It all started way back in the dear old early nineties, when my biggest concern was what color jellies to ask for for my birthday (classic clear or pool party turquoise) and which side of my head to put my ponytail on. I met a little tiny thing named Casey (yep, still tiny) and we hit it off. Our love for silliness, our sugar-high giggles, and our second child status brought us together, and she became one of my bestest friends.
Fast forward 20 years and we’re young (married, AH!) professionals, one in Orlando and the other in Durham, NC. Entrepreneurs at heart, Casey and her husband founded a photography business and decided recently it was time to rebrand and refocus. So they came to us! And it was SO nice to reconnect. I’m currently planning my NC beer/food tour to see what all this Durham stink is about…get ready Case!
This brand was another dream project for us. Working with an artist with a discerning eye can be challenging, but not this one. Casey came into the project knowing exactly what she wanted, with amazing design inspiration and working diligently with me to bring her vision to life. Again, we brought on our super-talented team at 48 Savvy Sailors and came up with this identity system. AND we are getting the business cards letterpressed with our friends over at 9th Letterpress. Ah! Love!
Urban South has a super incredible portfolio (do yourself a favor and check it out here), and I am so proud to call them my friends. I love them dearly and am so excited to see where this new venture takes them!
2012 was Hatchet’s biggest year yet. We made some excellent new client relationships and continued moving forward into new markets that support our core values. I doubt many designers ever land what could truly be called a “dream job” in that you find a client you respect to the utmost degree in regards to their craft and they in return trust you in your professional quantity. We found one such client this year in Randall Made Knives.
Let me tell you a story:
As a young boy, no older than 8 or 9, I can remember rifling through my dad’s junk drawer. “Junk Drawer” is a funny term because I suspect most men create one of these somewhere during their lives where they actually store all the ephemera and collectibles they find valuable over the years. Regardless, after sifting through binoculars, flashlights, fishing lures, and other treasures I pulled from the drawer an enormous fixed blade knife. To a small boy it seemed like a sword. It was kept in a leather sheath that had a sharpening stone pocket on the front. My dad caught me with it before I could do any real damage (luckily!) and instructed me on its origins.
“This, son, is a Randall knife. Easily the finest knife money can buy. I got this one before you were born when we lived in Orlando. I drove out to their factory and tried to order one and they said it would be 2 years before I would receive my knife. Luckily for me, some poor sap went bankrupt between ordering and picking up his knife and I just bought this one they had in the show room.” my Pa said. That is a loose paraphrase but I’ll never forget the details.
My Dad’s actual Model #14 Attack. It’s the same one that appears in our portfolio shots!
So I bragged to my friends for years about the awesome knife my dad had lying in his junk drawer wrapped in an old undershirt. Little did I know what lay in store for the future of Randall Knives and the Claytor Clan.
Fast forward 17 years and after graduating college and getting some experience in the real world, my wife and I start a design firm that has progressed steadily for two years. We work closely with a dear family friend, one Kathy Paiva, who is well established in the printing industry here in Orlando. I interned with her to learn the business in my formative college years, then once we started our firm she was our sole printing contact for important jobs. She met my wife Morgan and they formed a fast friendship. The rest is history.
We did her some favors in the way of design and sent as many jobs her way as we could and she always tried to drive folks our way for design work. She approached us with one such job saying:
“I have this small job for a client of mine I’ve had for years.”
“Oh?” I responded with the usual trepidation that arises from the word “small” related to possible projects.
“Yes, it’s a small business here in Orlando who is about to celebrate their 75th anniversary and needs a new cover design for their brochure,” she replied.
“75 years is impressive! What exactly do they do?”
“They are a knife shop off OBT who create these beautiful knives…”
“Knives? It’s not Randall Knives is it!?”
“Yes! You’ve heard of them?”
“Heard of them! My dad owned one and it was his most coveted possession to his 3 young, weapon-obsessed boys! I can’t believe we may get to work with Randall Made Knives!” I stammered. I immediately called to brag to my dad about our potential new client.
