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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Decoding the Perfect Pour

August 26, 2014

Kris, Danny, & HTML Glasses

Product: HTML Beer Glasses

Research:
I first saw UG’s HTML Beer Glasses in our warehouse – a shipment had just arrived and a few units were pulled out for our Receiving team to quality check. I had no idea what they were for. Honestly, my first thought was, “Why would anyone want a beer glass with weird printing on it?” Then one of the guys explained to me that the idea behind the printing is to help create the perfect pour – ah-hah! That made a lot more sense. So, feeling a bit like an idiot, I researched the seemingly-simply-but-actually-intricate-act of…pouring a beer.

HTML Glasses on Instagram | UncommonGoods

Hypothesis:
My initial thoughts: I will likely learn way more about foam than I ever imagined. I will be able to pour a prettier beer, but with little effect on actual taste. I will take regrettable pictures of myself and co-workers “testing” various possible scenarios.

Experiment:
First step – Grab up various coworkers and head to our friendly neighborhood watering hole.
Second step – Make contact with helpful bartender, Mike. Tell him of our educational needs.
Final step – Drink and make merry!

We headed to the Irish Haven in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for their weekly “Taco Tuesday” night. Despite the busyness, Mike was quite cheerful about both discussing our cool glasses and letting us know how they worked. He poured an IPA into one of our HTML Glasses and a Belgian Wheat beer in the other. Both poured perfectly in line with the glass’s indicators, though we were quick to note a difference after the pour.

HTML Glasses Full | UncommonGoods

Taking a tall drink by bar light is great; taking photos by bar light, not so much.

Turns out, given the height and shape of these glasses, they should be used for ales or lagers. The tall, thin style will keep them colder longer, and the relatively light head those beers come with will be well-showcased by the lean shape. Lighter beers will evaporate more quickly. Something like a good quality ale will work fine in this glass, but when you go lighter, like the Belgian we tried, it will evaporate too quickly and the head will be lost. If pouring a “sturdier,” heavier beer, it would make sense to have a wider glass, as this will allow the beer to breathe more. Those beers tend to have heavier foaming characteristics anyway, so one has to worry less about the head evaporating.

HTML Glasses | UncommonGoods

Mike explained that the quality of the beer also matters. The better the beer, the better the pour, the better the taste. If we poured a typical American ale into one of these glasses, it would likely not retain a good amount of foam on top, regardless of the quality of the pour or the quality of the glasses.

Conclusion:
Beer, in all its forms, is wonderful. But if you want to get the perfect pour of high quality lager or ale, these glasses will show you the way with style.

Design

Jason Snyder & Briana Feola Meld Great Design with Educational Artwork

January 31, 2014

As product developers, we get the chance to work with a number of really amazing, talented artists and designers. Since launching our first uncommon product, we’ve connected with incredibly interesting people and learned a lot about working with the design community. There’s a lot we could tell you about working with designers – but we realize that there’s something we don’t know much about at all – what it’s like for designers working with us.

We wanted to find out more about the artists’ take on collaborating with UncommonGoods, so we asked some! Recently, we had the pleasure of working with Jason Snyder and Briana Feola of Brainstorm to create our new Earth Science Glasses and Coasters featuring their vibrant and retro-feeling Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean, and Space prints. Not only was the design duo happy to answer our questions about the inspiration behind their art, but they also gave us some great insights into working with the UncommonGoods Product Development team.

Jason & Briana

What was your original inspiration for this series?
After leafing through some vintage science books and thinking to ourselves that the information is so important but the graphics are always less than pleasing to look at, the series started with our “Atmosphere” print. It was a short run, maybe 30 prints, and they received a tremendous response online. So we re-printed that and started to expand on the layered, graphic concept to create a series and round out the concept. Over the course of a year, “Earth” was second and “Ocean” came third.

