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3D Chess

We’re always exploring different technologies, so it was only natural that we’d test out 3D printing at some point. Our Philosophy icons seemed like the ideal piece of our visual identity to extend into another dimension. And what better way to realize our problem-solving strategies than with a chess set?

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We used Tinkercad to create the models right in the browser (their technology is pretty amazing), and we sent them through with a click to Shapeways for printing and delivery.

What did we learn? Tinkercad provides a handful of primitive 3D objects, so creating organic shapes (like the cat’s tail) was a difficult but rewarding design challenge. We also had to invent details and views that had never been considered in the 2D version, while ensuring that the icons didn’t lose their elegant simplicity along the way.


Scale was another challenge: we wanted the pieces to be large and weighty enough to feel good in the hand, but small enough to remain delicate and intricate. Chess pieces are identified not just by shape, but also by size, so we had to be sure that all the pieces were scaled relative to each other. We also learned the limits of certain materials: the details on the penny farthing bicycle, for example, had to be fattened in order to print well. Alyssa, our designer on the project, began with zero knowledge of 3D modeling. Now she’s hooked, and she’s moved on to learning advanced software, like Blender.

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Rule No. 10 Keep Learning

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