Taco Night. So much to love… except for all the prep involved in setting the table – finding all the bowls you need to store your cheese, lettuce, beans, salsa, red onions, and guac…Not to mention the actual taco assembly – figuring out how to fill and eat it (whether you’re in the hard taco or soft taco camp) without everything spilling out…And then, at the very end, cleaning everything up and playing cabinet-Tetris to put all your bowls and dishes back into storage. What a workout. Taco Night would be so much better with a little bit of assistance.
We are always looking for makers and manufacturers to partner with on developing new products! Often times, we develop the concept for a product and then look for the right vendor that can bring their production techniques and creative vision to help make it happen. For example, we love working with J.K. Adams, so we came to them with a need – how to serve shelled pistachios at a party – and worked with them to create a new, unique design: the Pistachio Pedestal.
Sometimes our vendors actually come to us with great concepts that they need help developing into full-fledged designs. This might be because the artist or designer has had the idea in their archives for a while, but has either decided it wasn’t quite right for their own customers or can’t figure out exactly how to take the initial concept to a final product. We love seeing ideas for new products from our vendors and working with them to create new, exclusive goods that will appeal to our customers. If you’re interested in working with our Product Development team, contact our Director of New Business and Product Development, Carolyn Topp at Carolyn@uncommongoods.com.
When developing a product from scratch, we need to think through all of the details. We think about functionality and ask ourselves basic questions. When we created our Bike Tote those questions were: How will the bag hold objects? How much will it hold? How will it be secured? How will it be carried? What materials do we use to make sure the job gets done?
Here’s how we answered some of those questions.
The tricky thing about this project was making sure the bag would fit the needs of a bike rider. Safety is integral. First, the bag needed to be well-secured to a bike’s handlebars without interfering with the front wheel.
How we made it happen: Sourcing the right buckles.
This was our greatest sourcing challenge. We recognize that depending on the style of the bike or gears you have, strapping the bag on or off could be a challenge, so we made sure to source components that would work for as many bike styles as possible.
The buckles needed to open up so that we could completely detach the straps and fasten to any bike. They also needed to firmly and securely support the weight of the bag, without breaking, loosening, or slipping on the bike. After evaluating several different buckle and strap options, we chose these cam buckles.
In addition to securing the bag to the bike, we had to refine the cotton shoulder strap, making sure it made sense for a bike rider. We wanted to develop a true tote bag with a longer shoulder strap, but we didn’t want the strap to fly around in the wind or interfere with the bike in any way.
How we made it happen: A floating zipper.
The zipper is isolated from the rest of the bag, which means the bag can be opened fully. It allows a bike rider to place the entire shoulder strap into the bag, with the zipper closed on top of it. The strap is securely tucked inside the bag, instead of hanging loose.
We know that when you’re on the road, dirt and gravel fly up, and things get pretty dirty pretty fast. We wanted to make sure the bike tote would stay as nice as possible, despite being an active bag.
How we made it happen: Black bottom panel.
We lined the bottom of the bag with black fabric to hide any smudges. Remember – because of the buckles, the bike tote can’t be machine washed or dried, so hand-washing and line-drying are your best bets for keeping it in top shape.
As a final design touch, we wanted to help bike riders increase their visibility both from a distance and in the dark.
How we made it happen: Reflective tape around the bag. The strip of reflective tape allows for more visibility of riders as they cruise along and show off their very cool bike tote.
Testing the Bike Tote
Once the product met all of the criteria we outlined, we we needed to make sure it was truly road ready. To test it, one of our team members gave it a try on her road bike to make sure our claims were holding up. “I’m basically going to try and break it,” she informed us.
In her words:
“I filled it with as much heavy stuff as I could. I started with books and when that didn’t break the bag, I tried weights (two 5 lb. weights) and large bottles (3 wine-sized bottles). The bag was a bit too big for the bike handlebars on the bike I was testing it on, so for the actual weight test I attached it to the bike cross bar and left it hanging overnight.”
The tote successfully held the weight, and we were pleased to find out that it is capable of transporting a lot of wine. (You never know when you might need to to perform just that function!)
Overall, creating the Bike Tote was fun, we got to work with awesome artists Jason Snyder and Briana Feola (who created the art featured on the tote’s fabric), and we can be proud that we developed a product that’s stylish, high-quality, and super functional.
As product developers, we get the chance to work with a number of really amazing, talented artists and designers. Since launching our first uncommon product, we’ve connected with incredibly interesting people and learned a lot about working with the design community. There’s a lot we could tell you about working with designers – but we realize that there’s something we don’t know much about at all – what it’s like for designers working with us.
We wanted to find out more about the artists’ take on collaborating with UncommonGoods, so we asked some! Recently, we had the pleasure of working with Jason Snyder and Briana Feola of Brainstorm to create our new Earth Science Glasses and Coasters featuring their vibrant and retro-feeling Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Space prints. Not only was the design duo happy to answer our questions about the inspiration behind their art, but they also gave us some great insights into working with the UncommonGoods Product Development team.
What was your original inspiration for this series?
After leafing through some vintage science books and thinking to ourselves that the information is so important but the graphics are always less than pleasing to look at, the series started with our “Atmosphere” print. It was a short run, maybe 30 prints, and they received a tremendous response online. So we re-printed that and started to expand on the layered, graphic concept to create a series and round out the concept. Over the course of a year, “Earth” was second and “Ocean” came third.
How was your love of science born?
Briana: Science was the other subject that kept my attention growing up, aside from art class. It was always the most fascinating but so complex at the same time. Coupled with some really great teachers over the years, I was completely hooked. It only makes sense that I try and merge my favorite ideas from my early school days.
Jason: I think science in general carries with it such an immense range of interesting (and complicated) topics and that really lends itself well to education if executed the right way. I have an Art Education degree, so combining these awesome sciences with education is really how a lot of my ideas come together. I don’t even know if that answers the question but that’s what I came up with.
Tell us your favorite science joke.
A photon walks in to the airport and the ticket agent asks him, “Are you checking any bags today?” and he says, “No, I’m traveling light.”
What was your initial thought when UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team contacted you?
We were super excited to get involved and we were ready immediately. We had both been following UncommonGoods for a long time and after meeting some of the awesome team members at the 2013 National Stationery Show, we had hoped there would be an opportunity to work together!
What was the most challenging thing about working with UncommonGoods? What was the most exciting?
There’s a lot of correspondence that has to happen to get a product off the ground. And the amount of time it takes to go from “let’s do this” to “the product is online” is much longer than we were used to, having the ability to produce our screenprints ourselves as soon as they’re ready. We adopted more patience. Easily the most exciting thing is the day our first product arrived in hands. Going from idea to real product is the best!
How does it feel to have your art on these products?
It feels a little bit surreal. Knowing that these glasses are in kitchen cabinets and kids (and adults!) are drinking out of them and learning a thing or two, it’s just fantastic. We can both remember sitting at the kitchen table as kids reading cereal boxes and looking at colorful, pictorial cups. And now we are a part of the culture in a way we can be proud of.
This has already been a big year for babies! Especially royal ones.
Although George Alexander is not on the list of top boys names for 2013, we wanted to share the top five boys and girls names of the year with our regal custom Coat of Arms Birth Announcement art.
My hometown is…
Alpharetta, GA – a suburban girl at heart!
My favorite product that I helped develop is…
The printable party kits on our free downloads page. My favorite is the outer space party kit, but the history buff kit is super fun too. I also love the sleekness and functionality of the Jewelry in a Bottle and the cleverness of the Pistachio Pedestal.
I’m inspired by…
Halloween, strangers, Elon Musk, outer space.
My guilty pleasure is…
Marathoning semi-educational TV shows. I’m a sucker for Alaska: The Last Frontier, and Cosmos.
An uncommon fact about me…
I was the runner-up in my elementary school spelling bee. Sadly, I misspelled the word “mystic” because I spoke too fast and accidentally skipped a letter!
My style is…
1st grader-meets-comfortable grandmother-meets-construction worker chic.
Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Developing uncommon products is easier said than done, but seeing a new item finally go live never gets old.
Would you rather… give up your sketchbook or your access to blogs?
Give up my sketchbook! I love my blogs and I’m addicted to the Internet. It’s my virtual playground, home to all my mood boards, design inspiration, etc.