Earth Science Glasses | UncommonGoods

How was your love of science born?
Briana: Science was the other subject that kept my attention growing up, aside from art class. It was always the most fascinating but so complex at the same time. Coupled with some really great teachers over the years, I was completely hooked. It only makes sense that I try and merge my favorite ideas from my early school days.

Jason: I think science in general carries with it such an immense range of interesting (and complicated) topics and that really lends itself well to education if executed the right way. I have an Art Education degree, so combining these awesome sciences with education is really how a lot of my ideas come together. I don’t even know if that answers the question but that’s what I came up with.

Tell us your favorite science joke.
A photon walks in to the airport and the ticket agent asks him, “Are you checking any bags today?” and he says, “No, I’m traveling light.”

Earth Science Glasses | UncommonGoods

What was your initial thought when UncommonGoods’ Product Development Team contacted you?
We were super excited to get involved and we were ready immediately. We had both been following UncommonGoods for a long time and after meeting some of the awesome team members at the 2013 National Stationery Show, we had hoped there would be an opportunity to work together!

Breana Designing

What was the most challenging thing about working with UncommonGoods? What was the most exciting?
There’s a lot of correspondence that has to happen to get a product off the ground. And the amount of time it takes to go from “let’s do this” to “the product is online” is much longer than we were used to, having the ability to produce our screenprints ourselves as soon as they’re ready. We adopted more patience. Easily the most exciting thing is the day our first product arrived in hands. Going from idea to real product is the best!

How does it feel to have your art on these products?
It feels a little bit surreal. Knowing that these glasses are in kitchen cabinets and kids (and adults!) are drinking out of them and learning a thing or two, it’s just fantastic. We can both remember sitting at the kitchen table as kids reading cereal boxes and looking at colorful, pictorial cups. And now we are a part of the culture in a way we can be proud of.

The Uncommon Life

MaKey MaKey Meets Frogger – An UncommonGoods DIY

March 6, 2013

The MaKey MaKey is a unique invention aiming to change the way we connect with the internet. Banana pianos, cat controlled cameras and high five orchestras are some of the recent contraptions spawning from this odd new technology which was initially funded from a KickStarter project with over 10,000 backers.

Frogger is a classic arcade game developed by Konami in 1981. Guiding a frog across the road and the river, the player is lost in a mental state of amphibian survival. It’s a simple game, with an addictive quality rivaling that of Angry Birds.

After playing around with the MaKey MaKey for a few weeks, I realized that I could use the MaKey MaKey to improve upon Frogger. For those who have played the game, you may ask yourself, is it even possible to improve on Frogger? Konami might say no, but I say yes. My plan was to put the player in the physical realm of the frog, where your legs are the difference between life and death.

I developed this in two test phases:

Test #1 – Touch Pad
Test #2 – Floor Pad

Out of the box, the MaKey MaKey comes with a circuit board, a USB connect and several wires pinched off with alligator clips.

Frogger frogs move in four directions. Up, Down, Left and Right. (Just like normal frogs). Conveniently, the MaKey MaKey comes with the same four directions. I hooked an alligator clip to each one:

The MaKey MaKey is basically an open source touchpad. You can hack any type of controller. All you need is electrically conductive material. Paper clips, people, spoons, water, apples, paint, etc… They are all compatible. I decided to use the most complex conductive substance known to man:

Play-Doh.

I made four balls of Play-Doh, squished them to a notepad, and plugged in to the other end of the alligator clips. Almost live, all I needed was a grounding wire. At the bottom of the Makey Makey there is long silver grounding strip. In order for MaKey MaKey to work you need to “ground” yourself, which essentially completes the circuit loop. For the last step, I grounded myself to the strip with a bracelet made from heavy wire.

Alternatively, you could just hold the wire, or attach the alligator clip to a metal ring or other piece of conductive jewelry.

*Note – If you are on a laptop, unplug it while using the Makey Makey. Otherwise you may lose your grounding.

