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

5 products that inspired my pen

Mark Kwak

I figured my next post in this pen-making saga I started on Simpler Man will be on items that inspired me to develop the pen in the first place. By the way, props to fellow menswear blogger Barron over at Effortless Gent for helping propel me to start this series on the blog. 

1. Quip Toothbrush

Source: psfk

Source: psfk

So I've been using a Quip toothbrush now for about six months, and I think I'm a fan. Not really sure why I'm a fan, since it costs much more than a normal toothbrush, and performs worse than a competitively-priced Sonicare, but I continue to use it every day with satisfaction.

Ultimately I think it's because it offers high construction quality and beautiful design- and those two things make me feel just a tad better about brushing than the average toothbrush. My ultimate goal would be for a pen to offer those same attributes and get you ever so slightly more excited about writing and note-taking than before. 

2. S'well Bottle

Source: Joyus

Source: Joyus

I mentioned S'well in my last post, but only because I think they've really done a lot of things right. And yes, it's true that there are are a number of amazing water bottles out there that offer the same value prop (bkr, Hydroflask), but I think none of these compare to the popularity of S'well.

I don't know if it's the design, the branding, the fact that it was featured on Oprah, but this bottle seems to be the bees knees. It's a product that truly shows me that good design, personalization, and high quality can be all you really need to succeed in the market. It's part fashion accessory and part utilitarian tool, and that's exactly where I want my pen to stand. 

3. All Birds

Source: All Birds

Source: All Birds

I feel like All Birds shoes have become so popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, that I see more of them on peoples' feet than Nikes... How?! It all started with a Kickstarter that wasn't even branded as All Birds yet, but offered a unique value proposition on shoes: since they're made of wool they won't get stinky.

These guys give me inspiration because it goes to show you that no matter how huge the competition is (Adidas and Nike, anyone?), and how saturated the market is, that a small new entrant can truly thrive. Again, good design and high construction quality seem to be a trend in all of these products so far! And All Birds does make me wonder if Kickstarter is the right way to soft launch.

4. Warby Parker

Source: Pinterest @warbyparker 

Source: Pinterest @warbyparker 

Warby Parker is an inspiration for most direct-to-consumer physical products in today's age. They built a billion dollar business in several short years thanks to their eye for design, their innovation in the eyewear space, and focus on customer experience. 

However, the reason they are an inspiration to me is actually not because of their glasses or business model, but instead because of their packaging! Above, you'll notice Warby Parker's recent holiday packaging. Colorful, striking, yet whimsical design that delights the consumer each and every time they look at the box. I look to follow this model very closely, as I think customer delight is what ultimately brings a brand to the next level.

5. Apple Pencil

Source: iphonehacks

Source: iphonehacks

I know, an odd one huh? I've had a very interesting relationship with the Apple Pencil, particularly because it's both an inspiration as well as the antithesis of what I'm trying to do with my pen. On one hand, I feel like people are getting a sense of technology fatigue and yearning for an analog experience, thus my pen would be the solution to those lost in a world of screens and digital styluses (like the Apple Pencil). On the other hand, I believe the Apple Pencil does a lot of things right, and looks fantastic.

In fact, as I'll explain in a future blog post, the Apple Pencil is where I got some of the inspiration for my design. Simplicity and soft edges! Also, to its credit, it does actually write well on the new iPad Pro, even if it isn't a wholly necessary accessory. 

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So there you have it - 5 different products that gave me inspiration during my journey to build a high quality, well-designed pen.