Jack Koby, a freshman in the UO’s Product Design Program, developed both a new product and a business plan. His “Lace-Up Pencil Cup” is no longer a classroom sketch but a purchasable item on several design websites, including Ponoko.com.
The prototype originates from an assignment in the Product Design Program course PD 240, Designers Tools. Students were asked to develop a desk organization product using plastic. Koby later revisited his design and developed a cardboard prototype with laced-up stitching.
“I do a lot of design just to help myself out in daily life,” Koby says. “I get annoyed when things don’t work right, so I fix them.”
Koby grew frustrated with the classic pencil cup design with losing short pencils and constant debris build-up. So, he created a solution.
The “Lace-up Pencil Cup” features a large cutout, allowing users to see the bottom of the cup. The back seam is held with tabs and laced stitching. Koby created a basic flat pattern for customers to customize and stitch together themselves.
“You could draw on it, stitch buttons on it, decorate it, put googly eyes on it,” Koby explains. The prototype shares the proportions of a medium Starbucks cup. Coffee addicts are bound to like it automatically, he says.
After investing many hours to perfect the design, Koby is now marketing the cup on design websites for a profit. Koby’s design was first promoted on Quirky.com, a product design consultancy that takes clients via submissions of product ideas and where users can vote on products they want developed for the real world.
“This is the first project I know of that one of our PD students put on Quirky,” says Product Design Program Director Kiersten Muenchinger. “Quirky has gotten a lot of press for being a totally different way of doing business – it’s pretty neat. I hope other students follow in this. It's one of the new ways of doing business in design.”
Most recently, Koby launched the cup on Ponoko.com, a website that helps produce and sell innovative designs. Ponoko is selling the cup for $17. “It got like 150 views in a couple of hours,” Koby says, “so at least people are looking at it.”
The description on Ponoko reads: “A pencil cup that folds from laser cut recyclable cardboard! It comes with instructions for using any thread you wish to lace it up. If you can lace up a shoe, you can build this!”
Koby plans to pitch his design to small craft stores and paper companies. While his business plan has already launched, he says he doesn’t have the expectation to sell.
“You have to look at it as a learning experience and not a money experience,” Koby says.
Koby hopes to lower to production costs of the cup, which are driven by the projected number of his potential customers. He is currently working with Kickstarter.com, a website that produces a product after a certain number of customers pledge to buy it.
“This whole time I haven’t planned on making a dollar off of it,” Koby explains, “but at the same time I’ve learned a lot from interacting with these companies.”
Julie Tolvanen, the instructor of PD 240 in the fall, helped Koby develop the cup beyond his original design. “She was kind of skeptical at first,” Koby says. “That pushed me harder to prove that it would work.”
Koby has produced more than 30 different cup prototypes since completing Tolvanen’s course. While he doesn’t expect to sell this particular design, he has plenty more ideas buried within his sketchbooks.
“You have to really love what you produce,” Koby says. “I think that’s a key thing in design overall.”
Story by Cari Johnson