Ultimate Car Kit

We’ve worked with DPR Construction for about 15 years now, and not only are they one of the “Best Companies to Work For in the Bay Area” (#2 for Large companies in the 2017 survey), they are one of our favorite clients ever. Why? They set smart targets. Support for employees is real. The entire company focuses on process improvement. Makes for a great client who inspires us to do our best work.

At DPR, their people are valued and the company gives an “all-employee” holiday gift every year. In addition to full-time management, admins, and other professionals, all jobsite trade employees are included in the gift. DPR locations are spread out all over the USA, and also (as of last year) in Singapore, South Korea, and India.

Coming up with a great holiday gift for that audience is challenging, but we did have the advantage of a client who could commit early with sufficient quantity for full custom. In other words, time and budget.

We presented three concepts, and everyone agreed the “Ultimate Car Kit” was the winner. Included:

Two-section collapsible trunk organizer
Foldable outdoor blanket
Set of three reusable grocery totes, in a storage bag
Auto safety tool
Multi-point connector, inclusive of USB-C
Cigarette lighter USB port
And, everything is presented in a reusable nylon cinch bag.

Sounds great, right? Something in there for everyone!

We had our first concept meeting in March, and the final project delivered at the fulfillment center mid-November. Distribution to 27 domestic locations started right away, and every office had gifts in time for their holiday party. The feedback was fantastic, and we’re all excited to start work on the 2018 gift.

Take a look at some of the concept art and final product pix!

The full kit.

The full kit.

Trunk organizer.

Trunk organizer.

Tech specs for blanket.

Tech specs for blanket.



Tech specs for reusable shopper totes.

Tech specs for reusable shopper totes.

Reusable shopper totes.

Reusable shopper totes.

Clockwise from upper left: Trunk organizer lining, auto safety tool, kitted product in cinch bag, multi-point connector.

Clockwise from upper left: Trunk organizer lining, auto safety tool, kitted product in cinch bag, multi-point connector.

Last Comic Standing

This project started with an email from our client at NBC Affiliate Marketing. She asked if it might be possible to make a desktop version of the microphone in the “Last Comic Standing” logo. Maybe 6″ high? Due date was under two months away.

Step One: Validate the viability and budget

First, have a long conversation with a trusted supplier that specializes in cast metal products. Describe the product, required packaging. Do-able? In the amount of time available? How fast do we need to close? That fast?? OK. We sketched out enough of the the basic specs on the first phone call to generate a request for quote.

Step Two: Present the concept and close asap

While waiting for the quote, we gathered up the assets needed to create a quick mock up, and ultimately, final production. This included multiple images (front, back, if possible) of a vintage Shure microphone head to provide guidance for the mini 3-d mike. The stand could be simple. Client provided a hi-res file of the show logo. When the pricing came back, it looked very promising. By this time, we had also developed a concept for the packaging. We created a quick mock-up, presented that with pricing to the client, and quickly received the go-ahead to proceed.

Step Three: Final art and production management

Our production manager expanded the “vision” into final production art for the factory. Paperwork was exchanged all around and we were off to production. We would not have time for a physical proof, which is always preferred for custom, but sometimes you just don’t have that luxury. In this case, everything would need to be approved from factory photos only.

Step Four: Fingers Crossed

At some point, everything that can be done to insure the success of a project HAS been done, and all you can do it wait for delivery. If everything lines up just right, you end up with a really memorable and unique product.

Step Five: Success!

Recent entertainment promo

Heathens Zippo.
A wrap gift for cast and crew of ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’, Denis Leary’s new series on FX. The detailed laser engraving reveals brass metal underneath the matte black powder coat. Very rock and roll. If you received this, you’d keep it.

Blacklist Keytags.
“The Blacklist” on NBC was moving to a new day and time, so we created a custom key tag featuring the iconic fedora. Laser engraving the new airtime allowed us to run different variations without additional mold fees or minimums for each timezone.

The Slap Rubik’s Cube.
Each episode of this miniseries on NBC is told from the perspective of a different character. Over 8 weeks, secrets are revealed and the puzzle comes together…. Or, does it just get confused?

