We use leather in a number of products, and we have certainly spent some time thinking about leather. Desk pads, valet trays, wallets, and luggage tags are crafted with special attention to the quality, aesthetic, and unique finish of leather. If you couldn’t tell, leather is pretty important to us. All of the leather we use in our products is from one of two different tanneries: Wickett and Craig in Pennsylvania, or Horween in Chicago.

Both of these tanneries are over 100 years old. Wickett and Craig was established in 1867. Horween was founded in 1905, and is the last surviving tannery in Chicago. They both possess a strong legacy, and play a large role in the production of a wide array of amazing leather goods. We are happy to be responsible for producing a few as well. Specifically, our accessories shelf and trays feature Wickett and Craig’s English Bridle leather in black and tan, as well as Horween Chromexcel leather in Navy. Chromexcel leather is the original “pull-up” leather – which means it is colored with natural oils or waxes, instead of synthetic paint or pigment.

A desk pad put to work.

A desk pad put to work.

The thickness of leather is measured in ounces, and can vary throughout the cut of leather, which is why measurements are approximations (it is animal hide, after all). The English Bridle leather is 10 ounces thick, meaning it measures about 5/32 of an inch. The Horween leather is approximately 5 or 6 ounces thick. These unique leathers are beautiful and feel great in your hands. It’s a great product for us to work with as well. Leather is beautiful on its own – as a stand-alone finished material in a desk pad or luggage tag. The contrast of the leather and concrete are a beautiful aesthetic to work with as well. Concrete, aluminum, and felt are stunning materials, and the navy, tan, and black leather offer a sleek, beautiful contrast. We know that when you put your keys and your phone inside the tray you’re going to like what you see – these products frame just about anything perfectly.


Inspiration for great design can come from anywhere. But, great design is often a great place for inspiration. Or, its simply fun to look at. Here are six of our favorite sites to find great design. . These sites offer a great mix of inspiring concepts, from architecture to jewelry; hi-tech innovations to bathroom renovations. Featuring a multitude of iterations of "design-thinking," We have a hunch that these sites will help you out with whatever you have your mind set to. 


DESIGNSPONGE // www.design-sponge.com
Design Sponge is a go-to website if you are into building, making, and creating things. And, if you like looking at phenomenal things that people build, make, and create. Are you looking for some inspiration for a desk you've been meaning to build? Or how to re-design your bedroom? DesignSponge offers an eclectic point of view through a design-focused, DIY lens. The site features city guides, recipes, tours of unique and stunning homes, and resources for your projects. There is eye candy in the way of super imaginative, beautiful interiors. It is a treasure chest of an array of interconnected areas of inspiration and new ideas.


CORE77 // www.core77.com
CORE77 has been a website since 1995 - which means most people were accessing it with a dial-up modem back then. You can find information about the latest trends, news, and happenings in the industrial design field. Their website has recently been redesigned, and it looks great. They have a sister website, Coroflot, that features all sorts of notable new designs and products daily. Their work helps to generate a vibrant industrial design community, connecting designers from all over the world to create and circulate innovative products. Core77 recognizes great designs all of the time. One way is through the Core77 Design Awards, honoring design from furniture to architecture to interaction and a ton of concepts in between. Their newest book, Designing Here/Now, is an amazing compilation of imaginative and innovative designs currently happening, a great overview of what has been created and what the future could look like. Mike (our founder) even has their bumper sticker on the wall behind his desk.


NOTCOT // www.notcot.com
NOTCOT is not just a website, but an entire network of design websites, each dedicated to different facets of design and community. The founder created it using the HotBot search engine in the late 90s. notcot.hotbot.com sounded cool, and the name stuck as his personal handle all over the web. Like Core77, it is super old for a website, and has amazing projects going on. On Notcot.org, you can essentially upload and curate design that is meaningful to you, and see personal takes on design from all over the world. Shortly thereafter, Notcot released more sites - notcouture.com, liqurious.com, tasteologie.com, and notventures.com - all to feed your interests in fashion, great cocktails, food, and travel from a design-centric point of view. It is more than just eye candy, but generally speaking, candy.


FAST CO DESIGN // www.fastcodesign.com
Fastco. offers a take on design that is not just about aesthetics; but all that design can do socially and technologically. It is pretty inspiring and amazing to see what kinds of innovation design can spur, and what kinds of design can spur innovation. And, when we say innovation, we mean technological innovation, but also innovation for humans in general. Founded in November 1995 by two former editors for the Harvard Business Review, the site focuses on technology, ethics, design, and business; synthesizing a bunch of relevant ideas into one progressive space.


DEZEEN // www.dezeen.com
Dezeen has a focus on things like architecture, furniture and lighting; which is an inspiring place to get ideas for new products. The site has been around since 2006; and has gained immense notoriety ever since. It is one of the most influential publications concerning architecture and design, and has garnered numerous awards and accolades for its fine journalism and publishing. The site was founded by a furniture designer turned journalist. The site is a place to find amazing writing and also innovative and mind-blowing architecture. Check out this amazing playroom for children that features a landscape of indoor hills made of cedar; or a telescopic contact lens that can zoom in and out with the blink of an eye.


DESIGN MILK // design-milk.com
This site without fail will offer eye candy and great design. They specialize in everything from architecture to fashion, and there is a great character to the breadth of work they publish. There are a number of amazingly curated regular features - such as Skim Milk, featuring the best in minimalist design, and Get Out!, featuring all things meant for the outdoors. If you love dogs, they have a sister site called Dog Milk.

Spotlight: Valet Trays

The valet tray is a unique object to put on your desk or on a shelf, at home or in the office. They are made from a one-of-a-kind mix, developed specifically for our concrete products. It is as smooth as ceramic to the touch, but has the look and feel of concrete. You probably see concrete every day. These trays offer a new spin on the classic material - something for your desk instead of the ground.

