This past month, I released a project that I’ve been working on for a while that brought together a major consumer brand and a growing startup to produce a pretty amazing (if I do say so myself), officially licensed collaboration. I wanted to share my story around how I came up with this idea, worked to make it happen while still doing my day job, and what the results looked like.
The project is an officially licensed Scrabble-themed mechanical keyboard, which was made via a combination of my design, Hasbro’s brand, and Massdrop as the seller and manufacturer. Also, there’s just keycaps too, if you want to use/get your own mechanical keyboard and customize it!
I’m full time at Amazon working on Alexa, but in my free time I’m into a bunch of hobbies, especially mechanical keyboards. If you don’t know what they are, or have heard of them and don’t understand the hype, you’re not alone in that. I’ve been evangelizing keyboards wherever I go (seriously) to try and spread the good news. Mechanical keyboards are high-quality, infinitely customizable, functional keyboards. I won’t get into the details now. Livingspeedbump did that though, if you want to know more.
I first designed this keycap set after having a dream (literally, I was asleep and this is what came to me… I have very fun dreams) about typing on a Scrabble board. I mocked it up and played with the colors for a while, and got to “version 1” of the caps.
My original design definitely had the flavors of the final result, as you can see:
I had never designed a real set before, so I knew I had to have some kind of confirmation of interest. But, I realized that if I ever wanted the design to see the light of day, I had to get permission to use it.
And thus began the cold-calling. I emailed and messaged sooo many people on LinkedIn and elsewhere trying to find anyone that would hear me out.
I got plenty of rejections, from both people who couldn’t help me and also people who wouldn’t help me.
But, eventually, I found someone who had a friend who used to work for Hasbro, who knew someone else who might be helpful. It’s nuts how these connections happen! Luckily, the person I was connected to was an account executive, and he loved the idea. I had to do some back and forth to understand the legal side of things, which is not my specialty.
In another stroke of luck, I had a chance encounter (well, it was not entirely chance… it was at a keyboard meetup) last summer where I got connected to Massdrop, who would be the ideal partner to help me sort out through the legal, manufacturing, and sales piece. They told me that if I could get a license for my idea, they could help me bring it to life. And with months of several emails, signing contracts, and approval from the legal teams on both sides, it finally was starting to look like the Scrabble keyboard would be a reality!
Since signing the dotted line, Massdrop has been awesome. They launch a bunch of products with community designers, and they were really helpful working through the legal pieces, getting keycap samples from the manufacturers, getting mocked-up model images of the keycaps, and they handle the sales and distribution, too.
Having the physical color samples in my hand was one of the most exciting things I’ve gotten to do with this project. It was the first time where it really hit me that the set was happening!
When I initially wanted to put the set together, I wanted to make a keyboard, too. I wanted this set to be able to get into the hands of both Scrabble enthusiasts and keyboard enthusiasts, and supplying more than just keycaps would be key to making that happen. We ended up offering the awesome WASD Keyboards CODE Keyboard for anyone who didn’t have a mechanical keyboard yet, who might want Scrabble on their desk.
And one last thing that I was excited to include was the “Scrabble bag” set for those who might want to play Scrabble with keycaps! It has the exact distribution needed for a regulation game. It’s on the keycap sale page, if you’re interested in getting them!
It’s been a lot of time and emailing and tweaking and hoping it’d work out, and it’s so satisfying to see it finally get out in the world. We’re at almost 1000 sold so far, and we’re just getting started!
If you, your family, or your friends like Scrabble, this is the keyboard for you. I can’t wait to see it on your desk!
Thanks for reading!