Dieter Rams: Design Awesome

Posted by Lance Atkins on August 12, 2011 1 Comment

Dieter Rams, a legendary German industrial designer, has been around for a few years. He began designing gorgeous products for Braun starting in the 1950's and is still showing up with great ideas and products.

Rams is the design hero of Apple's Jonathan Ive, the senior VP of industrial design in Cupertino. Jonathan Ive is the artist behind the iPod, MacBooks, iPad, and darn near everything we've grown to love from Apple.

Rams has recently said "Apple has accomplished what I couldn't." and that Apple is the only company truly practicing great design.

Dieter Rams pursuit of design led him to ten principles of good design:

  • Innovative - Rams states that possibilities for innovation in design are unlikely to be exhausted since technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. He also highlights that innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in and of itself.
  • Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
  • Is aesthetic - Only well-executed objects can be beautiful. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products used every day have an effect on people and their well-being.
  • Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  • Is unobtrusive - Products and their design should be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools and are neither decorative objects nor works of art.

  • Is honest - Honest design should not attempt to make a product seem more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It should not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  • Is long-lasting - It should avoid being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even when the trend may be in favor for disposable products.
  • Is thorough down to the last detail - Dieter Rams states that nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance in the design of a product since care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  • Is environmentally friendly - Good design should make an important contribution to the preservation of the environment by conserving resources and minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  • Is as little design as possible - Dieter Rams makes the distinction between the common "Less is more" and his strongly advised "Less, but better" highlighting the fact that this approach focuses on the essential aspects thus, the products are not burdened with non-essentials. The desirable result would then be purer and simpler.
Here's to you, Dieter.

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If neoprene and bamboo were to fight, who would win?

Posted by Greg Hydle on August 03, 2011 1 Comment

Cheers to obviousamerica for the most down to earth review of an iPad 2 Bamboo Blackbox Case yet.  

"Neoprene is for old people with bad knees."

We couldn't agree more.

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Colorado's First IKEA

Posted by Greg Hydle on July 28, 2011 0 Comments

In celebration of IKEA finally opening their first store in Colorado - we have been working on a new product specifically for this retail outlet.

What would you pay for something as beautiful as this from your favorite IKEA?

Don't forget - we actually make a real iPad 2 case... made from Bamboo :)


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Hello From Australia

Posted by Greg Hydle on July 12, 2011 0 Comments


Cheers to Glenn Dwyer for sharing his Original Oak Blackbox Case with us from Australia.  He is a huge Coors Light fan - like us... but unfortunately isn't able to purchase the cold taste of the Rockies in his home town of Gosford, New South Wales.  

On my trip to Chicaco last week I spoke with the Miller Coors big wigs about solving this dilemma... over a beer - and a Blackbox Case.  I can't definitely say his problem will be solved in the coming months - but I definitely can't say it won't either.

Cheers Glenn!


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5 Reasons We Love What We Do

Posted by Anthony Evans on July 11, 2011 1 Comment

Reason 1: We Live and Work in Golden, Colorado!

  • We get to work in one of the best places in the world! Our shop is located in the beautiful city of Golden, Colorado. Here we are only an hour away from 7 world class ski resorts including Winter Park, Breckenridge and Vail. Golden is also home to Coors Brewing (our shop is only a few minutes from them). Our shop is nestled right up against the foothills of the great Rocky Mountains. At any moment, we are a mere few minutes from rafting, mountain biking or hiking. Golden is hands down one of the best places to live!

Reason 2: Creative Freedom

  • Any artist knows that part of making something is the ability to be creative. We take the exact same approach when designing our cases. We are constantly trying to come up with new and effective ways of creating our cases. When we create a new case design, you bet we love to show it off. And with a shop full of tools that could cut your hand off at any moment, we can build anything our hearts can dream of. Perfection is our passion when creating these cases. Each case goes through a rigorous check to make sure it meets all standards before it's shipped to you. Only the best make it.