We headed out to their factory for a tour a few weeks later with a few designs in hand. At our meeting was Gary Randall, the son of Bo Randall the founder of RMK, and Valerie Rivera, the much respected den mother of the operation. Our designs were very well received. So much so that we signed on to revamp the entire interior of the catalog along with the cover. It was one of those surreal meetings where everything fell into place and we left with more work than when we went in. Not to mention touring the Randall facilities and seeing their in-progress museum was a childhood dream come true. I could barely contain my excitement at our new venture.
The catalog wrapped after a month or so, printed and delivered. The project had gone so well we wanted to meet again to discuss Randall’s website for a potential upgrade. There was a strong disconnect between the brand and quality of product Randall delivers and the experience offered on their site. We presented a few quick concepts just to show off our ideas. After a quick demo of what we envisioned for the site, Gary was sold on the update and we went to work.
Aside from the big “hero” shots of the knives in the homepage slider, one of my favorite features is the random background image showing off gorgeous outdoors environs.
The new design was fresh while paying homage to the company’s history and heritage, incorporating modern tech with a look and feel that spoke to a rugged, outdoorsy audience. The new site featured profile pages for each of Randall’s 28 models and all non-catalog knives. Extensive detail was taken to highlight all customizations and offerings Randall provides that total thousands of possible knife variations. The final addition was an online ordering system allowing customers to pay their deposit and outline a detailed order in addition to settling up on their invoice once the knives were ready. As far as care and detail is concerned, this was one of the largest sites we had undertaken. It took a couple months of meetings and reviews to get the site just right and we proudly launched it October 31st of last year.
Since it’s launch the ordering and catalog requests have gone through the roof in spite of a quiet unveiling. Gary and Valerie were fast learners on the new software we installed and are up to full strength sifting though orders and mailing out their signature catalogs. Orders are up, much to Gary and Valerie’s dismay, as the waiting period was down to 4.5 years and now may be approaching 5 again.
Aside from the romantic, coincidental element of my connecting with Randall Knives after all these years, this story has taught us many valuable lessons at Hatchet. We are exceedingly proud of the work completed during these projects and feel that the level of trust between client and designer are what afforded that luxury. Our interest in and respect for Randall Made Knives got our creative process going and their trust, and sometimes faith, in us as trade designers was the perfect storm which designers thrive on. It was a lightning strike of a client with a stellar product and high design needs, and a design group passionate about the client’s product and with a complementary skill set to deliver just what was needed.
It may not be easy to find these types of relationships but we learned what to strive for. We have to thank our dear friend Kathy Paiva for making the introduction and setting all this in motion. We also have to thank Gary and Valerie from RMK for their contributions to the project and allowing us the opportunity to work on such a great account.
Back when we started in 2009, as a recent graduate and not too sure what the future held, starting on this journey was both scary and exciting, but really there was nothing to lose. The economy had tanked, the job offer I had was not what I wanted to be doing, and the boy was feeling like he needed a change. So we got to work.
Now, three years later, it seems we have everything to lose. We have built a life, from the ground up, with Hatchet being the lifeblood. In its most elemental form, it is the umbilical cord that connects us to a life of passion and purpose. Without it, we would be hard-pressed to take this much ownership and stock in our own lives, in our successes and our failures. It is truly something we can get behind and stand up for, a priceless commodity in today’s climate.
We are more aware of who we are and what we stand for than ever before, and as we approach this fourth year of existence we intend to be more active in creating a path to the life we desire, rather than the one that is right in front of us. We have added a player to the team. One who we feel will bring amazing things to the table, as we hope to do for him.
And so, we would like to thank each and every one of you for all that you have helped us to build. Without strength in numbers and a few key people who were instrumental in our establishment, we would not be here today. We are excited for what this new year will bring, and we hope you’ll be there to drink more of our beer next year :)
We are exceedingly proud to launch our new website chock full of new work, a fresh new blog, and loads of details on your neighborhood design shop. Hatchet has grown with new clients, new work, and even a new face, all now on display on our new virtual home.
Stay tuned for our latest work, hatchet news, and new offerings, products, and services all headed your way as we enter our third year in business. The future sure looks exciting and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it with you here!