To design the product, we created a hand sketch of the product we wanted. A mock up was then made using CAD software. Using this design as a model, a plastic version was made with a 3D printer, so something that looked a bit like the final product. From this plastic replica, we were able to create a mold. Ultimately, we made about 15 or 16 molds. These are the molds we are currently using to produce the trays. They allow us to make quite a great deal from concrete. After receiving these concrete trays from our manufacturing partner, we punch out leather inserts using an 8 ton leather press, punching out little leather inserts that line the interior, cushioning your stuff. After applying a strong contact adhesive, we use super heavy duty Bessey clamps to bond the leather to the tray. Finally, they sit overnight for the adhesive to set.

They are made of concrete, but delicate. When we send them out we wrap them in foam and a foam box; to make sure they are kept safe. This ensures that when they finally make it to you, you are looking at a beautifully produced concrete tray.

Behind the Scenes: Owen & Fred's JFK Photoshoot

In September 2015, Owen & Fred shot its new Flight Brief and brand campaign at JFK’s TWA Flight Center. This is the behind the scenes moments and explains our thinking behind shooting at TWA.

We chose this iconic New York building because it is incredibly gorgeous, eerily empty and ready for the taking (of photos). Even though quite renown, it remains almost unknown other than by plane and design aficionados. This beautiful white-winged creature seems to have disappeared, now that Terminal 5, JetBlue’s flagship terminal, encircles it. You’ll catch a glimpse of it as you’re riding by on the Air Train, should you bother to look up from your Instagram feed.

The TWA Flight Center is what we think of when it comes to the golden age of mid-century modern design, experimentalism and just plain hutzpah. Buildings like this rarely get past the accountants these days. A product of the creativity of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, it was first sketched in the mid-1950s, and commissioned by TWA in 1957. Unlike most airline buildings around the world, this one was owned by the airline itself. Completed in 1962, Saarinen told The New York Times that the building was meant to represent the spirit of flight. We think it does just that. The building itself feels like it could be built tomorrow at JFK and speaks not only to the future of flight but avant-garde design. The curvature of the building, the stark off-white that contrasts with the asphalt out front and sky blue above, as well as huge glass panels emit a warm greenish hue and reflect the light so well. Combining this veritable design museum with our new, minimalist Flight Brief seemed like a perfect match.

The shoot was completed in the morning on a beautiful September day. The weather was perfect, with very few clouds in the sky. A crisp fall day that is one of New York’s best assets. We shot it early enough in the morning for the sun to cast a slight shadow, and did have to adjust for the movement of the sun cutting across this iconic building. And as with most mid-September days in New York, it was still quite hot, requiring our model to cool down from time to time. We put him to work - he must have run a good half-mile over endless shots and reshoots capturing the movement we wanted.

The model was outfitted in a suit courtesy of our friends at J.Crew. You’ll recognize their perfect Ludlow suit in charcoal with a crisp Ludlow dress shirt and a matte navy tie from Ralph Lauren. We think that he looks particularly James Bond.

Our main hero shot captures the spirit of travel, like the building itself. We love the idea that Owen & Fred goods are designed for the good-looking, gentleman traveler in all of us. We’d rather be jetting off somewhere, even if it were for work travel. Get out of the office, get away from the city, and go on an adventure. In this case, here’s our man confidently off to the terminal to catch a flight. His bag is his constant companion and keeps all of his items nicely organized. He’ll make the flight with minutes to spare. Where is he off?

Our photoshoot was crafted with the trusted hands at Black & Gold Studio, guided by Harry James Hanson and shot by Sam Evans Butler.

The Spirit of Flight

It was planned to express the “spirit of flight”, and Saarinen, the mind behind the project, succeed.

In 1957, Trans World Airlines commissioned a building to represent its ambitions, and an equally ambitious and renown architect to bring the vision to life. When the building opened its doors in May 1962 as the TWA Flight Center, flight was becoming an economically feasible option for more Americans, marking an exciting time in aviation. Flight has always been glamorous, and the TWA building cemented that feeling with its iconic architecture.

It is the location for our latest photo shoot, where we were inspired to create our Flight Brief for the traveling man. Pictured above you can see our man of action rushing off to catch a flight.

Frequent travelers at JFK will have spotted this bird-shaped building near the new JetBlue Terminal 5. You see it when you pass by on the Air Train, a futuristic looking building even today. But the main road is eerily closed off, there are no cars out front, no taxis waiting for passengers, and no security guards shooing cars away from waiting for passenger pickup.

The walls are a bleached white, and contrast so well against the blacktop and blue sky above. The windows are giant, expansive and allow for visitors to gaze upon the jets landing and taking off. The glass has a green hue to it, and the inside of the building is dramatically lit and incredibly spacious. According to The New York Times at the time of unveiling: “the shell will be formed of four merging vaulted dome shapes supported at only four points. The two lateral domes extend outward and upward in a cantilever design resembling wings. The shell will be about 300 feet long and fifty feet high. Open spaces will be sheathed in glass."

The TWA terminal was conceived by Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect. His father was an eminent sculptor who taught courses at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. After moving from Finland when he was young, he attended courses there with Charles and Ray Eames – his early, seminal works were furniture that showcased his eclectic, neo-futuristic sensibility. The “Pedestal” and “Womb Chair” were created in the late 40s and 50s, and provide a glimpse at the style of larger architectural works. The General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan was his first major work. It is a complex campus for General Motors, an encompassing environment with style and functionality. The character of the Tech Center led him to design headquarters for IBM and CBS; as well as numerous structures, buildings and involved campus plans at universities, including MIT, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania. His style became adaptable and varied in many diverse environments. Along with the TWA Center, the Dulles International Airport and the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis are largely considered his ultimate masterpieces, the last structures he designed.

The building was originally budgeted for $12,000,000 but exceeded that to cost $15,000,000 – a paltry sum by today’s standards. Saarinen told The New York Times that he had two purposes in mind. “One was to make the passenger's transition from taxicab to airplane as painless as possible. The other was to capture and express the dynamic quality of an airline, and the spirit of flight itself.”

The architecture was meant to accommodate Lockheed Constellations and Boeing 707s. It is a unique and iconic structure; a one-off image of modern design and technology. The interior is a coordinated network of enormous sweeping curves with the aura of a futuristic, space age. Although the interior features ultramodern freeform elements, the structure also contains the symmetry characteristic of classical, Beaux Arts architecture. The terminal is an incredibly posh setting to find yourself sprinting to a connecting flight.

After Trans World Airlines closed its operations in 2001, Terminal 5 did as well, after functioning as a terminal for nearly 40 years. The space has seen numerous proposals for reuse; with some envisioning it as a conference center, restaurant, hotel, or aviation museum. Most plans involved changing or concealing the presence of the structure. Threats to the building’s visibility caught the attention of architects, artists, and even the Finnish government. In 2005, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In October 2008, JetBlue’s Terminal 5 was designed to complement the building. Saarinen’s original building is currently not open to the public, but will be transformed into a hotel that does not subdue the entire presence of the building. The structure has become a legendary, beloved icon, with fans all over the world – and it has a bright future.


Like a kid on Christmas Day, we can be quite excited when opening our prototypes when they are sent back from our manufacturers in the mail. It would be an understatement to say that it is "really cool" to see a product go from ideation, to sketch, to sample. So when we get the prototypes back in the mail from FedEx; its a really great feeling, an exciting moment to behold. But sometimes there can be a little bit of an unexpected let down, where you know you’re not going to get the right fabric on the first day, or you know you are getting a rough prototype. Typically, adjustments are needed.

So, when we receive a prototype, we like to put it to use right away to test it out. Sometimes a small product is easy to evaluate. Take something such as the Hex Business Card Holder. We got it in the mail, we loaded it up with some business cards, take a good look at the materials, maybe take this piece of brass and polish it up. Hopefully, after working with a manufacturer for a while, these are going to be up to expectations.

For a very complicated project, like say a brief or duffel, sometimes the straps are too wide or too narrow. Or maybe, the canvas color is off from our colorways; or we are not happy with the background color of a zipper. So those are things that require adjustment; and adjustment is a big part of our process. Spending the time to get things right is really what makes a product a final product.

It is never good to pass a fault. So if we see something that needs to be adjusted in a product we will adjust it. We are already moving on a very fast timeline from ideation to production. Some of our products can be as fast as 2 to 3 weeks, not including time to make packaging. So we’ll take the time to make adjustments. We already work on an accelerated schedule, just by virtue of the way that we design and bring products to market. And there is a fair amount of fun in putting your design aesthetic into a product, and then figuring out what adjustments need to be made in a product that ultimately our customers are going to love.


We like seeing how things are made, how things are manufactured and put together. Watches are unparalleled in their ability to be complicated, cool mechanisms. They have a bunch of tiny intricate parts and are basically little factories in and of themselves. They require an amazing amount of technicality; craft and precision. This is why we created a Rolex Movement Poster. It is a minimalistic, simple way to see how 47 parts come together to make a Rolex work.

Watches are a beautiful object, with (supposedly) one simple task: to tell time. Watchmaking, or, mastering the art of creating a piece of art that tells time, is a serious business. This wondrous object comes in more varieties than you can set your watch to, along with a complex culture and history. Luckily, there are websites to help you explore the genre, learn all there is to learn, and enjoy all that a watch can be - timepiece, luxury, and fascinating hobby.


HODINKEE is an outstanding and distinguished website on which to look at, research, and learn about wristwatches. Not surprisingly, the website specializes in outstanding and distinguished watches. It is the go-to place for this sort of thing, featuring tons of great content about timepieces and the culture surrounding them. The website is focused on content, so it is a great place to go if you are a beginner (or seasoned) watch enthusiast looking to find out more. It has features such as a great page where you can learn just how a watch works, here.


FOUNDWELL showcases vintage and antique pieces from all over the world through their beautifully curated website. Each piece featured is a unique wonder, manufactured within the last 200 years. Foundwell is “focused mainly on pieces for the modern gentleman,” but at times showcase pieces that are great in any venue. The site features amazing eye candy that comes in the form of accessories, jewelry, (small) home furnishings and time pieces. Each one has a different history, and each one has a fascinating history. The products on this site will teach you a few things about manufacturing processes, the histories of objects, and get you to wonder about the things you use each day.

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HQ MILTON specializes in one timeless thing: vintage Rolexes. And there are many. Each one has a different story. The site was founded in 2008 by two watch enthusiasts who offer advice and service in the field of Rolexes. Rolexes are made of the finest quality materials with the finest quality craftsmanship; precious metals, stones, stainless steel and more go into a Rolex watch. Each one is different; and while they have evolved through the ages, the quality of a Rolex has not been compromised. You can check out the specifics of a vast array of particular watches, and inquire more if you are so inclined.


Copper has a specific hue and shine to it.

Copper is a naturally occurring element that was used by some of the oldest civilizations on record. People probably discovered how to mine copper about 11,000 years ago, and a wide variety of cool stuff has been made out of copper ever since. Copper’s name comes from the Latin word “cuprum,” which actually translates roughly to “from the island of Cyprus.” Cyprus was where the Romans acquired most of their copper about 7,000 years ago.

Copper is super valuable. Copper possesses high electrical conductivity. It is soft and malleable. It is also a key mineral that keeps the human body running. You can find amounts of copper in sunflower seeds, lima beans, and mushrooms, among quite a few other things to eat; which is sort of weird to think about, but true.

