It is with the rise of Instagram and mobile photography that anyone who had a smartphone could call themselves an artist. Smartphones and apps objectively made photography easier, and the myriad of companies than spun products off the technology changed the way we interact with gadgets and their accessories. You may have heard sites that let you print Instagram photos onto canvases, or iPhone cases designed with your pictures. But for Brooklyn/Berlin-based Caseable, customizable accessories aren’t just cool: It’s a way to spread the love for eco-consciousness, handmade products, and local artists.
We stopped by the company’s Prospect Heights headquarters to get a glimpse of how its array of laptop, tablet, and smartphone cases go from a few clicks on its freshly redesigned website to hot off the screen printer. The tiny, loft-style office with exposed brick walls housed approximately 10 employees all of whom make the business happen. There is a second headquarter in Berlin as well, public relations manager Selena Yang tells me, and that’s where international orders would get re-routed.
Everything is as hands-on as hands-on gets at Caseable. The orders come through one computer in the printing room, a production manager manually sends the photos to the printer and stacks them in a pile according to case color. Each print is carefully aligned atop a neoprene case before a large iron sandwiches the pieces together, using 400 degrees Fahrenheit of heat to transfer the ink onto the case. Twenty seconds later, a colorful iPad case is born. The process seems oddly simple, you wonder why more companies aren’t embracing handmade products at a larger scale.
“We fill a few hundred orders per day here at Caseable,” co-founder Marvin Amberg tells me, noting that orders have extensively increased thanks to the holidays. Although he cannot give exact numbers, he said the company grew about ten times since last year, and many times more since its initial launch in 2010. “Sometimes we work here until the sun comes up,” Amberg says, especially now that people want to gift a tech-infused accessory with their own personal stamp. A pile of laptop cases with imprints of “I love you Grandma!” and photo collages would prove his point.
“We also have a lot of customer loyalty,” Yang adds. “People have already e-mailed us asking when the cases for an iPad mini and 7-inch Kindle Fire will be available.” The current company offering is rather extensive as it is, from MacBooks and 11 to 16-inch laptop cases to Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Arc, Nexus 7, and even a BlackBerry Playbook. The company also collaborates with artists to feature unique designs for those who aren’t up to customizing their own.
Each Caseable soft cases are made with recycled polyester fabric while hard phone cases are crafted with recycled water bottles. Going green is clearly a big deal here, and it’s one of the differentiating factor Caseable has over other customizable accessory companies. At the same time, quality and design aren’t quite compromised. As a parting gift, Yang printed me an iPad case using a photo of my recent trip to Iceland. Though the photo I provided her was not at its full resolution, the case still managed to sport a crisp, colorful shot that would make my mother proud to show off this Christmas. The inside also has a pocket flap to hold notes or business cards.
Although we only caught a short glimpse of the inner workings of this local factory, the visit felt more like stopping by someone’s humble abode than a business headquarter. You can tell everyone pours their passion into the product, crafting each piece with purpose. And heck, if they can do it, more power to those at home who call themselves an artist via a smartphone gallery of Instagrams. Now, both parties have their outlets – with a byproduct that’s rather beautiful and personal.