Reason 3: Co-Workers are Key

  • We are firm believers that the people you surround yourself with are the people who influence your life the most. Here at BlackBox Case, we try and create an environment where everyone's opinion matters. There's nothing like feeling as if the company you work for values you as an employee. We are always asking our team mates for their input on ways we can better our product. The people we have here represent over 30 years of experiences in woodworking expertise! From custom furniture building to hardwood flooring, we've seen the industry in many different ways. Our boss is one of the best people we know. He is loyal, caring and kicks butt when it comes to building anything custom.

Reason 4: We Get to Work with Power Tools!

  • Maybe it's just a guy thing, but there's nothing better than getting and using new tools. Every time we buy a new tool, we use the crap out of it. Currently, we have already destroyed 3 routers, a couple of drills and a belt sander (which we jumped off the top of our offices). Our machinery gets a lot of use so we are constantly doing research as to who builds the best power tools. And we believe that quality products speak for them selves. When a company takes the time to build a quality tool, you bet they will have returning customers because they know that building a product that works is more important than just making a sale.

Reason 5: We Love To Hear Your Story

  • We know and believe that good customer service goes a long way. If someone doesn't stand behind their product, why should the consumer? That's why we always do our best to serve our customers. We love to hear feedback from you! If you're happy about your case let us know. If your unhappy with it, let us know as well. We want to know what can do in the future to improve our customer service. If you have any questions, concerns, praise or skepticism, please let us know, that is what we are here for.

We hope you enjoy your purchase as much as we love making them! Cheers to making awesome stuff!


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Happy 4th of July

Posted by Anthony Evans on July 04, 2011 0 Comments

Happy 4th of July from us here at BlackBox Case!

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Blackbox Case Photo of the Day

Posted by Greg Hydle on June 23, 2011 2 Comments


We have started to track the artful work of Blackbox case owners from around the world.  If you have a photo you would like to share... and maybe be featured in our "Photo of the Day" facebook album... upload and tag your Blackbox Case and it will not go unnoticed.

The most creative and liked photo at the end of each month will win a special Blackbox Case surprise --- oooh the things we could make for you.

Todays photo comes from Adam Crook at his home in the British Virgin Islands.  Adam, a soon to be olympic half pipe skier, is documenting his travels through a 365 day photo blog named after his 10 toes and where they take him.

Our question to you Adam... is how did you learn how to ski so well without any snow??

Thanks for sharing.


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Working on the Future Blackbox Case Lineup

Posted by Greg Hydle on June 14, 2011 0 Comments


Say hello to your soon to be future Blackbox Case lineup - That is all for now!


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The Boss Is Married

Posted by Greg Hydle on June 14, 2011 0 Comments

Chief Dreamer Lance has tied the knot and is now enjoying his 2 month honeymoon adventure around the world.  Where they are going and when will they return?... we honestly don't know.

So in celebration of enjoying even more creative freedom then we are used to... (which is a lot!)  We are ramping up some new products to offer in the shop.

Cheers to Bamboo and Congratulations Lance + Nicole!


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Seize the day boys. Let your life be amazing.

Posted by Lance Atkins on May 17, 2011 1 Comment

Go for it, Friends.

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Simplistically Complex: Blackbox Case Design Philosophy

Posted by Lance Atkins on May 03, 2011 3 Comments

There is a fundamental in engineering: simplicity is really, really, really hard to accomplish. It’s just easier to make more complicated whopperdads than it is to make the material work magic for you.

We’ve fallen in love with simplicity. We’ve come to believe the precision of purpose and cleanliness is a thing of beauty. It fills our Moleskines full of notes, drawings, and daydreams. We won’t stop refining until the day we don’t make cases anymore, and we strive for this in every Blackbox Case.

