InShow 21, the cube

‘Sticking’ with tradition.

InShow is AIGA South Carolina's annual awards program that honors the best work in the state of South Carolina. And each year, the award is in the shape of a cube.

It's the 21st InShow, but the 14th cube. The original cube design and current InShow logo were created by Vince McCall back when InShow was run by The Columbia Communicating Arts Society. AIGA South Carolina took over with InShow 10... We've kept the tradition going, and each year, the InShow cube is made from a different material or reflects a theme. So far, we've had: 

Aluminum. Concrete. Cardboard. Fauxquarium. Ceramic. Toy Block. Junction Boxes. Fake Cheese. Present. Pillow. Lumber. Paper. Chalkboard. 

And now Firewood. 

A pile of cubes about to be awarded.

A pile of cubes about to be awarded.

This year's cube is a bundle of kindling, tied together with twine. The logo is spray painted over the twine and the winners' names were printed on labels and tied to the sticks. The special judges awards used red twine. I won't bore you with the details, but building 42 "firewood" cubes was time consuming. 

It's one of my favorite designs, although I really do love them all. I've had a hand in a bunch of cubes over the years, but I'm going to hand off responsibility for next year's cube. It really is a great project and it's time to let someone else have some fun. Plus, I think I've used up almost* all the ideas floating around my garage.

Almost final prototypes... I decided not to hand letter the tags on the final cubes.

Almost final prototypes... I decided not to hand letter the tags on the final cubes.

* I can't tell you how many times I've tried — and failed — to make an affordable candle cube. It's the one that got away...

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he thinks about new cube concepts. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Building Blocks

Laser cut InShow logo

AIGA South Carolina’s InShow design awards were held last weekend. The award is always a cube — constructed from a different material every year.

I’ve been involved in the design and assembly of cubes in the past, designing the junction box cube in 2008 and helping with the pillow cubes last year. So I was really excited to design this year’s InShow cubes.

Maria Fabrizo was creating the supporting materials and was taking a rustic approach. Over the years, I’ve created a small collection of rejected cube prototypes. One prototype that I had experimented with previously was a wood block, made from a 6x6 timber cut into cubes. It seemed like a perfect fit for the theme.

I looked at a couple of different ways to add the logo and winner’s information to the blocks and settled on a plan to fabricate face plates and bolt them onto the solid blocks of wood.

The face plate — laser cut and engraved.

I used Ponoko to laser cut and engrave the face plates, cutting the InShow logo into a sheet of bamboo plywood. And the cutting and engraving were done at one time so personalization was really easy.

Ponoko is a really interesting service — just upload an EPS file and they cut your design into a material of your choice. And they provided great service and support. (I’ve used Ponoko before. See my 2009 blog post about building a book shelf with their service.)

Once we got the face plates, we just had to screw them onto the cubes. Brynley Farr from ByFarr Design was able to get some awesome remnant wood from Southland Log Homes and had it cut into cubes. In all, we assembled almost 70 cubes.

The face plates were screwed onto a solid block of wood. Check out the awesome wood grain on the side.

On the best of show and the special judges awards, the background of the InShow logos were painted — red for best of show and gold for the special judges award. (Check out this blog post from Fuzzco who won 10 cubes including best of show.)

Sew Awesome

I was excited to help with the assembly of AIGA South Carolina’s InShow award for this year. Every year, the InShow “cube” is made of different materials or themes. Aluminum, concrete, cardboard, faux-quarium, ceramic, wood block, junction boxes, faux-cheese, a wrapped present and now…

The pillow cube was one we always wanted to do, but we never had the time to manufacture them all. So when Frances Grosse told me that they were going to finally do fabric cubes, I volunteered to help sew them. Frances picked out the fabric and patches and then she, Maria Fabrizio and I sewed cubes. The tags were created by Harrison Croft and pinned to the cube. (They aren’t in the picture above because these cubes are leftovers…) Definitely one of my favorite cubes.

Also: See my post from 2008 that details the process for making the junction box cubes.

