What's happening now at Because We Can

Railing time!

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The latest piece on our loft project is the upstairs railing.
We made the stanchions in-house; cutting the aluminum and wood pieces on frank.

These are the aluminum side pieces. Just off the CNC and ready to be sanded, finished and assembled:
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The wood centers. Glued up and ready to be dyed dark brown with our water based dying system:
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And the aluminum top piece that will hold the rail itself:
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All together, the final railing looks great.

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Jeffrey and Sissily discuss their handy work.

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A close up of the railing top.
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A view from across the room.
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The final addition will be a railing on the curved staircase.
More progress shots on that coming soon!

Open house! April 14th 2011 EatFoodTalkShop

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It's April, and with things finally warming up, let's get together for food and to talk shop!

Thankful that the rain has let up, the sun is out, and it is warm in Oakland! We're finishing up a fantastic resin-inlayed desk inspired by turn-of-the-century safe locks and a whole mess of fun trade booth elements for Clif Bar's kids line. We also have a handful of office interiors gearing up that look like they're gonna be a lot of fun. And our Maker Faire talk on the secrets of secret doors was accepted! So now we need to hear all your secret door stories and/or dreams.

What are you working on? We'd like to see and hear about it!

So please drop on by, we'd love to see you. Sadly, Jeffrey has been too busy to make beer, so while we'll have some it would be awesome if you could bring some too. We'll hang out. Eat some tasty snacks, and talk about the finer points of what we're all working on. Come join our community of designers, artists, big thinkers, and fabricators!

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words. You have been warned!

Thursday, April 14th 2011

6:30PM - 9:30PMish

2500 Kirkham St

Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Hope to see you here!

Lost? Lonely? Want to debate the finer points of 19th century safe design? BWC help line: 510-922-8846

Clear and Frosted Decorative Window Guards

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For a family with small children, we designed these window guards to go along the windows of their 8th floor flat.
Similar to the wooden window guards we made at another residence, except these are made of clear acrylic.

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Made of clear acrylic, so we did not disrupt their amazing view of the city below. The acrylic is thick and sturdy and creates a wonderful subtle design.

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The Window screens in the bedrooms are frosted acrylic, that catch the light beautifully and give more privacy.

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The holes on either side of the window allow pegs to slot though to keep the windows up.

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See our other window guard designs. And our Child and pet door designs too help round-out a baby-safe but good looking home.

Business shouldn't waste money on their offices

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So with our recent press, a common comment came up that goes something like this:

"Business shouldn't waste money on their offices".

To which we couldn't agree more. Businesses need spaces that work. More than that, they also need spaces that support their vision and agenda.

But at the same time, businesses need to keep things reasonable, and not spend money they don't really need to.

Now, you may think that some of our more creative offices we've done for companies are more folly than functional. However, let's take a closer look at one of our past projects: the offices of Three Rings.

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Three Rings is a small creative game design studio. They live (and die) off of how good their people are. Unlike a big game company like EA, with armies of people, Three Rings is tiny, tight, and very talented. So one of the primary concerns with their office was to make it a place where their talent would love to work, and to make it a place other talented people would love to work at. This not only draws in talented people, but it makes them perform at their best.

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Three Rings also really wanted to create a real place. Instead of an office people dreaded to be at, they wanted a place where everyone was happy to be. Since the new office was completed, it's not uncommon for everyone to spend a lot more time at the office, even if it's just playing games into the evening. Better teams, better relationships, and better communicate all come from happier people spending time together.

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Another big concern was expression of vision. Instead of looking like every other game company with their seas of Ikea desks and dismal offices, Three Rings wanted to wear their hearts on their sleeves; to say loudly that they are a creative company like no other. Many talk about being innovative, yet few really follow through with that. Clearly communicating that is a key part of their marketing.

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Finally, Three Rings wanted a clear way to express their vision of being a small yet terribly creative company to other companies and investors. They knew that any potential employee or VC that walked in the door and was scared off at how over-the-top the office is would very likely be someone that they wouldn't want to work with. By clearly showing their vision it's much easier for them to find other people who may share that vision and want to help make it bigger and better.

Study after study shows that a better office makes for more productive and happier people. And having an office that matches your company's vision is a vital part of marketing and communicating what your company is all about.

More productive people + happy workers + clear communication + vision = more money being made.

Or, you could look at it this way too:

Inefficient people + unhappy people + muddled marketing + no vision = bad business.

When you add into the fact that due to our special process and talented people here at Because We Can the cost of the Three Rings office was totally reasonable.

We were able to design and build the whole Three Rings office for less than it would have cost of nice-but-depressing office cubes.

Sure, it costs more than just parking everyone at an Ikea desk, but just think: that boring-but-normal office that's not much more than cubes, a break room, and maybe a ping-pong table could instead be a vibrant expression of your company's core. While also making everyone there more productive and happier. And making everyone more money!

So we agree: businesses shouldn't waste their money. Which is something a boring, poorly designed office actually does.

Three Rings Design office space in the Chronicle

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The Office we created for Three Rings Design was recently used in a SF Chronicle article to showcase how great office spaces retain employees. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Startup executives recognize that a nice office can also help keep employees. Daniel James, CEO of online game company Three Rings, said his unique office in the South of Market district contributes to the company's healthy retention rate.

