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Product Development

Design, The Uncommon Life

Home Run Beer Pong:
A Design Double Header

October 10, 2016

Home Run Beer Pong

 

Ah, two of America’s greatest pastimes: playing baseball and crushin’ brewskis. Our ever-innovative product development team had the genius idea to combine them in our latest original product: Home Run Beer Pong. When our team is working on something new for our assortment, they typically need some guinea pigs to test it out – and lucky for us on the blog squad, people to document the process! I’ll admit, I’m no sports expert. But since I have played a fair amount of beer pong in my day, I figured I was qualified enough to tackle the reporting of this product-testing event while Cassie, our blog editor, handled the photos.

Allow me to set the scene for you. It all went down in Conference Room A-2 – the table free of it’s usual keyboards and mouse pads, instead replaced with a mini paper baseball diamond (the real game has a board, not just a sheet of paper – remember we were product testing). Our single can of Canada Dry was cracked and ready, and our two opposing teams were eager to show off their baseball playing, soda slugging skills. Another disclaimer: the real game is meant to be played with beer, obviously, but we were playing at 11 AM on a Thursday and we only had the conference room booked for an hour, so we kept it low-key. But, you’re free to chug ginger ale instead if that’s what you’re into.

From left: Team Ken (Red Team), Team Craig and Jackie (Blue Team)

Let’s meet the players. We had many statistical minds on the field/conference table, including two whole Kens! Ken “The Elder” is our Data Scientist, and Ken “The Younger” (also known as “Yung Ken” in some underground rap circles) is our Jr. Data Scientist. They obviously formed a team. Team Ken. AKA the Red Team. Next up is Craig, our Data Analyst, and Jackie, our PR Intern who did double duty slugging it out and documenting the process on the UGoods Insta. Craig and Jackie don’t have the same name (bummer) but still made a fine Blue Team.

After a brief review of the rules from the brains behind it all, Senior Product Developer Tiffany, the game commenced.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Designers’ Studio
with UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team

September 16, 2016

 

UncommonGoods Product Development Team

UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team: Carolyn Topp (Director of New Business & Product Development), Elisha Janas (PD Assistant & Graphic Designer), Emily Reside (Senior Product Designer), Tiffany Jyang (Senior Product Developer), and Morgan Tanner (Senior Production Manager), photo by Emily Dryden

Each month, we have the privilege of bringing you a look inside an artist or designer’s creative space. Sometimes we hop on a train and head someplace nearby in Brooklyn, sometimes we hit the road to see friends a little farther from New York City, and every now and then a jet-setting contributor will helps us feel a little closer to a studio that seems worlds away. These adventures are always entertaining and inspiring, and they give us chances to get to know the people who make the goods we sell a little bit better. 

While planning some upcoming Studio Tours and reminiscing about the many great experiences I’ve personally had seeing where our products are made and meeting the people behind them, something occurred to me: We make products. Right here at UncommonGoods, a team of product designers, developers, and managers is at work coming up with brand new uncommon creations. 

I realized that despite all of the studios I’ve personally visited, the folders of photos from other folks’ tours I’ve sorted through, and the blog posts I’ve edited, I still haven’t given our readers a look at the place where we develop our very own designs. But that’s about to change. Welcome to this behind-the-scenes look at our Brooklyn office, where you’ll see works in progress, inspiration and advice from our Product Development team, and even a quote from The Boss (Springsteen, that is; not Dave Bolotsky.)

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Design

Shirt Tales: Personal Shirt and Message Pillow Stories

August 1, 2016

Most of us have an old shirt in the back of a drawer that we just can’t bear to get rid of. Maybe it doesn’t fit quite right anymore, or maybe it just doesn’t work with your current wardrobe, but throwing it out or even donating it just doesn’t feel like an option. Maybe that shirt is from an unforgettable concert or a big game. Maybe it’s from a special day, like that tuxedo shirt from your wedding that means a lot, but will probably never be worn again. Or maybe it’s a shirt that was passed on to you by someone special. Just because you don’t wear it anymore doesn’t mean you can’t show it off. Turn it into a Personal Shirt and Message Pillow to give your old shirt a new use.

A few folks on our team had t-shirts with sentimental value, and now they have brand new pillows stuffed with memories (and synthetic, goose-friendly down).

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Design

A Serving Solution
as Amazing as Chocolate

June 13, 2016

Few treats are quite as inviting as rich, decadent chocolates. That familiar, sweet scent. The lure of its velvety texture. The promise of a few moments of the unique pleasure the mouthwatering morsels will bring.

What could possibly make this bite-sized treat even more appetizing? A presentation that gets chocolate out of the box and on full display. The A-Maze-ing Chocolate Server does just that, and offers a clever solution when it comes to stashing those leftover wrappers.

“We wanted to create a presentation worthy of chocolate, because chocolate is amazing,” said UncommonGoods’ Senior Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang, who worked on creating the design for our Uncommon Collection.

The initial idea for the piece was, in part, based on the success of other Uncommon Collection items that offer unique serving solutions. Products like the Pistachio Pedestal, Popcorn Bowl with Kernel Sifter, and Cheese & Crackers Serving Board  are all unique presentation options that each tackle an entertaining challenge–discarding nutshells, dealing with pesky unpopped kernels, and keeping enough cheese and crackers on deck to keep snackers satisfied. With these designs in mind, the Product Development team thought about other ways to improve the presentation of foods frequently served at dinner parties and cocktail hours.