There is copper in pennies. In fact, any penny made after 1983 is composed of 97.5% zinc; and copper-plated. Before 1982, pennies were made of 95% copper, and these ones actually weigh a bit more.

One of the most phenomenal places to find copper is in architectural structures. Copper has earned an exalted role in the fields of architecture, building construction, and interior design. It is malleable and soft; but that doesn’t stop this metal from creating strong and complex structures. It is durable and can last for years. It is a flexible material; and can be used to create spaces few other materials can be used for.

A famed aspect of copper that makes it architecturally notable is the manner in which the metal oxidizes when it interacts with oxygen. This means that anytime copper is exposed to atmospheric elements - air, rain, wind - the oxidization process occurs and aids in creating an oxide-sulfate patina. The patina is actually a highly protectant layer; making the copper stronger and more durable.

Copper goes through stages of oxidization that take years. In the first stage, bright copper will transform to a dull tan color. After a few years; it will change to a dark brown or black hue. Eventually, the copper will take on the green hue it is known for due to the formation of copper sulfate, carbonate and chloride salts in varying concentrations. The resulting texture and color is coveted by many the world over; and found in some of the most heralded architectural treasures, from ancient times to the present.

Copper is metal. It’s tough, resistant, and shiny. It is also dynamic and lively, super malleable, conforming to the needs of the job its performing at will, interacting with its environment and letting the atmosphere shape its composition. Copper is not alive, but it knows a bit about growth, innovation and evolution.

Make your Designs Come to Life (or, 10 Things To Know in working with a Manufacturer)

I’m Mike Arnot, the founder of Owen & Fred. We design and manufacture men’s goods exclusively in the United States. We transform ordinary and boring products into extraordinary designs. Owen & Fred works with manufacturers in over 12 states, from Maine to Washington and everywhere in between, and with materials ranging from concrete and copper to leather and soap.

Over the past three years we have developed a fair amount of insight into designing products that people love, finding great manufacturers to work with, and nurturing that relationship. You might call them manufacturers, but we call them “partners”. Because for us, that’s exactly what they are. We’re in this together.

One additional important point: Owen & Fred is a manufacturer in its own right. Most of our leather products, and our famous little luggage tags, are designed, cut, and crafted in house by us. I’ve personally made several hundred luggage tags, key chains and other products. We make products for advertising agencies and sports teams. Accordingly, we’ve been on the receiving end of working with clients, so I think we have some good insight having seen both “sides”.


1. Build a relationship.
We have great relationships with every manufacturer we work with. We do this by maintaining great and responsive communication with our partners via phone, email, text, visiting them, and breaking bread with them. I’ve visited manufacturers in many states. (A side benefit: you get to see America, and take great photos for your Instagram account.) Remember to not focus so much on business - a constructive, light-hearted relationship with a partner will go a long way. People first, business later. Being open and honest with manufacturers means that you can develop a long-term relationship. If you make them your partners, they will be, and that will save your hide countless times. They’ll help you spot mistakes before you make them. And if you think long-term, not short term - you can work with them for a lifetime. We certainly intend to do so.

2. Do your homework.
Its good to get acquainted with a new material, a new process. We like to dig deep. We like to understand the difference between high carbon steel and cold rolled steel, and how each is made. We do our homework, and it often starts with a Google search. The materials and industry you are working with has a long history, rules, and nuances you will become familiar with. A little background can go a long way in helping you understand how to get to a finished product, communicate ideas with a manufacturer, and move forward successfully. And on a related note, learn how to work a ruler or the units of measure for the materials you’re working with. Fractions, decimals, millimeters, eighths and ounces. Know this cold. It’s not obvious – and mistakes lead to production errors.

3. Don’t assume that you’re a good communicator.
You’ve been working on an idea for a long time. You’ve done many, many sketches, thrown said sketches in the garbage, and talked about your new widget endlessly with anyone who will listen. You’ve shown your mom, your girlfriend, and you think your newest design is fantastic and you’re really excited about it. But you really need to think about how you will communicate the idea to the manufacturer. A drawing is great, but a drawing often doesn’t get across all of the details you want to show. You don’t want to make assumptions about what you are expecting from the final product. Get used to giving precise and detailed communication – often outside of the sketch or rendering.

4. Be incredibly precise, even if it seems like overkill.
If you leave a part of your design up to interpretation, or don’t reference it at all, you are taking a risk. Your manufacturer will either contact you to ask (which is undoubtedly a pain for them), or make an educated guess based on what they think makes the most sense or what you meant. The good news is that your manufacturers probably have a good sense of what will work and what doesn’t, but why leave it to chance? Specify every last detail you think is important, or be surprised when you get the first prototype. You will save time and worry by communicating your vision as meticulously as possible.

5. Rely on their judgment - you’re not their first bronco at the rodeo.
For a young company like us, we bring our designs to new manufacturers, and rely on their judgment of how they will transition the vision into the tangible and into production. Your partners have a lot they can share and they can foresee issues with the design that can be overcome or gone around. Be humble, and rely on their expertise.

6. Communicate timelines in advance.
In the industry Owen & Fred operates, there are particular events that influence our timelines. There is a trade show cycle that follows buying seasons – and many times are a year out from delivery of the product. There are a number of elements to your presentation that you need to show to buyers in advance and communicating timelines and deadlines with manufacturers will help you meet those timelines. Having your manufacturers on your side when you are working to meet deadlines is key. The more clear and explicit you can be about your deadlines the better. In our experience, an open-ended project deadline never actually gets done.

