Now that the 4th Anniversary Set has been released and I’ve been able to catch my breath, I thought I’d share a little insight into what went into making something like this come together. I’m not going to disclose all of my sources or give away all of my secrets (otherwise known as just doing the leg-work) but here’s a rundown of what went into making it all happen.
As soon as we released last year’s anniversary set my mind was already spinning with ideas for what to do for this year’s set. I really started thinking about what I wanted to do back in February or March and let the ideas build from there. I love using natural materials because of their unique textures and characteristics, so when I stumbled onto this flexible wood veneer, I knew I wanted to incorporate it into this year’s design.
Finding the right sources is a one of the hardest things about pulling off something like this. It’s not hard to find people who make stuff, but finding people who make quality products can be a bit trickier. Unless there is some giant sourcing network that I’m not aware of, it’s all about sending emails, googling, and making phone calls to dig through the crap and find good sources. Getting a prototype or pre-production sample is key. Don’t trust low-res images or hope that the finished product turns out like as expected without seeing it in person first.
For the custom number “4” that I designed I went through a series of sketches and concepts before arriving at the finished character. Starting with a sketch allowed me to break free from only limiting myself to existing typefaces and explore a variety of styles. Here are a few of those early sketches.
I then brought those sketches into Illustrator and refined them. As you can see from the time-lapse below, the 4 evolved quite a bit from the original sketch but still kept the same essence of large curves and relationship between the thick and thins strokes. While something like this can be tweaked indefinitely I arrived at a solution that I was happy with and made sure it worked well across all of the anniversary set elements (tee, packaging, and wood block).
I wanted to incorporate one more piece into the set in addition to the tshirt and packaging and had the idea to create a free-standing wooden “4” that would compliment the packaging. Then I took it a step further and decided to create it as a replica letterpress block (inspiration usually strikes at the strangest times, so make sure to write down ideas when they come). Thankfully I have a friend who I knew could help me manufacture these blocks and make my idea come to life. We ended up choosing to use Ginkgo wood from a local sawmill that reclaims fallen trees in here in Pennsylvania and this particular wood has a really interesting history. The next step was to stamp and hand-number all of the blocks to signify the limited nature of the 200 sets.
Rather than just throw the wood on top of the tshirt inside the packaging we placed the blocks inside muslin drawstring bags (like we do for our journals) to keep everything tidy and to enhance the unboxing experience. The bags were each hand-stamped with a custom rubber stamp.
To make it all come together, I thought it would be neat to take one of the letterpress blocks and stamp the positive image of the 4 onto cards. Since I don’t own an actual press I just used a black archival ink pad and some elbow grease to print the four onto the cardstock. Doing all of these hand-finished details for all 200 sets was a tedious process, but I enjoy adding the extra personal touches that make each set truly unique. As is my mantra “the details make the difference.”
After all of the items were produced I spent a good chunk of time photographing the finished product and editing the final product photos. In my opinion, product photography is second only to the product itself, in being the most important aspect of selling something online. Since this is the only chance the customer will get to interact with and experience the product, photos are truly worth a thousand words. I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, but do my best to capture the essence and detail of every Ugmonk product so you know exactly what to expect when you purchase something.
After the photos are completed and description written up, we assembled all of the sets and organized them in our warehouse to get ready for the big release. When shipping physical goods it’s easy to overlook the amount of labor and time that goes into prepping everything to make the shipping process as smooth as possible. Tshirts seem relatively small and light, but several hundred or thousand of them adds up rather fast.
Once everything was prepped and ready to go, we flipped the switch and finally released the 4th Anniversary Sets at the scheduled time. While it sounds simple to “flip the switch” there are many other things to consider but I’ll save that for another post.
Hopefully this gives you a little glimpse of what went into this year’s release. As you can see there’s a lot of planning and preparation to make it all happen, but I’m super happy with the final results. And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up this year’s set, you can grab one here before they’re gone for good.