The Pencil Ruler: a Kickstarter project founded by an 11 year-old

I love Kickstarter. So many amazing ideas and innovations have come to fruition because of the social funding tool, from an iPod Nano watch to a de-centralized social media tool. I’ve talked about a pen-related venture on here before, but I am lucky enough to be featuring a pencil project today!

I got an email earlier today from Nate at Brand New Box, a web development firm in San Diego. They are helping to create the Rule Pencil, dreamed up by an 11-year old kid.

Nate said,

Last week my business partner, Matt, helped an 11-year-old friend of ours launch a Kickstarter project for a Ruler Pencil.  The response has been amazing, to say the least.

5 days in and the project is 500%+ funded. Folks like the idea, and they love Nathan.  As you can imagine, our little buddy is flipping out.

Their Kickstarter project is innovative, and it’s a relatively simple idea — put a ruler on a pencil. I know, I know, it’s been done before, but perhaps not with this level of simplicity, and with such… well, heart. I know that I could have used a ruler pencil many times when I was eleven. Nathan, this kid, had the gumption to make it happen.

The Kickstarter video:

As of today, the project was very close to getting a $2,000 total in pledges. It only needed $350 to cover a minimum order.

The original point of the email to me was to brainstorm some ideas for a quality pencil. These guys are art-minded, and appreciate a good pencil. I suggested talking with CalCedar about their private label pencil program, but don’t know enough of the details to tell if that’ll work for their needs or not.

I suggested a triangular pencil which would accomodate three different units of measurement: imperial (inches), metric (centimeters), and point (picas). After all, I imagine this will appeal to a lots of graphic designers who sketch their designs longhand, and might be replacing (or complementing) their trusty pica rulers.

Anyone have any further ideas? Leave them in the comments below.

And to all you pencilnalia enthusiasts out there: Hop on by the Kickstarter page and pledge! Help make sure this eleven year old entrepreneur grows up loving wooden pencils — someday he might owe his fortune to his love for them. There are some great perks to the different pledge levels, according to the project page:

  • For $5, he’ll mail you a package of 5 Ruler Pencils.
  • For $20, he’ll mail you a special package of 10 Ruler Pencils, and list your name on the ‘Special Founders’ list mailed out with each package of Ruler Pencils .
  • For $50, he’ll mail you a special package of 20 pencils, put you on the founders list, plus send you a custom drawing (he’s pretty good).

I’ll be pledging as soon as I can — I want my name on that Founders list.

Ruler Pencils: a brilliant idea, invented by a kid. | Kickstarter Project Page

UPDATE: This kid’s got spunk. Check out his update video to his backers!

A clever ad campaign for Dixon Ticonderoga

I got an email the other day from Justin Oberman, a creative ad guy who conceived of an ad campaign for Dixon Ticonderoga, maker of the ubiquitous yellow-pencils-with-green-ferrules (via a class on advertising). His angle is that there isn’t much Dixon doesn’t know about making pencils, and features informative posters with the tagline, “We make the World’s Best Pencil. We should know.”

This poster reminds me a lot of Henry Petrosky’s book The Pencil: a History of Design and Circumstance about how wooden pencils are a perfect example of thousands of years of design and engineering, and I, Pencil, about how modern pencils are an achievement of globalization and the distribution of expertise and labor.

This is my favorite, and one I want desperately to be true. Gary Hustwit, creator of the documentaries Helvetica and Objectified (both of which I am a huge fan), would be perfect for a documentary about pencils. Perfect! Alas, upon asking Justin more about it, I discovered it’s purely a concept. As Justin said, however, “maybe he’ll see the poster and get the idea.”

Here’s hoping.

Justin gave me a lengthy and highly fascinating story about creating this campaign. While I won’t share it all here in its entirety, here are some highlights.

In the end the campaign aims to tell you more about pencils then you ever wanted to know. (Unless you’re a pencil blogger — ASW) By doing this, Ticonderoga not only shows that they are very serious about pencils, but by getting really emotional about it they show that they are not just a pencil company but in far the world’s best pencil company. And by re-educating everyone about pencils they can remind everyone of that. Why? Not because people will actually read all the dizzying pencil knowledge they throw at them… people will get the point (pun intended). It’s simply that bad pencils give all pencils a bad name. In fact, the campaign reminds you that undoing the competition is not the same as undergoing it.

And something I’ve been saying for years:

Bringing to light the novelty of the pencil has the opportunity to make them en vogue.The pencil can benefit from its sense of nostalgia.  If this campaign was successful one can imagine a hipster telling his wannabe hipster friends at a cocktail party that, yes, that is a pencil behind my ear and by the way I only use pencils. Pencils are cool etc etc etc….  and then I realized that this could be the voice of the campaign, turning Dixon’s “We Make The World’s Best Pencil” into the guy at the party who only talks about pencils.

As someone who is often that guy at the party who only talks about pencils, telling his hipster friends why the pencil is making a comeback, I can appreciate this ad campaign. They turn pencil trivia into an art, thereby making someone who is educated about it a connoisseur.

Thank you, Justin, for sharing this! Check out this ad campaign on Justin’s website, OberCreative, or on the AdWeek Talent Gallery. And check out a couple more of his posters in the gallery, below.

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Calendar pencils

I’m not a one-pencil kinda guy. I have at least a half-dozen kinds sitting on my desk top right now, and several more dozen in the drawer. I know that pencils last a long time, but I just can’t commit to that.

That being said, this is really cool:

Mytton Williams Design came up with this concept a while ago. You get 12 pencils, and you count off the days by sharpening down to the next number on the list. So it looks like once you reach the 27th of the month, you hand starts to cramp from clutching an inch of wood. Continue reading

Roll-your-own pencils

I love gadget blogs. This time I found ANOTHER concept product, and while it looks like it isn’t as far along as the one I posted last week, it’s cooler and more useful. Behold, the P&P Office Waste Paper Processor:

According to their post on Yanko Design, this would convert old waste paper into pencils — just add graphite, glue and power:

P&P Office Waste Paper Processor is one of those things that you wish you knew how it works, but dang! no reasonable explanation provided at all! Maybe it’s a deliberate attempt on the designer teams’ part, because their idea is a surefire hit! What this lovely machine does is that it converts all those useless memos on your table to something useful: A Pencil! Paper goes in from one end and come out shaped like a sexy writing tool! Sexy enough an idea to bag a Liteon Award as well!

I would be concerned about the type of paper going into the machine — we know that newspaper can convert to a pencil fairly well, but office paper? Obviously, it’s still a concept, but I would love to see more detail on how they would turn a stiff, crinkly piece of standard #24 paper into a pencil barrel, without making it seem like you were writing, well, with a rolled-up piece of paper.

More pictures from Yanko Design below.

The Everlasting Gobstopper of pencils

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I saw a post a few days ago on the Wired Gadget Lab, a friend of gadgetry high-tech and low-tech alike, about “the continuous pencil“, which is a really cool concept. It is still a concept, mind you, but the design is pretty genius. You have a series of wooden pencils that are slotted. When one wears down until it’s too small to hold, just pop a new one on the back and continue. Continue reading