Design

Constellation Collaboration: Creating the Zodiac Pillows

April 15, 2013

All great designs start out as great ideas, and while we often think of great ideas as masterpieces that burst forth from the minds of individuals, in reality, many are actually the product of collaboration.

For our product development team, collaboration has a major part in creating dynamic new goods. Sometimes the idea for a new exclusive designed-by-us product is conceived in a brainstorming session, sometimes it’s the result of discussions with our buyers, and, as in the case of our colorful Zodiac Pillows, sometimes the idea is built around existing artwork.

Senior Product Development Associate Sarah Stenseng, Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang and their zodiac characters

Before our product development associates Sarah and Tiffany got to work designing these plush pillows, the adorable astrological characters featured on them started out as illustrations by artist Mark Poulin.

“Mark’s artwork informed the materials,” said Tiffany. “The characters are bright, fun, and colorful, so we knew the product had to be huggable.”

Mark agreed that UncommonGoods had to take his designs in the “huggable” direction. “It was all about the cute,” he said when asked what (besides the zodiac symbols themselves, of course) inspired him. He continued, “My goal was to make cartoon characters that would appeal to anyone with a heart and with a sense of goodwill. After all, you do have to feel comfortable snuggling up on the couch with these guys!”

Since there are 12 original zodiac signs, the team knew they had to create a product that could be consistent across several styles, while letting each character’s personality shine through. They decided that pillows were the perfect way to display Mark’s creations, because they are soft, squeezable, and fit into a variety of home decor styles.

“Part of what makes these zodiacs uncommon is that they are lovable, which isn’t something you usually think of when you think astrology,” said Sarah.

Mark himself jokes about his own feelings about astrology. “Secretly I’m a zodiac fanatic,” he said. “Not the reading the columns kind of guy, but the always trying to guess peoples signs based on their behaviors kind of guy. There’s nothing wrong with a little astrology mixed with numerology and maybe a dash of tarot, as long as you don’t talk about it in interviews…whoops!”

Artist Mark Poulin

That idea of blending the symbolism of the zodiac characters into everyday life was also a factor in creating these pillows. The team wanted the youthful series to appeal to fun-loving folks of all ages. And, since they really are functional pieces, that look lovely on your bed our couch, but are also soft and comfy when you rest your head on them or snuggle up with them, they had to be durable.

Fortunately, Tiffany and Sarah didn’t have to look far to find a vendor who could produce quality plush products. UncommonGoods has worked with Green 3 for years, and knew they were a great choice to help take the zodiac pillows from a concept to an uncommon good.

This next level of collaboration started with Jim Martin, who co-founded Green 3 with his wife, Sandy. “Our reaction to the designs was positive as soon as we saw them,” Said Jim. “We liked the icons and felt that had a very modern feel. We also really loved the saturation of colors.”

It was important to Jim and the team at Green 3 that the artwork was reproduced faithfully, without limiting the usefulness of the pillow or making the price point too high.

Zodiac Pillows in production, photos courtesy of Green 3

Since these factors are also important to our product development team, Tiffany and Sarah worked closely with the other collaborators creating mock-ups, working out kinks, making needed tweaks, and striving to hit a deadline–motivated to get the product perfect in time to appear in our next catalog.

The team also reached out to our online community, through the community voting app, to get feedback before releasing the final version of the product.

“We saw a fair amount of positive comments, ” said Tiffany, “which helped us gauge customer reaction to the product.”

Our product developers were encouraged by kind words from our voters, and couldn’t wait to see the finished pillows, and when the first shipment came in, they were both relieved to see that the product was finally here and excited to be able to start getting the cuddly characters out to customers.

Although seeing a product like the Zodiac Pillows through from an idea inspired by charming artwork to a tactile piece does involve a lot of moving parts and collaboration, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to see the end result–a design that can’t be found anywhere else!

Design

Art Crush: Kate Lewis

April 12, 2013

Hello there! I’m so excited to be guest posting on The Goods. On artsocial I talk a lot about my art crushes. Well, let me tell you, the Uncommon Artist Gallery has some seriously crush-worthy artists. Like whoa. They need to be discussed. First up is Chicago artist, Kate Lewis.

Kate creates still-lifes of her sunny Victorian home using vibrant acrylics and watercolors. Like intimate portraits, her work captures the thoughtfully designed corners of her home and daily life. From bold patterns to vases overflowing with flowers to stacks of colorful books, Kate’s work proves beauty really is in the details.

Kate finds inspiration from design and fashion magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and from decorating her own home. Her beautifully constructed and colorful paintings mirror the trends in interior design we love so much. Unexpected colors and patterns? Yes, please.

Twinkle Twinkle (above) is definitely my favorite. It’s as if we’re guests at her effortlessly charming backyard party. I can almost hear the music and taste that watermelon! Delicious.

Kate captures the essence of what life at home should be. Calm and inviting spaces filled with fragrant bouquets, good books, and big comfy chairs. She makes me want to redecorate! I should at least start buying more fresh flowers… OR I could get one of Kate’s paintings. Art is way better than flowers, don’t you think?

Maker Resources

How To Make It: Collaborating and Building Your Network | Videos

April 11, 2013

Earlier this month we hosted another design panel and happy hour for designers in Brooklyn. The topic of conversation was learning how to work well with other artist in a collaborative community, a business partnership and on the internet. Sitting on the panel was artist and founder of the AmDC Kiel Mead, Katy Maslow and Michelle Inciarrano of Twig Terrariums, and UncommonGoods Community Outreach Coordinator, Gaby Dolceamore (yeah, that’s me!).

Guests were invited to mingle with each other and the panel; enjoy some Brooklyn Brewery beer, Dark Horse Wine and Pelzer’s Pretzels; and vote on a community winner of the Woodworking Design Challenge. Check out Zsuzsanna’s winning design, the Floating Window Air Plant Wall Decoration.

