The Patagonia Story
Bringing An Installation Piece To Life
Our longtime crush on Patagonia
We'll just say it: We've always had a huge crush on Patagonia. Their ethos matches that of our staff. The outdoor enthusiasts in us fell in love long ago with this brand that tests the edges and pushes to be the change they want to see in the world. They've gone against the grain in not rolling over and using materials and products that would abuse consumerism. Instead, they give back to the earth and the communities they do business in.
As for their advertising, holy hell... They've nailed it, in our opinion. With adventure at heart and the wanderlust of being in these great mountainscapes of the world, they take us to a place of escape instead of just shouting at people with in-your-face product. No one tells a story of adventure like Patagonia, and we love that about them.
Then, to add to that, being located in Reno, the home of their Distribution Center, is like the cherry on top. Our local culture is strongly influenced by Patagonia. They employ 600+ people, many of whom are our friends and family (our beloved copywriter, Jonas Ellison once worked for them) and give back so much to our community (hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to the Nevada Wilderness organizations, etc.). Essentially, their worldview matches ours and we've always wanted to work with them.
Following suit with the brand
known for treading out of bounds
When we asked what the nature of the project was, again, they immediately got back to us and said they wanted two installment pieces for the environment hub in their new outlet.
Immediately, we were in affirmative mode.
"Would you guys be willing to do a Nevada map for us?"
"How 'bout a beautiful timeline?"
And then came the kicker...
It had to be done in a month....
"Yes?... Wait, YES!"
Initially, the scope of the design of the map was to be a handout poster as well as an installation in-store. The timeline was to be solely an in-store installation. Each showed flat renderings of a digitally-printed piece on a wall.
Which would have been cool...
But we wanted to blow them away and, to use their term, stoke them the eff out.
We also wanted a cool way of describing each year (again, besides the boring flat print up on the wall). Matt, being part of the mountaineering demographic, thought, “What’s a staple piece of communication in the backcountry?”
Finally, it came to him... On a cultural level, to these mountaineers who are pioneering huge mountains in the Himalayas, there’s the iconic symbol of the Tibetan prayer flag. You set them up at your camp because you don’t know if you’re going to make it back to camp. As big of a risk we knew we were taking here, we felt that the prayer flags fit perfectly. It would also add a nice splash of color to the wood:)
Stoking them out in three dimensions
We always push our clients and love clients who are open to it. In holding true to their brand, from the outset, Patagonia proved to be an open and creatively fearless brand.
You know how, in middle school, you get a crush on that one person? You see them from across the classroom. In your head, you have this perfect storyline of how flawless they are. Their skin is perfect, their smile is glowing, their presence overwhelms... One day, you luck out and get to exchange words... Your heart starts beating and you say something. And then, as soon as they open their mouth, you realize they're the f*king devil incarnate...
This could have very well happened with a huge brand like Patagonia, but from the get-go, it was all 'hell-yesses' from both sides. They made it clear that they were down to play. And play, we did.
They left the scope very open and gave us as much creative control as we wanted (within reason, of course). They showed they trusted us, and we took that very seriously.
So we started digging in to see what we could do that would really do this project justice. Being our first go at retail design, we started exploring.
Immediately, we were drawn to the three-dimensional element. How could we not just make this a 2D print on a wall like the scope had initially proposed? How could we bring in nature from the outdoors? How could we bring in a core value of this brand and really make it speak, aesthetically?
Somehow, we started talking about wood rounds. How would these fit into a timeline? Do we do the whole timeline on one big round? Do we break it up?
As usual, Pete did the not-good-enough-go-one-step-further thing. Matt really wanted to do photography. But what turned out was an amazing collaboration between the two when they found middle ground.
Like a champ, Pete offered to stay up for 3 days in a row and illustrate the map and the rounds. The next day, at 1am on Slack, he posted the initial renderings of this beautiful landscape in pencil illustration.
Amazing... But how do we get this onto the wall at Patagonia Outlet?
One thing we have a side-passion for is laser engraving.
We’ve done a few other projects and we love how they worked out. The vision was coming into form: Wood rounds. Awesome illustrations. And laser engraving.
So we threw together some concepts, sent them to Patagonia, closed our eyes, and crossed our fingers. When the email came back, we hesitantly opened it, only to see that the team at Patagonia (drumroll, please...) LOVED IT. They were blown away we took it to that level.
At that point, we had two weeks left. Pete was working on sketching out the Nevada map with the 56 wilderness areas (Trivia: Did you know that Nevada has the most wilderness than any other state in the US? Neither did we...).
Finally, we had the print designed for the handout in-store for the grand opening, but we needed it on the wall (in 3D form, remember). We decided to route it on wood with standoffs. Again, we pitched it to Patagonia, closed our eyes, gritted our teeth, and awaited their response. Much to our liking, in true Patagonia form, they UPPED THE STOKE on us (awesome!). They came back and said, "What if we routed out the state of Nevada on wood with layers of acrylic above the map to make it even more 3-dimensional."
(Damn it, Patagonia. We're falling more in love with you the more we get to know you…)
Boom. Both parties were all-in on an executable three-dimensional installation.
The map consists of 3 ½ pieces of 2x12” pine that were cut into 30” slabs and joined together so that they were 42” tall. It was down to the wire. Matt spent a whole week getting his hands dirty on project management tending to the details between wood engravers, printers, installers, laser engraving, etc.
We brought in a super-talented friend of ours, Mikey Burke, whose brother, Eric Burke, was painting a mural in the same building. Mikey routed out, sanded down, and stained the Nevada map on wood to match the acrylic that would go on top of it.
Although it was down to the wire, we got it up and installed just in time for the grand opening. Stoke, accomplished.
How we grew
In these partnership stories, we always like to highlight how we grew as a company and as creatives while working on said project.
In this case, the first thing that comes to mind is that we learned how to hold our own and push the client's creative boundaries even while working with a major, iconic brand. We can't tell you how awesome it is when a company is willing to dance as much as Patagonia was.
Secondly, this was our first major retail installation piece and, we're very happy with the end product (as is Patagonia). In this digital age, creating a physical piece made of wood, acrylic, and steel is a maker's dream. Seeing it come true with such an epic, loved brand was unbelievable.
We took a project from 2D to 3D in L&M collaborative fashion and as challenging as this project was, we grew leaps and bounds while bringing it to life.