The opening of the cases is derived from a perfect mathematical equation. The rubber feet are drilled-and-glued into the case. They will never, ever fall off. We promise. The leather strap is laser cut and hand numbered. The wool felt liner fits your Macbook or iPad 2 as perfectly as you can imagine it could. The wood and bamboo forms a serious hard shell case that takes abuse and also draws tons of coffee shop gawkers. It’s a flowing piece of wood, taken to its limits. No case is ever identical.

We believe in Apple’s ability to design georgeous products. We seek to let you keep that user experience without covering your iPad in a large silicone blob.

We have fun making these. In 6 months, we have seen one defective product return (and a few wrong-sized orders.) Love-poem-emails aren’t uncommon.

We appreciate all of you. You guys have cases wandering around 27 different countries now. We got an email the other day saying “I spotted a Blackbox Case in Saudi Arabia…” We’ve been flooded with good-people-turned-friends.

Keep having fun. We’ll do the same. And stop by for a beer, too.

-Lance Atkins

Chief Dreamer

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Lost Art of the Handshake

Posted by Lance Atkins on April 19, 2011 4 Comments

“My first business loan from the bank was done with just a handshake.”

In a rural farm town of Colorado, my father started selling tractors in 1971. Leon Atkins Motors started peddling Minneapolis Moline tractors, then Ford cars, and the rest is history. Recently, 40 years later, he sold his business.

But wait...his business was bank-financed with only a handshake as a promise? That banker, without legal contract, trusted his word?

I grew up working at Leon Atkins Motors, and more than I remember the farm equipment, I remember the people. I got to see a lot of handshakes. I got to waste a lot of time shooting the breeze with farmers. They’re always worried about too little rain and they’re also good people working hard to make a living. We left the keys in the parked car and always waved when passing on the street. It’s as if there was a hint of “I trust you” built into everyday life.

The world, and business, has become a convoluted place. Contracts, rules, and worry are all hard to avoid. Don’t forget to pay your cell phone bill and don’t be 5 minutes late to your next meeting.

Being a local business in Golden, CO, we have gotten to experience some handshake deals lately. We're working with Bill, a local cabinet maker. He helped us with a big project and only said, “We’ll figure out the numbers later.” We are brainstorming an urban-wood-recycling project with Jonathan, a local tree trimmer. He gave us some amazing wood to play with and asked for nothing, just a “See you soon.” Friends, local business owners, and complete strangers have been coming out of the woodwork to help. We can't help but feel like we get to be a part of a family.

Let’s bring back handshakes.


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The Science of Creating Art

Posted by Lance Atkins on March 21, 2011 1 Comment

Picasso painted some pretty crazy stuff. It didn’t really make sense to many people. Actually, Picasso proved his talent early on in life painting realistic things… people, buildings, boring.

Then, one day, I imagine he said, “I’m gonna paint whatever the hell I want.”

…and out came this…

Picasso is one of the greatest artists of our time. He created something new, something fresh, something crazy.

I’m sure Picasso felt crazy sometimes… I’d bet that’s because everyone told him he was. People are taught to mini-dream and execute logic. Don’t be that, People.

In the science of creating art, you will dig up some problems. First, people will think you’re crazy. They may try to point out all the flaws of your business plan or tell you why you need to incorporate some new whopper-dad-gidget on your invention. You won’t feel full of “wisdom” because, frankly, you don’t have it. Wisdom is born of experience. We’re now in the business of New.

Next, the experts will think you’re crazy. For example, we started asking people that work with bamboo if we could use bamboo on our iPad and MacBook cases. We found that the experts are afraid of what we’re trying to engineer. It won’t work. So finally we tried. We came up with 10 more problems, solved them, and now have probably the coolest material on earth to make cases with. You’ll be seeing these cases soon.

The side effect of risking craziness, creating art, and trying is that you’ll have fun. Make. New. Art. 

 "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."  —Albert Einstein

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iPad 2 Cases -

Posted by Lance Atkins on March 11, 2011 7 Comments

Good evening family! We've been holed up in our hangar designing and dreaming. We've demanded perfection because nothing else will do for family. On iPad 2 Eve, The time has now come to give you our best. Let the wrapping paper fly...