I opened Frogger and started to play. I immediately got ran over by a car. Then I drowned. I forgot how intense this game is.

My Frogger skills were way off since my days as a 7 year old, but Test #1 was a success nonetheless. Obviously, Test #2 got delayed by a half hour as I tried over and over again to beat the level. Mustering all of my willpower, I stopped playing the game and moved everything to the floor so I could play with my feet. Oops! The grounding wire is only 1 foot long. I made an extension with a 6 foot piece of hookup wire.

Test #2 – Great success!

As I considered the possibilities, I realized that by expanding the distance between the foot pads, I could create a physical difficulty level much more in line with the frog’s predicament. It also became apparent that this was going to be quite an awesome gaming experience.

To take this to the next level, I needed a big room, more Play-Doh, a projector and Swedish House Mafia. Luckily I work at UncommonGoods, an office where it’s okay to ask your boss for such things with a serious look on your face.

I grabbed a few friends from the office and we found a nice big open space to lay down foot pads. We hooked up a projector for Frogger, connected it to my laptop, and hooked the laptop to the MaKey MaKey with the USB connect. For foot pads, we used aluminum foil, a little strip of Play-Doh to help keep the wire in place and painter’s tape to seal the deal.

Once the floor pads were tested, we fired up Frogger, killed the lights in the building and blasted Swedish House Mafia. Why Swedish House Mafia? Watch this video and it will all make sense:

As you can see, we took Frogger to a whole new dimension. The next morning my legs hurt.

MaKey MaKey is an amazing invention with endless applications. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can buy one here.

If you already have one and you’re looking for ideas you should start with YouTube. There are already hundreds of videos out there. Here are my personal favorites:

Top 10 MaKey MaKey Ideas:

1. Banana Piano
2. High Five Orchestra
3. Robot Boy
4. Musical Paintings
5. Birthday Flowers
6. Cheese Controlled Race Car
7. Kissing Karaoke
8. Electric Wind Chimes
9. Horse Simulator
10. Veggie DJ

For more ideas, you can check out the MaKey MaKey forum here.

If you have used MaKey MaKey to invent something we’d love to hear about it. Email us at makeymakey@uncommongoods.com.

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Gadgeteer

December 7, 2012

To lovers of techie toys, the latest gizmo is one part puzzle and one part solution. The thought of figuring out its new features and functions fills them with happiness, and the notion that mastering its mysteries might lead to an easier existence keeps them on the hunt for the next incredible invention. Sure, some folks don’t understand their obsession with digital devices; but when called a geek, these collectors of computerized contraptions just smile proudly and say “thank you.” Unfortunately for eager gifters, the die-hard tech-thusiast often already owns the latest and greatest big-ticket electronic item before the holiday season even starts downloading. But never fear, our uncommon gift guide features iThing accessories, new takes on old favorites, and unexpected innovations sure to get your gadgeteer powered up.


Nerd Herder Gadget Wallet / New Decider Watch / Computer iPhone Art Case / USB Typewriter / Silver USB Cufflinks / Portable Magnetic Speaker / Stop Motion Camera / ReFleece iPad Sleeve

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Tiny Scientist

November 26, 2012

Born with fervent curiosity, the Tiny Scientist is determined to figure out the workings of the world. Always asking how and why, their research never ceases. They take things apart and put them back together. They never pass up the opportunity to give their imagination a workout. And even at a young age, they know the answers are out there, it’s just a matter of looking in the right places. Maybe baby genius is still too small for that first chemistry set or microscope, or maybe his or her trusty tools have already aided in excellent experimentation. Whether their learning journey is just beginning, or they’re well on their way to making a major scientific discovery, we hypothesize that one of these gifts for little lab lovers will be a periodically enjoyed element in their personal collection.


