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A guide to help the average man... look less average

The Design (Part Two)

Mark Kwak

tl;dr - I've finalized a design. Here it is!

So clearly it's been a little bit of time since my last post, and that's because I've been traveling the world for the past couple months after leaving my job- forgive me guys! Good news is I'm back refreshed and ready to take on the world.

I wanted to make sure to finish off my last post, which was about the design of the pen I'm creating. If you haven't read that post, make sure to check it out below (or here)! 

So if you caught up with my last post, you know that I started a journey to create a premium fountain pen, but ultimately decided not to even go with the fountain mechanism. This actually led me to test out literally hundreds of different ink cartridges (ballpoint, felt, rollerball, gel, etc.) to get to one that wrote most consistently, had the least amount of splotches, dried quickly, was not too fine tipped, was not too thick, came out lusciously, was offered in multiple colors, was reliable.... okay you probably get the point. 

Ultimately I found a rollerball cartridge that I felt was better than any other I've used in the past. It was designed by a German company that has been making ink cartridges for ages, and actually supplies ink to some of the top pen manufacturers in the world today (think Mont Blanc). 

Finding the ink was important because ultimately that would decide how the rest of the pen would be created/designed. If the ink cartridge was thick, then the pen would have to be fairly thick. If it was super long, then the pen would also have to be pretty long. Anyhow, the good news was that I felt confident enough in the ink I had chosen that now it was just about building an aesthetically pleasing and functionally practical enclosure to house it. 

Easy, right? Eh not really. Turns out there are tons of decisions you need to make in creating a product even as simple as a pen. Will it have a cap? Does it utilize a push mechanism? A twist mechanism? How thin will it be? What length is best? What does the weight distribution need to be like? Materials used? Will there be a spring? An O-Ring? It was actually kind of overwhelming. 

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So here's where I landed after much thought and deliberation:

1. Cap, twist, or push? It will be a capped pen. Why? Because the premium pens I love are all capped designs- why fix something if it ain't broke? Besides, I love the action of capping and uncapping a pen. 

2. What materials? Resin (or plastic) is cheap and easily moldable, but the lack of weight and gravitas is what bothered me about it. So for me it had to be made of metal. That opens up stainless steel, brass, and aluminum as the possible options. In testing aluminum, not only did the lack of weight bother me, but it looked and felt cheap. No one wants to spend premium money on a pen and feel like they paid for a cheap item. So the pen will likely be in the highest grade stainless steel or brass I can possibly find. The dimensions of the pen are such that with either metal, it won't be overtly heavy and fatiguing, but it will still have enough heft to feel valuable.

3. Finally, what shape? This is where design really comes into play. How do you make a pen that is unique, yet familiar? Simple, yet interesting? Pragmatic yet aesthetically pleasing? As I talked about in an earlier post, I certainly wanted it to be as thin as possible. Fat pens aren't all that well-received in relation to today's sleek streamlined aesthetic. 

Working with a product designer / architect friend of mine, Tanya Retherford, we started to prototype and sketch. First coming up with this design:


There were things I liked about this design. It was simple, streamlined and thin. Unfortunately I did not like the back bulge (to accommodate posting the cap on the back). It was also a little too simple, with nothing distinguishing it from the rest. So we went back to the drawing board and came up with this:


The slanted cap was the main design change here. I felt it would be a good signature mark to the design, something you don't see everyday. However I had some issues with this design as well. First off, the widest point was again fairly fat and not very streamlined. It also seemed too slippery in the hand, with no grooves or perforations. I did like how it looked with the cap posted in the back like below though: 


What my designer and I decided to do then was combine what we liked about the first design with the second design. Slanted cap, but thinner body. More streamlined, yet distinctive. Also, I added some grooves so that it would be slightly more decorated. And voila, we came up with the below... which largely remains our current design. Check it out:


What's also great about this design is that luckily, the weight is evenly distributed throughout the pen! This means that I could put my finger at the very middle of the pen, and it will balance evenly. Even better is that when you post the cap on the back, again the balance is at the center point! I don't know if we got lucky, or if it was just good design, but this means that ergonomically, the pen will be close to ideal. 

So there you go... the design process. I'm sure I'm missing a ton of points to the process (there was a lot more thought than what I just wrote above), but hopefully this gives you some insight into how I got to where I am as it relates to the pen's design. There's a lot more work to do on the branding, the accessories, the launch, and the business model, but all of that doesn't really matter until we lock down a product that I am happy with. 

The pen hasn't quite launched yet, but we have started an Instagram page with some photos of the prototypes. Below is one photo, but check out the page here! Follow us and you'll know exactly when everything gets launched and can be in your hands!