We know not everyone can head over to Brooklyn on a Tuesday night to join our events, so we are happy to offer clips from the night’s discussion below!

Communication is key, especially when best friends become business partners!

Michelle and Katy of Twig Terrariums reveal how they split up the work in their business.

Kiel describes the dynamic of contributing to a group of artists in the AmDC.

The Twig ladies talk about how important it is for them to share their craft with the local community.

The group discusses the importance of telling your art’s story.

The panel weighs in on the belief that 80% of a group’s work is done by 20% of its members.

Kiel describes how he makes the most out of networking with other artists.

…or just watch the entire thing!

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Erin Fergusson

April 10, 2013
Erin Fergusson, UncommonGoods Senior Manager–Merchandising

My hometown is…
Richmond, VA – Short Pump to be exact.

My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
AH! THIS IS TOO HARD! Recently, it would have to be the Bike Tube Belt with Layered Chain Buckle. This belt uses a cool recycled material in a really creative and attractive way.

And in jewelry it would have to be the Birth Month Flower Necklaces. They are so beautiful and have such a touching sentiment that our customers love. It also helps that it is my best selling necklace!

This isn’t jewelry or accessories, but it is one of my favorites that Katie and I found: USB Typewriter.
It is a stop-you-in-your-tracks wow item that gets me excited!

I’m inspired by…
Passionate people that drive big change in our world and people who live their lives to the fullest through experiences.

My guilty pleasure is…
Ice cream with extra caramel.

An uncommon fact about me…
I have seen lions take down a giraffe while on safari in Africa!

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Shabu-Tatsu in the East Village. You cook thin meat and veggies in a pot of boiling water, and dip them in delicious sauces. It is so yummy and pretty guilt free!

My style is…
Colorful, unique, and accessorized.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
Surrounding yourself with brilliant, creative, and inspirational people is the most fulfilling environment to work in.

Would you rather… Jog to work every day with super speed (and take the subway home) OR ride your bike home every night (but, when you got home it would mysteriously disappear from your apartment and appear at UG, so could ride it home again the next day)?
Ride my bike home every night and have my bike appear at UG, because I love riding my bike AND that would be magic!

Design

Using craftgawker.com to Promote Your Designs

April 9, 2013

As an avid craft blogger, I know the magic of getting a post featured on craftgawker. One DIY or tutorial posted on the site usually means thousands of new visits to my blog! We even use it as a tool to promote UncommonGoods design challenges and blog posts. But it recently dawned on me how helpful the gawkerverse could be in gathering inspiration and promoting your work so I reached out to Maria, their designer and editor, to pick her brain. As a designer herself, Maria has some great advice for using the gawkerverse to it’s greatest advantage.

How can a designer use the gawkerverse community to market their designs?
Anyone can use the gawkerverse to share their work. Our goal is to publish posts that are inspirational to our readers. Sometimes that comes in the form of a DIY or recipe, an artist’s interview, or a post that shares a behind the scenes look at how something is made.

If you are a designer looking to share your work, the best gawkerverse site to submit your work to is craftgawker or dwellingawker. A great way to get readers to check your post is to offer a printable or a DIY, as people like to participate. If you don’t want to provide a DIY or printable, another great way to get noticed is to provide an inside look at your process. Did you just create an amazing logo? Why not share some of the ideas that led up to the final? The same thing would work for a fine artist. Rather than only sharing the final painting, why not share some of the in-progress photos? People love to see how an artist/designer got from point A to point B.

Also, remember that photography is important! Photos are important for any blog or website, because most people are visual, but it is especially important when submitting to the gawkerverse. You only have a short time to draw someone in, and the best way to do that is with a photo that makes them stop and look.

What is the most creative thing you have seen submitted to the gawkerverse?
That’s a really hard question, because we get a lot of amazing submissions but here are a few posts that stand out.

This post by The 3R’s Blog utilizes a paper craft we all know how to make from our childhood and repurposes it into this modern, geometric lamp shade!

This DIY by My Poppet is a great way to restore old, hand woven, cane chairs. Cross stitching turned this old chair into a modern, colorful work of art.

This recent post by Feathers of Gold shows us how to create this awesome hexagonal ornament with stir straws!

Where do you seek inspiration?
I usually don’t have to look too far for inspiration, since I am one of the craftgawker moderators, so I see tons of amazing ideas daily, but some of my favorite design blogs are Design Work Life, Weekday Carnival, and Door Sixteen.

I try to find inspiration everywhere. Packaging, posters, magazines, catalogs, they all give me ideas and inspire me to try something different.

What makes a good gawkerverse submission?
Our goal is to inspire our readers to be creative. In our opinion, there is no better feeling than creating something! Whether your creative outlet is food, art, your wedding, your look, or an entire room, we want people to experience the satisfaction you get from making something yourself.

The most important component for a good gawkerverse submission is a great photo. Beautiful photos are always inspirational and will usually do well on our site. It’s the first thing a reader will see and it is what makes them want to find out more.

Next we look for good content. We always prefer DIY, but we will accept anything that we believe our users will find inspirational. That includes process photos, interviews, or any discussion about what inspired the blogger to create.

What are some tips for taking gawkerverse-worthy photos?
In my opinion, lighting is the absolute most important component for taking a good photo. If you don’t have good lighting, the photo won’t be successful. Natural diffused light is always best, because very direct light can create distracting shadows.

Next, composition plays a huge role. It’s always important to consider your subject matter and be sure that it’s always your focal point. An image can be perfectly exposed, with amazing light, but if the composition isn’t right, the image won’t be successful. It’s always important to consider your subject matter and compose a balanced shot that will work in our square format. When in doubt, keep it simple.

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