Introducing, and immediately shipping, the new Blackbox Case for iPad 2.

We wanted to preserve your experience of using the gorgeous new iPad 2 without having a bulky case permanently stuck to it. You deserve the impossible dance of beauty and function. The solid oak body is sanded and finished 'till your friends say "wow." Book bags will squish iPads no more. That iPad's glass screen will survive a fall. It's just the width of a wine cork. Hand cut, hand sanded, handmade with love from your brothers down the road in Golden, Colorado. We're pretty excited about this one.

Think outside the iPad. Welcome to the crew, iPad 2 Case.

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Will your MacBook Pro fit a Blackbox Case?

Posted by Lance Atkins on March 01, 2011 1 Comment

Been wondering if your MacBook will fit into a Blackbox Case? We've decided to cure the confusion:

MacBook Pro Case fitting guide

And, as always, please email us with any further questions!

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New 17" MacBook Pro Case!

Posted by Lance Atkins on February 26, 2011 1 Comment

Friends, we're excited to announce the newest product to our family, our gorgeous Blackbox Case for Apple's Unibody 17" MacBook Pro!

We've been working hard to make sure it's perfect. We humbly give you our finest...


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Bob Vila made us build Macbook Pro Cases

Posted by Lance Atkins on February 22, 2011 1 Comment

O’ Bob Vila


Your love of wood ignited inside a passion

Mentoring children, television lit

Teaching house building

Enchanting you were, trouble we were no more

You keep building, follow we did with love

Staircases and patios we dream of

Your steady woodworking hands guide our future

You words are woodglue to our soul

Patrons thank your guiding hands

Craftily we go into thou world

“Build” you say with confident, paternal voice

Build we shall

May we honor your life with our art

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Riskism and Fearifying

Posted by Lance Atkins on February 15, 2011 1 Comment

Poker. What a great game. I love that it is a game of logic and confidence. Bluffing? Act calm. Have a full house? Act calm. I’ve always liked that it teaches me to stay faithful, even when nervous.

I’ve always found a measure of success playing poker like it’s “not my money.” I’m not advocating emptying grandpa’s bank account, but only the act of “letting go” of something dear to you. If you’re afraid to lose your money, you probably will.

I recently got engaged to the most lovely girl named Nicole. The next time a friendly poker game occurred, I thought, “Be responsible and careful, you’re getting married.” That fear, combined with my decision to still play poker, led to me losing my chips at the end of the night. My fear led to my loss.

What is it about fear of losing that paralyzes us? A business owner might find it harder to keep his business dynamically moving because it is his own money.  An inventor stops inventing because he has a baby on the way. A basketball player doesn’t take that shot because he’s afraid of blowing it.

I propose a new road. Let your fear be okay.  There is a strange freedom in that fear. Freedom is a strange thing. It can’t be caught nor trapped. Rather, it comes and finds you. So go dig up your fire-fighter-child-dreams. Go pursue the ones you love like they will never leave you. Go write that book you’ve dreamed of. Go travel the world. Go. It’ll work.




and please share the journey with us too…


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MacBook Air: A Guide to Falling in Love

Posted by Lance Atkins on February 07, 2011 5 Comments

Two months ago, we welcomed a MacBook Air to our Blackbox Case family. Our decision was based upon pure logic. The MacBook Air was a very *cough* practical, necessary purchase for us. Kind of like an IBM Thinkpad…

Actually, it’s the high-end 13” screen model, full of 4gb of ram and a 256 gig SSD.

We have fallen hopelessley in love. It’s just amazing. It kicked out a faster 15” Intel Core i7 MacBook Pro, so the Air isn’t technically a performance upgrade. Here is our gut reaction to the Air, we will save you the nerd-detail-review: 

-It's oh-my-gosh light. 2.9 pounds. Almost 3 pounds lighter than the 15" MacBook Pro workhorse I was using. It's so portable, it may inspire you to travel to new corners of the earth to get work done.

