The Art of Tinkering 

TheArtOfTinkering.jpgWhen Weldon Owen approached us with their latest project produced in conjunction with The San Francisco Exploratorium, it's fair to say we were pretty excited about the potential of the project. Weldon Owen had been asked to provide a book that was "sciency", that you could play with, to form part of the upcoming exhibition about tinkering with everyday objects. The brief was that the book itself should be one of those everyday objects that you could 'hack' and turn into something entirely new!

Conductive Ink Book Cover

We aren't quite sure now who first came up with the idea to use conductive ink but once the idea had been conceived it became evident fairly early on that we were on to a winner!  With the addition of a battery and an LED the user can power the book into action.   The carbon based ink was printed onto a stiff tip-on and applied to the book cover thus avoiding the risk of the ink being rubbed off during binding.

Printing with Carbon Ink

As simple as it may sound to buy some carbon ink and get it printed, as you may have learned in life, nothing is ever simple! The ink 'off-the-shelf' enabled a 9-volt battery to get an LED to light up but a simple motor was harder to get going. Working with the ink supplier, we rebalanced the formulation of the ink and carbon to get the result the Exploratorium needed.

During the development process, Weldon Owen did a lot of playing around with the samples we supplied to determine the ink’s capabilities as well as the design. The trick was to keep the conductive path short for best effect while, from a design point of view, make the pattern a prominent design element on the cover. To that end we used a kraftpaper PLC with a subtle spot-UV effect and the tip-on was printed bright green to stand out.

We finally produced around 20 mocked up covers complete with carbon ink for final testing with the contributors. You can see what they did when them in the video below: