Bridging Old and New Design Arts
Craig Dalton and "DODOcase"
Is the art and craft of fine bookmaking disappearing?
Dalton and DODOcase are answering with a resounding “no.”
In fact, in a novel way, DODOcase is actually helping preserve the artisan skills that traditional book designers and craftspeople have practiced for centuries around the world. At the heart of it is the idea that with the creation and production of DODOcase covers, Dalton and his team have seized upon a unique means of bridging the old and the new, effectively marrying hallowed, age-old craftsmanship with fresh new technology.
That’s no small feat.
San Francisco base
Dalton and two co-founders, Patrick Buckley and Mark Manning, founded DODOcase in 2010, in San Francisco. The inspiration behind the new company was twofold, Dalton says. “When we saw consumers starting to use tablets and e-readers, we realized that people were going to move from ink and paper to pixels in order to consume content,” he explains. The DODOcase founders realized that such a shift would have some dramatic consequences. “It meant that people would no longer get to hold and feel books and magazines—they would lose that tactile experience,” Dalton continues. “Instead, they’d be holding aluminum and plastic—the materials the readers themselves are made from.”
At the same time, Dalton and company knew that if e-readers were on the rise, the art of traditional book-making and bookbinding was likely to decline. “We saw the trend in readers, and the possibility of losing this art,” he notes. “So we said, ‘let’s allow that opportunity to drive the product aesthetic.’ As a result, we’re really coming from a bookbinding perspective to make a book-bound product that holds tablet style computing devices. It’s a matter of taking an old tradition and bringing it into a new marketplace.”
What’s old is now new
For DODOcase, Dalton and his team have brought together a group of skilled bookbinders and artisans who are crafting the cases from bamboo, paper and other organic, fiber-based materials, repurposing traditional tools and machinery once used nearly exclusively in the bookbinding process. The manufacturing takes place in DODOcase headquarters in San Francisco’s “Dogpatch” neighborhood.
As demand increases for DODOcases, Dalton and his team have branched out to manufacture at least 12 different styles of the popular case. The DODOcase “Classic” is black, but a new line was launched to correspond with the launch of new tablet style computing devices. “We also now have our Essentials line, which make use of four solid colors, and our Spring/Summer 2012 collection which features colored spines, so the spine is one color and the other surfaces are another color,” he says. DODOcase is also reaching out to partner with noted artists and designers. San Francisco fine artist and graphic designer Rex Ray recently designed an entire DODOcase line, Dalton says.
Response to their product has exceeded original predictions, Dalton is happy to report. In addition to rapidly increasing U.S. sales, DODOcases have also been introduced in 95 international countries. “Even President Obama is a user of our product,” he notes.
Dalton and his team aren’t taking any time to rest on their DODOcase laurels. Plans are underway to further tap the surging market growth of tablets and e-readers, making DODOcase an integral part of users’ experience. “We’re starting to express DODOcase as a fashion accessory,” Dalton says of his company’s current plans. “The more you hold and use your tablet style computing devices, the more you realize that it’s an ever-present part of your life. Like other accessories, certain color palettes are going to make more sense than others, depending on what you happen to be doing at the time. We envision a world in which people own multiple tablet style cases—they might have a classic black DODOcase for professional purposes, and in the evenings or on weekends they’re stepping out with one that has more vibrant colors.” Personalization via monogramming is another DODOcase development that’s proving extremely popular, Dalton says.
The future of DODOcase may well be viewed through the prism of the collaborative partnerships the company is forming. DODOcase is currently partnering with clothing manufacturer J. Crew, working directly with the clothier’s designers to express their design aesthetic via DODOcase products. “We’re designing a product that will represent us [DODOcase] as a brand, but with the color aesthetic of J. Crew,” Dalton explains.
And, for at least one line of its cases, DODOcase has teamed up with FiberMark, which is helping to add further strength and durability to DODOcase using FiberMark’s Iris, Sailcloth and Duo covering materials in the manufacturing process.
Wherever it’s headed, DODOcase’s future looks promising, especially because Dalton and his company are building on something worth saving from the past. “We started out with this idea that the original art of bookbinding is disappearing,” Dalton says. “What was once a rich history of bookbinding in the San Francisco Bay area has been decimated over the last several decades. There’s a large community of highly skilled bookbinders in the vicinity, and we’re gratified to be working with them, investing in our own bindery and training the next generation of bookbinders. In every product that goes out the door there are many craftsmen’s hands that have touched it. We’re grateful and proud of that fact.”