Schoolhouse Electric Tour

Needmore gets schooled on the art of crafting timeless pieces

During a recent recording for our podcast, The Job, a conversation kicked up about the original IBM school clocks. We have been enamored with these clocks since grade school and, after seeing them in use at Washington High, were dreaming about getting one for studio.

Trouble is, they’re designed to be hardwired into a building. Lucky for us, local makers Schoolhouse Electric have crafted a faithful, licensed reproduction that runs off of a single battery.

Our studio recently took a tour of the Schoolhouse Electric factory. Walking through the showroom and into the factory doors was a bit like entering Wonka’s chocolate factory; behind each door was a room devoted to a manufacturing step of some new wonder. In the course of our tour, we were able to see the time and consideration given to each part of a finished product, from hand-painting to sanding and sealing. We got an eye-opening behind-the-scenes glance at the work that goes into production.

At first glance, most of work that goes into crafting each piece is largely hidden. You may therefore think that the process is simple, to imagine that there could be shortcuts to this sort of quality.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth; we witnessed mood boards informing the design team, inspirational samples of vintage products adorning shelves and walls, and prototype after prototype that had been created and then discarded because it wasn’t quite right. It is apparent that final products at Schoolhouse Electric are the embodiment of countless hours of research, ingenuity, and craft.

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I couldn’t help but think of the analogies to our work in web design. When crafting a website, we spend hours in discovery and research, looking at inspirational and competing sites, sifting through written and visual content to find reasonable patterns of topics that become site maps and wireframes, and digging deep into our creative resources to assemble mood boards.

Once our design stage begins, we sweat over the fine details. Often, we throw away many more designs ideas than we end up showing our clients. Our goal with design is not that those hours are immediately apparent, but that one is able to feel the quality and care behind what they are seeing.

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If we’ve done our job correctly, a Needmore designed website is much like that Schoolhouse Electric IBM Clock: simple, refined, and works beautifully.

At the end of our tour, we made a final stop into the now infamous Fire & Water room. Brian reached up, grabbed his clock off of the wall, and handed it to us, leaving us with a stunning, carefully crafted reminder of just the kind of considered and well-executed design we strive for every day.

Thanks, Brian and Schoolhouse Electric.