Entrepreneurial Designer Creates Super-Sized Cardboard Toy Food Trucks

Here’s a great example of an entrepreneurial designer who is capitalizing on the latest advances in digital printing on cardboard to create and sell a new line of fun, customizable products.

CardboardFoodTruckJust in time for Christmas, a designer-led start-up company called Famous OTO has launched the first in a series of supersized, cardboard toy trucks modeled after the increasingly popular food trucks.

The first model in the series in the OTO Ice Cream Truck, which sports a combination of photorealistic and hand-drawn artwork. Customers who order it through the OTO Toy website can have the truck’s license plate personalized with the child’s name.

Every step of the truck-making process, from product design to manufacturing, is handled in the US. OTO trucks are made entirely out of recyclable cardboard and are food-grade, certified non-toxic. The trucks are manufactured near Philadelphia, about two hours away from Famous OTO headquarters in Brooklyn.


Famous OTO is the brainchild of Swedish-born creative designer Måns Swanberg. When he’s not designing toys, Swanberg is busy directing projects at the New York-based production company, Blacklist.

Swanberg said the toys were deliberately designed to be eye-catching and inviting, and promote real-world interaction (away from the blinking screens of tablets and video games). When the Famous OTO team took product pictures in a public park, they were swarmed by enthusiastic kids who simply took over playing with the trucks.

“So many toy manufacturers seem to think they can get away with sloppy design just because it’s for kids,” says Swanberg. “I think the opposite is true. Kids like to see that someone put effort into it. They have strong, innate aesthetic sensibilities and that should not be underestimated.”




Fashionable Belts and Clutches Personalized with 3D Printed Hardware

DESIGNERS. Here’s a fresh example of how entrepreneurial creatives are incorporating 3D-printed designs into customized products.

Bow & Drape, the fashion brand that lets women add their personal touch to every piece, has partnered with the 3D printing marketplace Shapeways to launch a line of 3D printed, jewelry-grade metal accessories for Fall 2013.

The line includes leather belts and clutches with 3D printed hardware. The adjustable 100% leather or twill belt comes in 4 colors (black leather, tan leather, natural twill and black twill), and each customer can choose among different brass and metal buckle designs brought to life by Shapeways.

On the Bow & Drape website (www.bowanddrape.com) you can customize each Galaxy Belt with 3D printed hardware from Shapeways.
On the Bow & Drape website (www.bowanddrape.com) you can customize each Galaxy Belt with 3D printed hardware from Shapeways.

Each piece is also interchangeable so the belts function more like a collection. “They were inspired by a vintage 1970s belt from Paris,” says Creative Director and CEO, Aubrie Pagano. “We hope that our customers invest in our hardware over time. That way, women can interchange designs just as their mood changes.” 

Bow & Drape’s clutches don 3D printed zipper pulls in an assortment of animals and miscellaneous shapes. .

“The decision to incorporate 3D printing technology was a natural choice for us,” says Pagano, “we are standing at the forefront of fashion and technology, so this brand of me- commerce rings true to our ethos.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Bow & Drape on their new line of 3D printed accessories,” said Carine Carmy, Director of Marketing at Shapeways. “This partnership is a natural extension of our vision at Shapeways, which aims to enable anyone to turn an idea into reality. Shapeways and Bow & Drape share the goal of helping individuals create meaningful, personalized products, and we’re inspired to see how designers are using 3D printing to bring innovation and custom design to the fashion industry.”

Bow & Drape creates modern elegant womenswear and wants women to add their personal touch to each piece. “We believe style is as unique as a fingerprint,” says Pagano, “and so we want to equip women to really own their style and choose if they would like something a little extra special. It’s a reinvention of the private client model; everyone knows designers’ most loyal and successful customers are the ones that they work with privately to create totally personalized fashions. We are simply allowing more customers access to this service model.”

How It Works

Bow & Drape works closely with CAD designers, artisans and independent printers such as Shapeways to create designs that are a strong representation of the collection. Each design is meticulously constructed to be both aesthetically beautiful and structurally sound.

Through the Bow & Drape website, women can choose the design of their 3D printed hardware from a curated selection of vintage-inspired shapes including: geometric bows, elephants, lions, carousel horses, beetles, and even lipstick. New designs will be added each season.

Shapeways will then print each belt buckle or clutch pull to order, and Bow & Drape will attach the finished metal pieces to the customer’s selected material for delivery. The customer should receive her printed accessory within two weeks.

The Fall 2013 Collection is just the beginning. Bow & Drape is exploring new ways to allow  customers to place their marks on the design process. Other uses for 3D printing technology, the company believes, will open doors to new customer interaction models, new manufacturing processes and new product delivery channels.

Imagine in five years, being able to license a Bow & Drape design, modify it in CAD, and print it out in your home. “This is not a so distant reality,” Pagano says,” and we are excited to help usher in the future of fashion.”

The Fall 3D printed line is currently available and retails between $48 and $148.