7. Ask lots of questions. Even dumb questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask. When I first meet with a manufacturer – typically for a new material we’re working with or a new process, I tell them to talk to me like I am a 5 year old. (I’m telling you, it helps.) It’s hard to know what is important and what isn’t if you don’t ask a lot of questions. My number one question? “What are the three things your designers do wrong when working with you?” We’ve made enough production errors to know to ask that. I think they’ll respect you even more for trying to make their lives a bit easier. Furthermore, when you ask lots of questions you might find out things you didn’t even set out to know. I met with a brass manufacturer and saw a huge coil of copper sitting on the shelf. It spurred an idea. Not being particularly shy, I asked what it was, and whether it would be a suitable material for a totally different product that I’d had in the back of my mind. And just like that - presto – a new product was born.

8. Understand your unit economics.
Understanding your unit economics will save stress and worry in the long run, and ultimately, help you to create a better product. What do I mean by unit economics? Knowing what your retail, wholesale and costs need to be to make the product a success. It seems simple, but it seems many designers don’t focus this, which is a time waste for all involved.

9. Are you aiming to scale production? Can your manufacturer scale with you?
Can your manufacturer sell the amount of units you might be selling? Particularly when you have large orders from national retailers, this is a question that comes into play. Some manufacturers are able to scale with you if you are going to be selling larger and larger quantities of a product. Others might not have the same capacity.

10. Don’t overpromise. Be humble.
Share excitement in the project but don’t oversell it. Don’t indicate sales expectations that are pie in the sky. You’ll lose credibility. Be honest about what you expect - in fact, it is best to be humble on this end. It is better to have a small order that you end up exceeding.You want to have credibility, so go slow. You don’t need to sell yourself as a superstar - work with your manufacturer to become one.

How Shot Glasses Are Made

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So we concocted a cool little metal shot glass. But how are they actually made?

You start with a strip of stainless steel that’s about 4 inches wide. A stamping machine will cut these into simple, perfectly equal circles with 60 tons of pressure. Then these circles are stamped again with the same 60 tons of pressure. Two swift punches. It is astonishing to watch - the machine stamps these effortlessly; like butter. Watch your fingers!

It leaves a small, sharp lip of metal at the top. Otherwise, the result we have here is more or less, a shot glass. The lip is cut off, and the edges are curled. This produces a rim suitable for, you know, drinking tequila, rather than slicing your face open. The last step is punching words into the bottom of the shot glass. To do this, a male and female die are used. This is done when an especially deep crease is needed to be made in a piece of metal. The male die debosses the metal. Basically, it pushes the metal into a recess on the female die, creating a crease in the shot glass.

They are nearly ready to roll. But, at this point, the shot glasses are covered in grease. All of the tools used need quite a bit of grease to do all of the things just described. So, the next step is chemically degreasing the shot glass. Then, they are polished up to a satin shine, and boxed by us.

The entire process happens in Brooklyn, just down the road from our design studio. Convenient, and awesome to watch.


Herringbone is simplistic. It is called herringbone because it looks like the skeleton of a herring fish. The bodies of fish are somewhat complicated in comparison to strategically placed rectangles and patterned cloth. The actual pattern of herringbone is a bit more beautiful than fish skeletons. We think. Our herringbone leather coasters are simple and beautiful; a pattern found in other products that we wanted to emulate.

Herringbone is the pattern found often in twill cloth; a V-shaped chevron. Tweed also normally has a herringbone pattern. It is often found on the most formal and elegant menswear; on suits and coats. Herringbone is also a pattern found on sidewalks in cities and tile floors in homes; a simple tessellation found on the ground the world over.

Herringbone is a tesselation. The blocks are normally parallelograms or rectangles, but can even be a shape like hexagons. The sides often have a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1; but there are no rules as to of what they must be. Truthfully, the herringbone pattern can be found almost anywhere - it is used in masonry, knitting, weaving, embroidery, and woodworking. It is a super simplistic concept that inspires patterning the world over.

Since it is loosely defined it is open to creative interpretation. We put a herringbone pattern on our leather coasters, denoted via alternating grooves in the leather. We were inspired to take a novel take on an old pattern; adding a new complexity to something seemingly ordinary. It is indeed a beautiful pattern. Here's to appreciating it when you encounter it next!

Where Do Dopp Kits Come From?

Shaving kit bags are one of our best-selling products, and a pretty useful and great invention overall.

So why are they called dopp kits? It is difficult to discern where the word "dopp" comes from in this context. And it's not really found in any other context in the English language. Nor is it really a descriptive adjective as to of what a dopp kit does.

So where does the word "dopp" actually come from? A dopp kit is called a dopp kit because they were first popularized as a product by William Doppelt, a German leather goods designer who moved to the US in the late 1800s, and began producing a newfangled leather case for toiletries. The case was released in 1919, and the resulting product was called a Dopp kit - a shortened version of Doppelt.

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In World War II, the US army issued millions of Dopp kits to recruits. This aided greatly in increasing their presence and subsequently, their popularity. The toiletries case was eventually produced by other companies as well, definitely with some design variations, but the name stuck. The dopp kit’s name comes from a linguistic phenomenon known as coinage, which is actually one of the least common processes of word formation. If a word is coined, it means that it is a totally new invented term that just sticks. Often, these are invented names for commercial products, similar to why we usually call adhesive bandages and tissues “band-aids” and “kleenex.” Dopp kits are produced by all sorts of companies now, but the name is still here.

Dopp kits are nifty, and designed to serve an extremely useful function - its no wonder they became so popular. They are an awesomely sized bag for keeping toiletries in. Furthermore, the format of a dopp kit allows for all sorts of designs and varieties to be made. Ours is designed to get the job done with some playfulness, style, and functionality - there is not another quite like it.


A Concrete Idea

Concrete is one of the main components of an urban jungle. Concrete is, in our world, everywhere. It’s pretty darn sturdy.

Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, and aggregate. The material of that aggregate can vary, though it usually accounts for about 60 to 75% of concrete - the rest is the cement and water. The cement and water is what gives it strength. The aggregate is the creative piece of the puzzle. The amount and type of aggregate varies depending on what the concrete will be used for and made into. It dictates how rough or beautiful it will look. It changes whether that concrete can be used for sidewalks, the walls of skyscrapers, or fine jewelry.

