Since 2020, Higround has been both redefining and elevating gaming culture. The hardware brand’s keyboards have become synonymous with unique design and storytelling, fueling customer’s creativity while they craft their own stories.
We talked with Rustin Sotoodeh, Founder and CEO of Higround, and Kha Lu, CMO and Co-Founder of Higround, about their road to the brand’s inception, the design process, and the intuitive connection to StockX.
Cop the Higround Graffiti Keyboard here.
Describe the inspiration behind Higround?
Rustin: Higround is a result of Kha’s [Lu] and my perspective on the world. Gaming has always been stereotyped as this antisocial hobby. We’re gamers, but we don’t see that. We see culture, we see design, we see beauty. We wanted to create a brand that expressed that and elevated gaming culture so that people in the mainstream or within gaming had something to be proud of.
Were there any initial doubts? Did anyone say something to the effect of “there doesn’t need to be a design behind a keyboard?”
Rustin: Absolutely. No one thought to put a graphic on a keyboard and tell a story behind the product like you would with anything that is culturally relevant. People just saw it as a tool and not a form of expression. We see it as a form of expression.
Let’s talk about this graffiti keyboard drop. What is the connection with this keyboard and StockX?
Kha: When we looked at graffiti and StockX, this was our way to tell this story and talk to an audience that isn’t potentially super deep into gaming, but could be more aware of how to upgrade their status. We wanted to find a design that was simply aesthetic and that they could relate to, and with a vibrant color theme.
Rustin: People who browse StockX understand street culture. And so does the gaming audience, but the link between those two has rarely been brought together. And so that link is what we referenced in our mood boards. Releasing it on StockX with that storyline of where graffiti and gaming and street culture intersected, those are the references and that’s how we came up with the keyboard.
How did you go from founding the company in 2020 to very quickly being acquired by 100 Thieves?
Rustin: When it came to finally releasing this product, it was the first time that we actually had a product we could gift people. We didn’t want to give Nadeshot [Matthew Haag, 100 Thieves founder and CEO) a keyboard because we didn’t want him to assume that, “Hey, we’re asking you to post, we want to give you this free keyboard.” But he organically was drawn to the product, so when he asked for one, we couldn’t refuse. Fast forward after that and he was streaming on Twitch and our keyboard was in his vlog, and he had a link out to our website. For Nadeshot himself to really enjoy it was a result of us being aligned on how we viewed gaming culture. And that’s when the discussion came of what a collaboration would look like.
Are you both the designers? What is the design process for each new keyboard?
Rustin: As the creative director, I think about what direction we want to take our visuals. A lot of the visual pillars for Higround are very much rooted in Retrofuturism or Y2K, which is the era Kha and I grew up playing video games in. Whenever we go through this process of creating a keyboard, we like to go back to our roots and think about what is the story we want to tell, and how do we draw a reference back to our visual pillars.
Describe the incorporation of the drop model to release keyboards?
Rustin: These keyboards are collectibles and coveted items, so I think in terms of the future of our company, that will always be an aspect of what we do. But I also feel our mission is to elevate gaming culture, and in order to do that, we need to get more keyboards into more people’s hands.
What does Higround have in store for the future?
Rustin: I think collaborations are such a fun, modern form of communication in terms of wanting to tell a story. You’ll see a lot of those from us as we continue to develop our brand and tell different stories that we want to tell. But you’ll also see a couple different upgrades from us alongside the keyboards, like new product lines. It’s very exciting.