About Bow & Drape

Launched in late 2012, Bow & Drape is an e-clothier and innovative womenswear brand bringing a custom-made approach to the hands of every female shopper. Recently named as one of Teen Vogue’s “10 Fashion Start Ups That Will Change the Way You Shop,” Bow & Drape merges high tech with high fashion. From hemlines to buttons to necklines to colors, Bow & Drape’s personalization technology encourages women to bring their personal touch to every detail of their wardrobe.

About Shapeways

Shapeways is one of the world’s leading 3D-printing marketplaces and online communities. The NY startup harnesses 3D printing to help anyone turn ideas into reality, making product design more accessible, personal, and inspiring.

Shapeways prints everything on-demand, which means that every order is customized and personalized.


Bow & Drape

3D Printed Hardware on Belts and Clutches



Bow & Drape Opens Custom Dressmaking E-Shop with $32K in Kickstarter Funds


Specialty Printing Sparks Opportunities for Creative Entrepreneurs

“Just because books, magazines, and newspapers are migrating to tablets and e-readers doesn’t mean print is dying.” That thought flashed through my mind as I made my way through the crowded aisles of the SGIA Expo, Oct. 17-19 in Las Vegas, NV.  According to the SGIA, the 2012 Expo attracted 500 exhibitors and more than 22,000 attendees, 38 percent of whom were first-time visitors to the show.

Supplies for creating photo merchandise included this ChromaLuxe iPhone case with high-clarity sublimatable metal photo panels..

SGIA originated as a screen-printing association but is now the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. SGIA members use screen printing, digital printing, pad printing, embroidery, sublimation, and other processes to create point-of-purchase displays, signs, banners, ads, and promotional items and to enhance garments, containers, vehicles, compact discs, and other products.

Everywhere I looked at the SGIA Expo 2012, digital devices of all shapes and sizes were printing and finishing colorful graphics and high-resolution images on every conceivable substrate from swimsuits and iPhone cases to tabletops and wallcoverings.


The 3-meter-wide Agfa Jeti 3324 AquaJet is a dye-sublimation textile printer.

According to the Expo guide, 198 different makes and models of digital output devices were on display. These included desktop printers outputting photo merchandise to industrial-grade textile machines. Some devices were printing on rigid boards and three-dimensional objects; others were outputting rolls of vinyl or textiles.

Clearly, the possibilities for cost-effectively creating custom-printed products are expanding.  The number of printable substrates has gone up, while the cost of producing shorter runs of products is going down.

As SGIA VP Dan Marx noted in his SGIA Expo report in the WhatTheyThink printing-industry newsletter: “Yes, ‘print’ is alive, but it is different….’Cheap print’ based on massive print runs is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The new opportunity in print is based on thoughtful, targeted, creatively executed campaigns and innovative conveyance of corporate brands.”

He points out that “The thoughtful combination of ink and media/substrate can present vast opportunities for new, creative applications.”

Why should you care?

Now that so many consumers are willing to buy products online, any creative entrepreneur with an idea for a custom-printed product can put up an online storefront, then team up with a print-service provider to have products made and delivered.

For example, at the Expand Systems press conference about textile printing at the SGIA Expo, I met Stephen Fraser, the entrepreneur behind Spoonflower, which enables anyone to design and order custom fabrics and wallcoverings.  Through his online marketing and social networking skills, he has built a community of 600,000 individuals who use their own fabric to make curtains, quilts, clothes, bags, furniture, dolls, pillows, framed artwork, costumes, banners and more. At the Expand press conference, I also met a textile artist who was striving to keep pace with the latest capabilities in digital textile printing.

One section of the show floor was devoted to showing top winners in SGIA’s annual Golden Image awards program.

This upside-down birdhouse from BuildABirdhouse.com won the gold award in the Unique Applications category. It also received the Best in Digital Creativity Award. The graphics were printed on a Roland VersaCAMM printer/cutter.

One of the gold-ribbon-winning entries was a whimsical collection of custom birdhouses that are being marketed online by Build A Birdhouse of Whitby, Ontario, Canada.  Some of the birdhouses are decorated in digitally printed vinyl graphics that Jim Dileva creates on his Roland VersaCAMM inkjet printer with a built-in cutter.

Another top winner in the Golden Image Awards was the “Saladish” restaurant décor and branding campaign produced by Gamut Media of Brea, California. The campaign included floor-to-ceiling wall wraps, POP displays and other graphics produced on Roland’s VersaCAMM inkjet printer/cutter.

Gamut Media won a Gold award in the Building Graphics category for this “Saladish” restaurant wall graphics and branding campaign. The graphics were printed on a Roland VersaCAMM.

Rick Scrimger, vice president of sales and marketing for Roland DGA Corp said it was an honor to work with the award-winning companies:  “Their commitment to excellence, amazing creativity and craftsmanship are truly represented by these projects.” He said he enjoys working with all small business owners who apply the power of Roland’s technology to their own creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.  (For proof, take a virtual tour of Roland’s Creative Center, a gallery at the company’s headquarters in Irvine, California that shows dozens of products that have been created with Roland equipment.)