Usually, fine aggregates are made of crushed stone or natural sand, and most of these tiny particles will pass through a 3/8 inch sieve. Course aggregates are any particles greater than .19 inch, but generally are between 3/8 of an inch and 1.5 inches.

Concrete has been around since ancient times. In fact, the outer dome of the Pantheon in Rome is the largest unreinforced solid concrete dome on earth. It has been since 27 BC. So it is a pretty committed material.

Our concrete coasters are indeed made of concrete. The mix we have has taken years to develop. While strong, concrete has a tendency to crack and break. And, finding a mix fine enough to make small household items like coasters out of is actually pretty difficult.

The mix itself is actually quite simple - cement, water, sand, granite dust, and carragenan. However, these elements need to be combined in very specific amounts to create the perfect mix.

Carragenan is something you probably won't find in concrete, ever. It is derived from seaweed, and found in tons of everyday products, from ice cream to toothpaste. This element gives the cement the right viscosity and aids in the process of curing the cement and water.

The resulting concrete is smooth to touch. And you will find many tiny imperfections - no two coasters are exactly alike. The granite dust that is used to create the coasters contains varying degrees of darkness, so the concrete will be lighter or darker depending on the mix.

Concrete is both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Our coasters are a very specific breed of unique - hand-crafted and designed in our image of all that concrete can be.

Coasters Are Revolutionary

Coasters are a simple concept - a tiny placemat for beer. or espresso. or just water. The main function of the coaster is to protect the surface you are resting your drink on. The other affordance they offer is that they can look really cool! There are coasters made of almost every kind of material you can think of, but in the beginning it was much simpler.

Coasters, or beermats, made of cork

Coasters, or beermats, made of cork

Coasters were first invented around 1880. They were produced in Germany, by Fredrich Horn, a printing company that used cardboard to manufacture the first coasters. These first coasters featured sayings and images. Breweries started producing coasters to advertise their brand and other messages. This proved to be a great way to advertise - they functioned as tiny billboards. The fact that they can protect the table from the perils of condensation and foaming beer was secondary. Nonetheless, a more solid prototype came about from Dresden, Germany; made of wood pulp. Coasters were found in breweries and pubs, but also were making their way into homes. They became more widely heard of when the were advertised by a brewery in the United Kingdom in the 1920s - Watney, Combe and Reade. This brewery featured their Pale Ale on coasters as advertisement, and the rest is history. This is probably the most common use of coasters, to this day.

Over the last hundred years, thousands upon thousands of different coasters have been produced. It is not super surprising then, that there is even a term for the act of collecting coasters. Tegestology is that term. Tegestologists tend to collect coasters centered around particular time periods, materials, and breweries. This makes for a fascinating lens through which to look at history. Since they were so easy to produce, countless different designs have been made - it is difficult to get bored by a lack of variety in this field.

Pairing paisley and concrete on a coaster. English bridle leather, as a coaster. Maybe its been done before. But if it has, we would argue we do it better. They are similar in concept to a saucer. Despite changes and innovations in their design, the simplistic notion they embody is still mostly the same. And still, they are most often made of a paper-based material, wood, or cork. We aim to offer a unique take on coasters; exploring new designs you will enjoy.

All About Knockout

This type-family has been around since 1994. Designed by Hoeffler & Co. (a New York City based foundry), there is something totally unique and different about Knockout. That cool and different thing is that it can hardly be called a type-family.

A type-family is a very recent invention. We normally think of fonts as having their "regular" self, as well as a bold and italic counterpart. Different type-families have other variations as well; for instance, there is Helvetica, and there is Helvetica Neue. The modern type-family usually involves a few fonts that are similar in origin and nature; with bold and italic counterparts.

But this was not always how typography worked. There was once fewer rules. Italics, Romans, and bold fonts existed for years and years without existing to any particular "group." They just were. By the mid-1970s, with the advent of computational processing and digital type, the type-family - a predefined package and set of rules that defined a font - began to rule the scene. It was an easy way to keep things tidy and keep track of type.

But there is some possibility and opportunity that gets lost when you simplify type like this. Knockout breaks the rules and returns disorder to typography. The font-family features nine different widths of varying degrees. And each version of Knockout bends and shifts in ways fonts usually don't do for their readers. Woodcuts were once produced in series, and that is how Knockout is produced. There are seven series, with different characters. Some are great for fine print, and some are made for bold headlines. There is a series for pretty much anything you want this font to express. Different aspects of the font morph dramatically, but it is always the same typeface.

You can find it inside our shaving kit bags, on our bottle opener, on our pens and pencils. We really like it, in fact. We think its flexible and authoritative; helping out with some encouragement when you need it.

BRASS: An Introduction

Brass is a well-liked metal - at Owen & Fred it is used to make collar stays, our hex business card holder, and brass money clips. There is something particular about brass. Silver is an element on the chemical chart - symbol Ag, atomic number 47. Gold too, occupies atomic number 79, and the symbol Au. These metals are simplistic, singular and unique - we love them for that. But brass is an alloy - a composite of copper and zinc. It is not just a single element, but a complex age old recipe with a fascinating history.

The main component of brass is copper (Cu, atomic number 29). Pure copper is soft and malleable. It is used to conduct heat and electricity - it can be found on integrated circuits and circuit boards; due to its amazing ability to conduct electricity. It has been used as a durable architectural material.

But copper and brass are two different things. The amount of copper that you will find in brass varies depending on what the brass will be used for, but normally it falls around 60 - 80%. Zinc is normally a hard metal, but when heated at 100 - 150º celsius, it becomes malleable. When zinc is compounded with copper, the resulting brass is stronger and harder than copper. It has amazing acoustic capabilities - which is why saxophones, french horns, and organs are made of brass.