¿Quién mató a Patricia Soler? Diamond Mints.
These were given out as favors at a murder mystery dinner party with a “jewel heist” theme, promoting this Mundo Fox Spanish-language telenovela.

Arnette Eyewear

Custom projects requiring offshore manufacturing can take some time, 2-3 months minimum from concept to completion. Here are a two very nice pieces for Arnette which took some time to complete.

Arnette’s flagship product is A.C.E.S. (Arnette Creative Exchange System), “…the collection allows you to swap out the arms and mix and match to change up your style.” Swapping the arms requires a tool, which you get with the glasses. While quite lovely and red, it’s a small item without any kind of attachment, so pretty much lost when you need it. So, we designed a key-ring, bottle-opening, BETTER tool which we think is pretty cool.

The flask was a re-order with an art change, so not nearly so difficult but still many weeks in production. There was quite a bit of discussion about changing the size of the built-in cigarette holder to accommodate business cards. Ultimately, budget won and the holder remained the same size.

the tool

the tool

custom keytag

the better tool

the flask

the flask

The Voice Chair – an NBC collectible

The Voice Chair

NBC wanted something original and one of a kind for one of their top rated shows, The Voice. We created a chair that is a replica of the judges’ chair on The Voice. But there’s more – it sings, it spins! The chair’s sound – motion activated system plays The Voice theme song when spun.

We engineered the piece to find the ideal materials and sound components to keep correct scale and proportions, and still add all the bells & whistles. The 9” tall chair is a beautiful collector’s item and you’ll find them nestled in show cases at various affiliate stations around the country.

Connected, the film box

    A recent KQED fundraising evening was devoted to the televisision premiere of Tiffany Shlain’s film, “Connected: An Autobogography about Love, Death and Technology.” At every fundraising break, we got to admire the limited edition “Home Discusssion Kit”, a packaging project which took us nearly two years to complete.

    One of Tiffany’s previous projects, “The Tribe”, was packaged in a box constructed with full color offset litho laminated to board, secured with a magnetic flap. It held the DVD, a booklet and a set of “conversation cards” to facilitate discussion in both educational and private settings. The box and components were produced and assembled in China. For “Connected” Tiffany wanted a similar solution, but produced domestically and made with Eco friendly materials as much as possible.

    The first edition was produced under tight time constraints to be ready in time for the film’s debut at The Sundance Film Festival. It was similar to the final product, but featured an additional flap closure secured with Velcro buttons. The closure didn’t work perfectly — the board was too heavy, and the flap too small, to make the turn and stay flat.

    The flap problem was solved with the idea of using an embedded elastic closure, similar to a Moleskine journal. The implementation was tricky because we were avoiding the most toxic adhesives, which are also the strongest, to maintain a “greener” end product. As a result, it took some effort to get a solid glue edge where the back board met the tray so the elastic would not fall into that space when the package was opened. Meanwhile, the box graphics were being revised. The screened cover art was near-perfect from the first edition, but the back text was a moving target.

    Weeks and months went by. New prototypes were made, graphics revised, another short run was produced for an event. The booklets were complete, the conversation cards printed and collated. Finally, we reached a version which was approved for the final production run of 5000 units. But it wasn’t over yet. Again, we were running up against challenges with the Eco-friendly adhesive, this time about twenty percent of the boxes were experiencing a failure at the spine so we had all the boxes re-glued.

    At last, it was done. A full two years and some months after we began, the “Connected” limited edition kit, your gift with a $120 membership to KQED.

XL Construction 5 Year Jackets

For an employee’s 5 year anniversary, XL Construction presents a high-end leather jacket of their choice. They wanted a way to add a subtle commemorative message. The jackets would come from a variety of sources, most not designed to facilitate secondary decoration.

Our Solution? Laser engraved leather patches, hand-stitched into the jacket lining.

Toy Dog T-Shirts

We get some challenging requests, this one was fun. Not profitable, but fun. Custom, embroidered t-shirts for a toy dog. Shopkick.

CBS Sports Developer’s Challenge

Kits promoting a $75,000 developer’s challenge for CBS Sports Fantasy online gaming.