After all, who would want to leave an office that looks like the Nautilus, the submarine from Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"? Complete with wood-carved workstations, dividers that look like giant portholes, a game room with 20-foot-long tentacle cushions, a bike-storage room that resembles a ship's engine room and a secret meeting area hidden behind a swinging bookshelf, Three Rings' office is one of the most creative in the city.

"The fact that we have a fantastical office is an expression of what we do as a company, which is making fantastical worlds," James said. "I think employees appreciate that we're willing to spend effort and money on giving them a creative work environment. We certainly have a good record - people tend to stick around in a very competitive market for talented people."

The office was designed by Oakland studio Because We Can, which specializes in custom projects.

"Companies who come to us have pride in what they do, so they want to encourage employees to get excited about where they work," said the studio's co-owner, Jillian Northrup."

We did that office over three years ago, and it still gets great press!

Read the whole article here

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We got interviewed on Adafruit's Ask An Engineer!

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Last week while in NYC we dropped in on Adafruit Industries. Run by the brilliant Limor and Phillip, they design and make and sell kits and parts for all your electronic project needs. We're big fans! We're excited they had us sit for a short interview for their great "Ask An Engineer" weekly internet show:

Ask an Engineer 3/19/2011 from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

Thanks Adafruit Industries! Totally inspiring to see you guys. They were nice enough to also give us a copy of the latest Wired that Limor is on the cover of (go Limor!) and a Ardino starter kit that we can't wait to begin playing with.

If you want to jump ahead and just watch the interview with us (and not the whole show above) then watch the video below instead. But the whole show is way better, we're so totally buying some of those new color-changing flexible LED strips for our private office library project...

because we can from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

Thanks again you two!

Autodesk IDEAS Conference

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In late January, we were honored to be last-minute invites to Autodesk's new IDEAS conference.

Part Foo, part mini-TED, part book-launch party, it was a really incredible experience. We got to meet lots of other amazing people and share all sorts of subjects. As part of a company that is strong on how and weak on why, it's always fun to bring our pragmatic and hands-on vision to the big ideas table!

There was a big focus on 'Design Thinking' and the value design has for business, our communities, and our world. Some talks from some amazing folks, then some creative break-out workshops, and of course, lots of conversations over lunch and dinner.

While we're huge fans of Autodesk's tools (especially Revit) the focus on the conference was less about Autodesk and more about just doing amazing things, no matter what tools were used.

One really cool feature of the conference was the visual documentation via photos and cartooning that was going on. Conversations were captured in a really compelling and concise way, while it was happening, by a team of amazing illustrators in the wings. Their handiwork can be seen in the great PDF summary of the conference you can see here. And cameras were everywhere, with the resulting Flickr stream here.

We were really jazzed to meet some of the people from Bespoke, who also do digital fabrication (i.e. make stuff with robots) but instead of custom interiors & furniture, they make amazing artificial limbs.

All in all, a simply amazing time. We hope to get the chance to go again!

March 10th 2011 EatFoodTalkShop - Because We Can's monthly open house / BBQ

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Wait, it's March already? Indeed, so let's get together for food and talking shop!

You'd think that the fact that we're now officially a Corporation we'd be a little more formal about our events. But then what sort of corporation does what we do? Come see our latest projects, everything from a geek's dream of a TARDIS to a whole subdivision of houses in San Diego. Or just come to hang out with other designers, artists, big thinkers, and fabricators.

To our local friends, we'd love to see you, and to our NYC friends, we'll see you soon!

Catch up with us now, for next week we'll be in NYC bopping about. We'll have food and drink and lots to talk about, so please come by!

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words. You have been warned!

Thursday, March 10th 2011

6:30PM - 9:30PMish

2500 Kirkham St

Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Hope to see you here!

Lost? Lonely? Want to hear more than you'll ever want to know about the TARDIS? BWC help line: 510-922-8846

We use only Waterborne finish

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We've used waterborne finish on all of our products for years. It is easy clean up, and way less toxic to humans and the environment than traditional oil finishes. We used off-the-shelf brands when we were first starting out, but once we discovered Target Coatings we looked no further.

Mostly we use their waterborne laquer finish. It is incredibly durable, and very pretty!
The super low VOC of these products means no off-gassing for our clients. Our clients tend to like that!

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The emissions chart on their products is way below what california requires (which is a good thing). California being one of the stricter states on the emissions laws, that is really saying something.

They've used our images a couple times on their website and newsletter to promote their products,
most recently using images from a conference table we made for Penny Arcade

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They recently gave us a shout out, so we're giving one back!
You can buy different quantities and have them shipped.
Being water-borne also means it's not flammable. Hooray!

Home library loft

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We are in the process of finishing up a library loft for a residential client.
They have very tall ceilings, so we've created a 2nd level with a cool spiral staircase.
A railing goes in next.

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The lower level has a fold down desk with rolling storage bench.

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The spiral stairs are made for display and storage (complete with a hidden secret panel!)

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And the large closet to the right holds even yet more storage.

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The railing that goes in next will be made of aluminum and dark stained Maple.
Check in again soon for final photos!
But for now.. here's a progress shot:

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