Congrats to the InShow 16 winners

InShow is AIGA South Carolina’s annual design competition and pulls together the best work from around South Carolina. This year, I only entered one thing into the competition as Sketchbook B and wasn’t shocked when it didn’t win…

As I looked at the incredible collection of work, I was surprised to find Sketchbook B included as a credit on one of the winning entries. My friend Marius included Sketchbook B as a “typeface design” credit on his Unwantables Package Design that used Valdes Poster Sans, the typeface that we developed together. The piece was even selected as a special judges award. So congrats to Marius and thanks for including Sketchbook B on the entry. 

I encourage you visit the InShow site and look at the winning entries. There was some amazing work “in” this year. Check out Marius’s amazing (and massive) collection of work at Zoo Valdes. And remember that you can download Valdes Poster Sans for free here at Sketchbook B.


To build an InShow Cube

InShow is AIGA South Carolina’s annual design competition. While most design competitions have plaques, statuettes, acrylic blocks and other mass-produced awards, InShow has the “cube.”

Every year, the cube is manufactured from a different material. It’s been aluminum, concrete, cardboard, acrylic, ceramic and wood and is always roughly 5 inches.

 The final prototype for the 2008 InShow Cube.

This year’s cube

The cube for the 14th Annual InShow was manufactured out of electrical boxes and carriage bolts.

I actually built the prototype for this year’s show as a backup for last year. The wood cubes had been shipped, but there was a slight possibility they would not arrive in time for the Gala. So I went to Home Depot and assembled a quick prototype from off the shelf parts. Something we could assemble quickly if the wood awards did not arrive.

However, the wood cubes did arrive in time, so the electrical box prototype was saved for the 2008 show.

Original prototype with duct tape hiding gap in the center and black labeling.

The challenge of the custom award

I was at least partially involved with the last five cubes: cardboard, acrylic, ceramic, wood and now electrical box cubes. And I’ve learned a lot from the process. There are several specific challenges to building a custom award.

Find a material. For the InShow cube, we use a new material every year. And every year, we go through a bunch of concepts and ideas. The cube needs to have a certain aesthetic value - after all it is an award - so the material needs to look nice when completed. And budget is an issue, too. An expensive material or process can completely throw the budget off.

The parts for the electrical box cubes came off the shelf from local hardware stores. We debated a few finishing options - like using duct tape to hide the gap between the boxes or some different combinations of parts. But in the end, we went with the cleanest execution of the concept.

The last five InShow cube prototypes.

Now make 60. It’s one thing to make a prototype. It’s another thing entirely to make 60 awards. Whatever concept you settle on has to scale. Building 60 cubes can be a massive undertaking, especially if you don’t think it through completely. Part of the design process is figuring out the most efficient way to build a larger quantity.

However, 60 is also too small of a number to be efficiently produced using a large-scale manufacturing process. So much of the work is done by hand.

The only scale related issue with the electrical box cube was finding enough electrical boxes. This is not a commonly used box size and is not stocked in large quantities. And with 2 boxes per cube, we were looking for 120 boxes. I had to buy all the stock at three different hardware stores to find enough boxes.

Whose award is it? The hardest and most time consuming part of building a custom award is personalization. The award has the name of the winning firm and title of entry. We also have a handful of judge’s awards that need to look a little different than the regular award.

I used a Dymo 3-D label maker to put the names on the awards. On the prototype, I used black labels and spray painted a black InShow logo. I wanted the label to look more intentional and so I experimented with different combinations. I finally settled on silver labels - which meant I had to spray paint the completed labels. I was a little more time consuming, but I felt the more subtle effect from silver labels on the silver box was worth the extra effort.

I changed the color of the InShow logo from black to dark gray (although most people still thinks it looks black). The special judges awards sported magenta logos - an accent color we picked up from the Call for Entries mailer.

Four prototype faceplates for the awards.

So what’s next?

I have no idea.* Lots of concepts have been thrown around, and every year, it becomes that much harder to find another concept. But inevitably, someone will come up with a material and an execution that will work.

* Okay, I have a few ideas. And even a few more prototypes…