A-maze-ing Chocolate Server | UncommonGoods

“Sometimes there’s an excess something that you don’t want to carry around at a party or stick in your pocket,” Tiffany explained. “In [the case of chocolates] it’s the wrapper. This [server] is an all-in-one solution.”

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Maker Stories

It’s a Date: Collaborating to Create an Uncommon Calendar

May 30, 2016

One of the joys of working at UncommonGoods is collaborating with talented and skillful artists to create original creative designs. Our Product Development team recently teamed up with longtime UncommonGoods artists Kathleen Plate and Margaret Taylor to invent a new and exclusive work of functional art: our new “It’s a Date” Wine Bottle Glass Calendar; a sculptural glass and wood calendar made from recycled materials.It's a Date - Wine Bottle Glass Calendar | UncommonGoods

“Kathleen had the idea to create a glass calendar that would be a piece of art,” says Assistant Production Manager Rebekah Krikke. “She originally saw it as wall art, but we thought it would be good to design it so that it could go on the wall or on a desk, shelf, or table. We worked through the design with her using insights that we have from other products to create something that we thought our customers would like–a beautiful and fun interactive art object-meets-home décor item.”

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Maker Resources

4 Tips for Responsible Materials and Supplier Sourcing

May 10, 2016

How to Take the Leap from Maker To Business Owner

As the Senior Production Manager here at UncommonGoods, my job is to oversee the connection of design ideas with manufacturing resources to create new products.

Thomas Edison claimed that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. From my experience, product development warrants a formula of its own. To carry an idea through to a finished product you should start with a spark of inspiration, then add in equal parts diligence and thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to sourcing.

I’ve pulled together the following considerations for responsible material and supplier sourcing inspired by my experience partnering with our makers on new product development. I hope these thoughts will help other small business owners navigate the rough waters of sourcing.

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Maker Resources

5 Things You Need to Know Before Selling Your Designs Online

May 4, 2016

As a creator of original designs or handmade products you’ve tackled the most important part of your business, what to sell. Now you find yourself taking on new questions that may be harder to answer. You’re starting to ask, “Where can I sell my handmade items?” and inevitably “How do I sell my designs online?” We’re happy to answer your first question and encourage you to check out our submission page, but before you click that link, take some time to think about whether your product is ready for retail.

 

Designing the Milkyway Scarf

Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza working on their Cat’s Paw Nebula Lightweight Wool Scarf

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Maker Stories

A Lovingly Designed Box for Your Heart’s Desire

January 13, 2016

For Your Heart's Desire Message Box | UncommonGoods

Sometimes, all it takes is a kind compliment, sentimental thought, or flirtatious quip to ignite the spark and rekindle your romance.

Designed to let you relive the thrill of passing a clandestine declaration of your true feelings to your childhood crush, the For Your Heart’s Desire Message Box was designed to inspire amorous note passing between partners, whether you’re newly entwined or a couple of lovebirds in your golden years.

This veritable work of heart was designed by maker Tamara Hensick and brought to life by UncommonGoods’ Product Development team and a small group of metalworkers in Rhode Island.

Tamara Hensick | UncommonGoods

Tamara is a sculptor whose muses are manifold, and range from ideas and idioms to funny notions, stories, and fairytales. Her collection of cast pewter, sterling silver, bronze, and white bronze pieces include nature, figure, animal, and object motifs.

“’To have, to hold, to keep, to inspire.’ This phrase pops to mind,” says Tamara of her inspiration to create this particularly heartfelt vessel.

“It is always the idea, saying, phrase, or notion that creates the form. Words drive the pieces but occasionally a symbol alone is enough.” In the case of this lovingly designed objet d’art, word, symbol, and sentiment coalesce to form a piece that implores its owners to open their hearts.

After discovering Tamara’s limited edition, cast-bronze sculpture, our Product Development team became smitten with the concept and the artistry of the original piece. “We liked the rough-hewn look of it and the expression she had chosen (“for your heart’s desire”), paired with the function of being able to drop things into the heart,” says our Senior Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang.

For Your Heart's Desire Message Box | UncommonGoods

“Although it was originally designed as a bank, we thought it was less about money and more about being able to connect with your heart’s desire, hence re-imagining it as a space to make it easier to share little thoughts and moments with your partner. It’s very much about connecting and sharing in a simple way.”

In order to bring Tamara’s concept to a larger audience, the Product Development team reworked her original sculpture and collaborated with a Rhode Island metalworking shop to manufacture the design in lead-free pewter.

Heart Molds, For Your Heart's Desire Message Box | UncommonGoods

Although this charming piece can provide the impetus to keep your relationship communication flowing, it’s open to interpretation, and from exchanging thank you’s to leaving petite paeans to your one and only, it’s destined to become whatever your heart desires.

“Over the years people have relayed touching stories about a piece they’ve given or received,” says Tamara. “One woman purchased hearts for each of her children to fill with love notes and words of wisdom as they grow up. When they are off on their own, they will each have a heart filled with their mother’s love.”

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