little concerned that over time and/or when a fair amount of downward pressure is exerted on the padded arm that it may get bent downward somewhat. Thus far however, it’s been very good. A nice addition for the price.

  • Pingback: MotoringFile » Archive » Official MINI Armrest Reviewed

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