When brass becomes tough to work with, it can be heated at a high temperature and tempered. Using a kiln heated to around 565º celsius, brass can become malleable again.


Brass has special properties that make it an efficient metal in many different situations. It has great acoustic properties, can be easily transformed and molded, and has a unique and particular aesthetic quality that no other metal can match. It's sleek and zany. This is why we feel it makes for a unique product; and one thing thats so exciting about our brass money clips, hex business card holder, and pen holder.

10 Products We Admire

A Mercedez Benz 300SL might seem far off from a Lego, but the logic behind great design tends to always be similar. This is a list of ten products that we draw inspiration from. These products take form and function and utilize them to their maximum potential. They are products that can allow one to be extremely comfortable, drive fast, create monumental architecture, or navigate time and space super efficiently. We are hoping they inspire you as well, in any endeavor.

This Rolex’s color scheme has earned it the Pepsi nickname. But when this watch was being designed, soft drinks were probably the last thing Rolex had on their mind. The color scheme is an homage to PanAm Airlines. Rolex and PanAm worked together to create the watch that will tell you the time in two time zones - a pretty innovative concept back when it was created. It is a watch, and a beautifully designed, technological, transportive, futuristic marvel. Our founder Mike says, "The watch that I own is vintage 1968 Rolex GMT Master Pepsi. I got it from HQ Milton in San Francisco. It's Gorgeous. It keeps time incredibly well for something that is 47 years old. It is the best watch I have ever had."

Back in 1894, Barbour was an importer of oil cloth in South Shields, England. An enthusiasm on behalf of Duncan Barbour for motorcycles got them to making waxed cotton motorcycle jackets. This is a more than 100 year old UK import that wears and tears beautifully. You wax it yourself to keep it watertight. It starts to mold to your own imprint. It is the opposite of disposable fashion - it forces you to put love and care into your jacket, participating in the process of heating up wax and applying it to keep the jacket working for you.

Tolomeo is the Italian word for "Ptolemy." Ptolemy was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, geographer, poet, and all around visionary defining and shedding light on these aspects of society. The lamp itself offers electric light with simplicity, flexibility and metallic luster. It is a desk lamp with a heavy base, a firm foundation. The arms are two straight polished aluminum bars, allowing for vertical and horizontal movement. The wires and cables that make it function are all visible. This lamp is more than a "light" - it is a machine. Steel tension cables attached to springs make it lock in place with some flexibility. The head of the lamp can swivel 360º, shedding light on literally anything you set your eyes on. It is a smart and highly functional friend to have around.

It's pretty amazing to see a product that was designed in the 1950s that looks like it could have been designed today. The designer, Dieter Rams, has this aesthetic that influenced products designed recently - like say, the MacBook. Braun makes all kinds of things. There is probably something, very close to you, produced by this company. They are a master of industrial design; producing clocks, watches, calculators, and electric shavers, but the radio is what started it all. It is a sleek vessel that connects you with the outside world; intercepting radiowaves and sound; the most basic form of information transmission around.

There is one of these at Owen & Fred headquarters. It is an example of perfect graphic design. Transit maps have an uncanny ability to shape perceptions of a city. The Vignelli Subway map makes New York look like a dream. Far from the complex web of knots and meandering tubes the subway appears to be today, this map transforms New York into a colorful minimalist line-drawing.

LEGOS. This Danish import’s design is so ubiquitous that its specialness can get lost. A lone brick is beautiful, but if you had a million, you could build - anything. Legos put the user in charge with a rigid, simplistic design that allows for numerous possibilities. A colorful, sensible vehicle for your imagination. They are supposed to be a toy for children, but you are definitely not too old for them.

Mercedez Benz makes a bunch of cars, but this one is notable. It was dubbed a "racecar for the street" when it was released in 1954. Notably, Mercedes released this model in America at a time when most of their models were released in the European market. It proved to be super successful. The car is not only remembered for its iconic design, but its performance - upon its release, it was the fastest car produced in the world. The ones that are on the road now are worth a couple million.

Charles & Ray Eames were inventive and resourceful. They built houses and everyday objects, and they all carried the same principles. The Eames Lounge Chair has become iconic with Modern, American design. It is paradoxical = it is comfy and dressed-up, versatile yet classy. The wood is three curved layers of plywood shells - the headrest, backrest, and seat. The chair is made of 5 panels of plywood covered with a Brazilian Rosewood veneer. Curved expertly and compiled meticulously.

It’s hard to imagine that an office chair as sexy. But this one nailed it. You can find aisles full of office chairs in Staples and Office Max. But this one lives on permanent fixture in the Museum of Modern Art. A swivelly desk chair? At MOMA? It sounds like performance art. It is named after the Celtic god Aeron, but also is a reference to Aeronautics and Aeration. Other cool thing? It is 94% Recyclable, and made of recycled materials. It offers lumbar support and is particularly nice to sit in if you are tall.

What can be said about this white T-Shirt in particular? It feels good, it looks good, it’s made in the USA. It's simple yet stylish. It’s better than an average T-shirt, it’s an affordable luxury. And trust me, a luxurious white T-shirt might be the best luxury of all.

The Complex Simplicity of the Figure 8 Knot

Have you noticed the knots on our laundry bag? They are not there arbitrarily. The figure 8 knot holds high importance in rock climbing and sailing alike, and we thought it looks pretty cool. Infinity sign. It’s also a great way to hold your laundry together.

What is so magical about the figure-8 knot? It is one of two knots commonly used to stop a rope from running out of a retaining device. The other knot, the overhand knot, can accomplish the job too. But, unlike the figure 8 knot, the overhand knot will usually jam under strain. The figure 8 knot on the other hand, can keep it together under stress. Because it’s not as flexible, the overhand knot usually needs to be cut to be undone - the figure 8 on the other hand can simply be untied, and retied again and again. It’s somewhat comforting to think a single knot, done right, can keep ships afloat and rock climbers safe.