The “Roland at Work” exhibit in the Roland Creative Center in Irvine, Califoniia displays some of the items that can be produced with Roland’s most advanced inkjet, engraving, vinyl-cutting, and 3D technologies.

Personal Observations

The 2012 SGIA Expo was noticeably more advanced than the last SGIA Expo I attended in 2009. And, it was vastly different from the first SGIA Expo I attended in 1995, when we were launching The Big Picture magazine.

In the mid-1990s, large-format digital printing devices were promoted mostly to entrepreneurs who wanted to start new types of print-for-pay businesses making retail graphics, art reproductions, museum displays, billboards, bus wraps, truck graphics, and event signage.

Over the years, SGIA members have told manufacturers what performance improvements they needed in printers, inks, substrate, prepress and automation software, and finishing equipment. As a result of this cooperation between small-business owners and equipment manufacturers, the capabilities of large-format digital printing equipment have advanced at a remarkable speed, especially after the market for short-run digital printing grew big enough to attract companies such as HP, Epson, Canon, DuPont, Agfa, EFI, and Fujifilm.

For awhile, I attended the SGIA show every year, paying close attention to the dialogue between business owners and equipment vendors about what technical problems and market-development issues still needed to be addressed.

Now that I’ve stepped away from the industry for a few years, it was astonishing to see the field from a fresh perspective. At the first show I attended, a few, primitive first-generation color digital printing devices were scattered among aisles and aisles of screen-printing equipment. This year, digital-printing devices dominated the show floor.


The 2012 SGIA Expo provided a vivid reminder that plenty of opportunities await graphic designers who would prefer to work on tangible, printed projects instead of apps or interactive media.

To learn more about the capabilities of the latest generations of specialty printing equipment, visit the SGIA website.  Through their “Find a Print Provider” link,  you can locate SGIA members  in your area who are equipped with the specialized printing equipment you need to create whatever type of printed product you might want to design and sell.

In future posts, I will write more about what I learned at the 2012 SGIA Expo. For example, I was very impressed to see how SGIA is helping printing companies of all types operate in a more environmentally sustainable way. And, I learned about advances in digital textile printing that might help U.S. companies bring more textile manufacturing back to the U.S.

The 2013 SGIA Expo will be held October 23-25  at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. It will be co-located with a show sponsored by the Industrial Fabric Association International.


About the SGIA

Find Print Providers: Guide to Digital Imagers and Screen Printers  

SGIA Expo 2012

Roland DGA Creative Center

“The Strength of Specialty Graphics” by Dan Marx in WhatTheyThink.com

Roland VersaCAMM



Practical Advice for Making and Selling Custom Products

DESIGNERS. If you’re curious about how to convert your designs into custom-manufactured products, check out some of the how-to guides and tutorials featured on the Ponoko Blog. Or subscribe to the company’s newsletter.  

Ponoko operates the Personal Factory for making, buying, and selling custom goods online. According to the company, more than 75,000 user-generated goods have been instantly priced online, made and delivered from Ponoko’s network of digital factories in San Francisco, Berlin, Milan, London, and Wellington, New Zealand.

The Ponoko blog is filled with articles and guides that explain the manufacturing technologies, different types of materials and design software available, and how to make a profit selling the goods that you have designed.

For example, a recent issue of the Ponoko newsletter highlighted a lengthy blog post that described in detail the Ten Simple Steps to Make and Sell Your Custom Product. Here’s a quick rundown of the ten steps covered in the post:

  1. Create a clear design brief for your product.
  2. Get the idea out of your head and sketch it out on paper.
  3. Choose your materials and components. 
  4. Choose how your product will be made.
  5.  Finalize your design for the chosen material and method.
  6.  Make a physical prototype of your design.
  7.  Assess the outcome of your prototype and adjust your design.
  8. Set a wholesale and retail price for your product.
  9.  Make your product available for purchase.
  10.  Promote your product to your target market.

Here’s an example of the type of practical business advice Ponoko provides: “When selling your product online, make sure you take high-quality photos and write useful and imaginative descriptions of your product. Describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. Don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself too, so that customers can identify with you as a real person.”

“We really cannot emphasize enough the importance of crisp, well lit, high quality photos. It’s these images which will catch the eye of your potential online customers, who will assume that the quality of your photos reflect the quality of your product.”

The blog on the Ponoko website features case studies showing the wide range of products that designers have created and how they have benefitted.

Ponoko Boxes by Yyvonne Hung
San Francisco urban planner Yvonne Hung founded The Harbinger Co after joining Ponoko. Yvonne realized that her interest in traditional arts such as drawing and painting extended to creating objects. Laser cutting enabled her to branch out into intricately decorated wooden boxes and jewelry. Photos courtesy of Ponoko.



Ten Simple Steps to Make and Sell Your Custom Product