Browsing Tag

wooden toys

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Aaron & Erin Nuland

December 1, 2016

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Aaron & Erin Nuland, creators of the Wooden Bus and the Wooden Baby Shower Gift Set.

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The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab #2: Simon & the Stormy Seas

May 18, 2010

Stormy Seas

1)  Product Name: Stormy Seas

2) Background Research: I really enjoy simple, wooden toys. And thanks to my son Simon I have an excuse to slowly build my (I mean, his) collection. I saw this product and thought it would make a great gift for Simon’s upcoming birthday. He loves stacking things and balancing tall towers of blocks. My only concern is that he often yells at the blocks when they fall over. Would this game cause constant weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, or is it the perfect chance for him to finally get over his angst toward topsy inanimate objects?

3)    Hypothesis: If I get this for my 3-year-old son, I will be the best dad ever.

4)    Experiment: Wrap it up. Mix it in with the rest of his gifts. Unwrap. Play.

5)    Results: Simon loves it. I love it. My wife loves it. My 6-month old son is indifferent.

We all had a lot of fun playing. The concept (just balance the differently shaped items on the boat) is so simple that we had no problem explaining the rules to him. It was just as easy for him as it was for us, and, yet, we oddly found that we tipped the boat almost as often as he did. I thought it would only be a game for parents and adults to play with kids, but I think it would do just as well at a dinner party or between my wife and I (though I worry I would lose badly if I challenged her).

I am also a fan of the materials used. The game is made from fast-growing bamboo, the printing inks for the rules and promo booklet are soy-based, and the paint is kid- and earth-friendly.

My only real qualm with the game is that the box is much too big. They are obviously a very environmentally focused company, but I think they could be a bit greener if they made the box only as big as it needed to be and save on cardboard and printing. It would also be easier to store in our little apartment.

Conclusion: This is a great game. I realize, of course, that some days hungry hungry hippos (which he also got for his birthday) will catch Simon’s eye. But for me, it is really important for him to have a simpler, non-plastic, less generic alternative to pull down from the shelf on game night. Stormy Seas fits the bill nicely.

About the researcher: Micah is a graphic designer and associate art director at UncommonGoods. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.


YouGoods: MultiBlocks Mania

April 26, 2010

UncommonGoods is proud to announce the winner of our first YouGoods product design contest – Brad Singley and his amazing MultiBlocks!

With inspiration from his father, a civil engineer who built toys for his children, Brad Singley decided to pass on the love for analytical and creative thinking by building simple, fun wooden blocks.


“I can still remember the frustration of playing with building blocks as a young child,” Brad says. “I wanted to build BIG, but it was impossible to make a skyscraper out of triangles, semicircles, cylinders, and small cubes. When I was five years old, my dad made me a set of building blocks out of some lumber scraps from our garage. He cut them into four sizes. The smallest blocks were 1.5” cubes, and the others came in lengths of 3”, 6”, and 12”. Finally I had some dimensional lumber! I played with those blocks more than any other toy from my childhood.

“In college, while sitting in structural engineering classes, it occurred to me how many engineering concepts I had learned as a child from playing with my blocks. Cantilever beams, moment arms, centers of rotation, friction forces, etc., were all fancy names for what I had learned from playing with my blocks.

“I decided to make a set of blocks for my daughter, and she has been playing with them since before she could talk. At age four, she recognized that if she lined up 8 of the smallest blocks, they were the same length as 1 of the longest blocks. We started referring to the different sizes as ‘ones, twos, fours, and eights.’ I thought it would be helpful to route these numbers into the side of the blocks with notches at each unit increment.”

Brad Singley Multiblocks

Brad lives in Seattle with his wife and three children. He loves design, Ben and Jerry’s and Ray and Charles Eames (I tried to get some juicy information out of him and that’s all he would reveal when I asked about celeb crushes). Last week he and his wife Meg flew to NYC to tour the city, eat some delicious…albeit gluten-free food, see some beautiful sites and finalize his deal with UncommonGoods. It was exciting to meet the designer, hear the back story of the blocks and see the contest come full-circle. We are thrilled to announce that MultiBlocks will be hitting the site soon! Click here to see the MultiBlocks (previously known as Brainy Blocks) in action – Brad has built some pretty cool stuff with them!

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