SANTA CRUZ -- Geoffrey Nelson had seen a lot of great ideas come to fruition over the years.
In his work as an advertising photographer with a studio in Redwood City from 1988 to 2003, Nelson photographed countless products designed by Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Intel and Applied Materials for company brochures and annual reports.
Nelson, 57, said many of those products were the result of a great idea -- a number he would even categorize as coming from a "million-dollar idea."
Now, it may just be Nelson's turn to show he's capable of coming up with a good idea of his own.
Enter the iLyte Dock.
Available for purchase online at $69.90, the iLyte Dock is a product designed by Nelson. It is an iPhone charger with a base made out of solid-brushed aluminum and sandblasted lucite that will illuminate and continuously change colors with the flip of a switch.
"Since I am a photographer, I love Apple products -- they're part of a photographer's DNA," said Nelson, who moved to Santa Cruz in 2000. "I love the iPhone and how it works, but I have always hated the docks available. The low-end ones are cheesy and plastic.
"Technically, mine is a high-end item, but it's not that expensive," Nelson said. "It's elegant whether the light switch is on or off. You can dock it with one hand with its case on and use it with one hand while it's docked. There's also a cord that can be plugged directly into a portable speaker. I designed it to be the most beautiful iPhone dock, but I didn't know how practical it would be until I actually used it."
A Redwood City native, Nelson graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in history in 1976, but instead of pursuing a career in his field of study, he began working as a photographer. He eventually found steady work with a number of industrial design firms in the Palo Alto area.
"They were all leading-edge industrial designs that I would photograph," Nelson said. "I would get to shoot the latest things they were coming up with -- a toothbrush, a phone, a gas station dispenser for hybrid cars.
"I'd shoot Apple products as well," he said. "I shot the Newton, which was their original iPhone. I remember that I thought it was such a great idea. I saw so many great ideas and great products."
Nelson said he became comfortable with building objects through his work as an advertising photographer. He would be called upon to design and build sets and displays for the items he would shoot for clients.
He said the catalyst for designing the iLyte Dock came when hearing about the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"Steve Jobs and I are two weeks apart in age," Nelson said. "With his death, I decided I would build what I would call an 'insanely great' dock. That's a Steve Jobs' expression. Of any product Apple would produce, he said it would be 'insanely great.' I decided to build something that Jobs would say if he saw it that it was 'insanely great.'
"I actually designed it in one day, but to figure out how to build it was a three-month process," Nelson continued. "I needed drill presses, routers and a sandblaster. By trial and error, I figured it out."
On the official website, iLyte Dock is called a "Lava Lamp for the 21st Century." Nelson said his product also works well as a nightlight.
He plans to offer a version of his product compatible with the iPhone 5 since Apple reduced the number of pins in the connector. His goal is to get his product into Apple stores as well as museum stores and chain electronic stores.
He has made all 30 docks he's sold himself, but plans to hire employees to produce them on an assembly line at a Santa Cruz County location if demand necessitates.
"You have to put your phone somewhere when you come home in the evening, and this is a way to have a beautiful lit object as well as a practical way to charge and interface with your phone," Nelson said. "I'm super-happy with how it turned out."