-One thing I hate about MacBook Pros is the sharp, tall front lip of the computer. The Air has a low lip that doesn’t scrape your carpal tunnel wrist area. I am now known to continuously compute for 71+ hours without wrist blisters. Relief.

-Oh lordy is it fast! The processor is %30 slower than the Intel Core i7 equipped 15” pro I used to rely on. But the solid state drive makes it feel much more “snappy” than any computer I’ve ever owned. Loading applications doesn’t give me time to take a sip of coffee anymore.

-It fell out of the car, took a concrete gash, and has kept on rocking. We may have to make an Air case, eh?

- I never, ever, ever use an optical drive. The Air doesn’t have one. Without fail, two weeks into my AirLove, I desperately wanted to watch a DVD and could not. You can exchange your “not watching DVD” time for “People admire me for my MacBook Air” time now.

-Coffee shops are filled with loiterers wanting to see that “neat little thing.” Consider it your best meet-people-business-card ever.

-I don’t mind my workflow with a smaller 13” screen. If design work gets really crazy, it gets plugged into a 22” monitor.


If you’re thinking about a MacBook Pro, try to change your mind. A few more dollars and you will have a fast, lighter, more comfortable piece of art. Kudos, Apple. Kudos

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Make a wood wedding ring with 2 hours and $30

Posted by Lance Atkins on February 01, 2011 6 Comments

Hi. It's Lance here. I may or may not be getting married this summer. So I made a wood wedding ring because wearing a tungsten ring would be like selling my soul to the devil. Well, kind of like that.

Make one yourself:

This one is made out of birdseye maple, but you could use any sort of wood. Get yourself some wood veneer (make sure it's thin, pure wood with no backing-stuff) and a sterling silver ring liner. Take a strip of your veneer and put a dab of super glue on your ring liner to stick it to the veneer:

After the super glue has dried, sand down the small tab of wood sticking off the ring. Your goal is to get the wood to wind up smoothly without any big bumps in the roll.

take your strip of wood and soak it in hot water for about 10 minutes until saturated and pliable. This will help it wind up around the ring without cracking. lay the strip flat on the table and brush on a thin coat of  White drying Gorilla Glue. This glue cures with moisture, so it's perfect for wet wood.

Once the glue is on, snugly wind up the wood strip around the ring. You'll only need to wind about 12" of wood to get enough thickness to the ring. Tightly tape or clamp the ring to keep it from unwinding while drying. The glue will foam up as it cures, filling any small gaps.

Let it set for an hour, then attack it with some sandpaper until you get your desired shape. I would recommend starting with ~80 grit (really coarse) to get it to shape, then 120 grit then 180 grit (very fine, to a smooth surface without sanding marks.) You may also want to use various grits of 3M Sanding Sponges (Home Depot) because they're, well, wonderful. For this ring, I was able to wedge the ring onto a round, tapered screwdriver handle, put the screwdriver shaft in a drill, and spin it. This will do the sanding work for you and help easily get the ring symmetrical quickly.

Once you have the ring sanded to shape, I recommend a wipe-on, soak, wipe-off, and repeat finish. After about 4 coats, go wear your ring!


I got married June 3 to the most wonderful girl. We honeymooned in South America and decided to wear wooden rings for the six week adventure. I'm blown away with how good they faired on the road. The oil in my skin actually is helping the ring to look better with time and scratches are not a problem. Here's a his-and-hers set. The red wood you see is Padauk and yes, that is the natural color of the wood. The black "cap" on my ring is ebony wood, and has been epoxied to the top of the rough ring, then sanded to shape. Enjoy!

So, we're not selling rings at the time (but with all your requests we might have to) but we do make really excellent wood cases for Apple products. We've just launched a huge project to preorder our brand new line of cases.... Bamboo! We can cover you and your loved ones' MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or iPad 2 and have it to you in time for Christmas. Feel free to meander over to Kickstarter, where we have launched the project.

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