Kids Galileo T-Shirt / Periodic Table Building Blocks / Plush Organs / Geek Belt Buckle / Acute Angle Bib / Charles Darwin Decorative Iconic Caricature Pillow / Lab Test Game / Elements Puzzle

Gift Guides

Nerd Pride Gift Guide

January 19, 2012

Some of you got in touch after our email went out yesterday, pointing out that we could’ve been more inclusive in our definition of nerd. We definitely appreciate the feedback.

Thing is, we have a bit of a confession to make. Many of us have been looking forward to this email for weeks– men and women alike. See the thing is we are all pretty nerdy, and were pretty excited to share our extreme enthusiasm with you.

So here’s a gift guide for all the geeks, know-it-alls, and nerdy ladies and gents in your life.

The Art Nerd

One of our photographers, Adam, made an interesting revelation recently. He and his wife are part of a folk band that celebrates the lives of fine artists. Here they are, commiserating the fate of Camille Claudel to the tune of Man of Constant Sorrow.

For Adam, we recommend the Make Your Own Recorder Kit— which combines his love of art and music into one.

The Science Fiction Fan

Christine, our fabulous HR recruiter, loves to surprise people when she tells them she loves science fiction. “I’m from Brooklyn! People never expect me to like Star Trek or the Twilight Zone, but I do!”

For Christine, and others, who love the final frontier, we recommend our collection of space-themed home decor:

The Moon Clock
Silver Flying Saucer Bowl
And a Ray Gun Pen for the office

That futuristic ’60s chrome style just never gets old.

The Book Worm

And me? I just checked my Goodreads account and was startled to realize I’d read 50 books totaling 17,654 pages last year. And let’s not go into how many volumes I picked up from my neighborhood bookstores. I might have to admit that I have a book problem.

Luckily I know just what will support my habit.

Leaning Ladies Bookends
Biblioteca Bookshelf
Literary iPhone4 cases
(My favorite book in that group: The Great Gatsby)

iPhones of course bring us to the other nerd– the Geek.

We had a big debate here at UncommonGoods HQ about the difference between a geek and a nerd. Luckily, Cassie our community moderator (how appropriate!), settled things with this infographic:

Full image available at GeeksAreSexy.

Jess, our graphic designer, won the geek honors, saying that she and her partner own a collective of:

(2) iPhone 4
(2) iMac
MacBook Pro
iPad
Mac mini
AirPort Extreme
(2) Magic Mouse
Magic Trackpad
Wireless Keyboard

With all that technology, she said she’d appreciate the simplicity of a Wood iPhone Camera Case.

But let’s not end things here. Gaby, our Community Assistant, and Brian, our Marketing Director, are history buffs (Classical Greek & Civil War respectively). Cassie loves Marvel superheroes. Nerds come in all colors. What’s your nerd pride?

The Uncommon Life

Musical Math

August 15, 2011

We’re not afraid to get nerdy here at UncommonGoods, so when we came across Vi Hart’s blog featuring mechanical music boxes we couldn’t wait to share!

In her first music box demonstrations, the mathemusician twists paper into a Möbius strip and plays an arrangement. A Möbius strip is a non-orientable surface with only one side and one boundary component.

In her second arrangement, Vi gets cranking with four music boxes. Three boxes create a canon by playing the same strip of paper in sequence, while another plays a loop of paper.

Special thanks to Vi for sharing her creativity! Please visit Vi Hart-Music Boxes to read her original post and find links to more great demonstrations.

Maker Stories

The Science of Design

August 11, 2011

Do you have a formula for success when it comes to design? Do themes in your work emerge as a signature style? We’d love to see your original jewelry designs! Enter our first ever Jewelry Design Challenge for a chance to win $500 and the opportunity to sign a vendor contract with UncommonGoods.


Some people see math formulas, the Periodic Table of the Elements or text books and feel overwhelmed. Tiffany Ard sees these things and gets inspired. From her Chromosome Earrings to her Math Symbol Cufflinks, Tiffany is proud to produce beautiful jewelry for fashion forward nerds.

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