In heraldic terms, the figure 8 knot is also called the Savoy knot. The motto of the Savoy knot is Stringe ma non costringe, which translates to "It tightens, but does not constrain.” We think this is a pretty cool and poetic motto for a knot. The figure 8 is flexible when you need it to be. It also keeps your stuff together like a pro.

SIX ANGLES: We're kinda in love with hexagons

You first learned about hexagons in kindergarten. (No, they are not stop signs). It’s common, but still a little out there - a bit zanier than the square, circle or triangle. It can be found on vintage soccer balls from the 70s. There is something about those six sides that make it quite stunning.

What, exactly, is a Hexagon?

The name is derivative of the Greek word for six (ἕξ hex) and the Greek word angle or corner (γωνία, gonía). six. angle. hexagon.

The sum of the the angles of a hexagon is 720 degrees.

Hexagons are very efficient.

It has been hypothesized since ancient times that hexagons could tile the plane more efficiently than any other shape, offering more space for surface area than a square or triangle. This mathematical conundrum (ie, “The Honeycomb Conjecture”) was proven true in 1999 - 16 years ago. That means it took a while. The shape has a beautiful simplicity, but its nature is so complex. What makes a hexagon so efficient?

Of the three regular polygons that tessellate naturally (meaning, they interlock without space left over on a plane), the hexagon is the most efficient, after the triangle and the square. You can find it tessellating naturally on our concrete coasters.

The hexagon plays an important role in nature and society.

Lets think of this: If you were to build a freestanding room, and wanted to make sure it contained as much space as possible, you would make a circular room. A circular room will contain the most space for a given wall. Once circles are fit together however, they are not so efficient - they leave wasted space and unused crevices between them. Hexagons on the other hand, are team players. When they are tiled together, you have the most efficient way to tile the plane, providing the most area for the lines and angles used.

Speaking of team players…

Bees are the ultimate team players. Making the wax for the walls of a honeycomb is TONS of work for a bee. A bee, in its entire lifetime, will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. In a year, a hive will create about 200 lbs. of honey. So, they really need to work together to make this happen. Bees construct circular deposits of wax. When they form millions together, they naturally fold to stack and become perfect hexagons. The hexagonal walls enclose the largest possible area, and waste no space between them. This allows bees to make as much honey as possible, with as little space as possible.

Hexagons are a tiny piece of the big picture

Amazingly, scientists are discovering that hexagons are found in our most elementary molecules. The fullerene, first discovered in 1985, resembles a soccer ball, made of hexagons and pentagons. It’s existence was elusive for a long time - it is actually an elementary carbon molecule. The shape captures the imaginations of scientists and artists alike.

The fullerene was named after Buckminster Fuller, a pioneering architect who utilized hexagons to create Geodesic domes (like Epcot in Disney World and the biodome in Montreal). Geodesic domes are still explored as a way to create super-efficient and affordable shelter. Similarly, the molecule unleashes a bounty of possibilities in scientific research. It’s elongated relative, the nanotube, is made of tons of tiny hexagons.

When soap bubbles cluster, they tend to form hexagons. Bubbles are all about compromise. When one bubble meets another, they immediately form a wall, in attempts to minimize surface area. Even in larger, complex soap bubble scenarios (like foam) bubbles will always meet at a 120º angle. There’s something to think about in the shower.

The hexagon is hyper-sophisticated. Its elegant. it is futuristic and innovative. It is simple and classic. It contains unforeseen possibilities and certain efficiency. It can create innovative futuristic architectures, and simple beautiful designs. Sometimes it can do both at the same time. We are interested in simple beautiful design. Who knows where hexagons will take us?

We Love the Gibson Typeface

The Gibson Typeface is what we use on our packaging - it’s unique and it stands out. It’s bold. It’s elegant. Masculine and unusual. Its personality feels right at home communicating what it needs to about our products. And like all things made great, it has a bold history to match its astute nature.

The font was created by Rod McDonald, and produced by Patrick Griffin and Kevin King of Canada Type, an independent font development studio in Toronto. Gibson is named to honor John Gibson, Rod’s friend and colleague. He was also the founding member of the Graphic Designers of Canada. John Gibson led a prolific life as a designer. The typeface is relatively young - created in 2011. Make no mistake though, this font’s pre-internet, low-tech legacy stretches back for decades.

John Gibson was born in 1928 and hails from across the pond, where he trained in London, United Kingdom at Camberwell College of Arts and Design, as well as the London School of Printing in the early 1950s. Here he was an apprentice hand compositor, which means that he was training to set type by hand (that’s how newspapers and books were printed before fancy electric machines and computers).

He eventually found his way to Canada, working with the Typographic Designers of Canada. He brought the legacy of handcrafted text with him, which were the foundations of his work into the 21st century. After becoming the first National President of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada in 1976; he influenced the work of others across Canada and the world. The font is reminiscent of the simplicity of handcrafted text; but still gets along quite nicely with our fast-paced environment.

The Gibson Typeface is a humanist sans serif font - which means that, it has a very high stroke contrast. It is simplistic, missing serifs, the fancy “feet” you can find on a font like Times New Roman or Courier. It is designed to be easy on the eye; leading the viewer to the next word and the next line. It is great for long reads and small text, transforming the most tedious reads into a pleasant experience.

The font is still distributed by Canada Type. The font is attractive and affordable, ideal for designers who want to work on a budget while creating a sleek design. Want to know a particularly great about Canada Type? They place revenue from the font back into design education and the creative arts in Canada; crafting the future of design for years to come. If it borrows some vigor from the Gibson typeface, we are thinking that future will be pretty bright and handsome. We are lucky to have a font this good-looking and hardworking on our products - we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.