RDA 2009: Office’s pirate supplies for 826 Valencia

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San Francisco-based studio Office collaborated with 826 Valencia, a nonprofit tutoring center for youth, to reinvigorate its pirate supply storefront. They developed the store’s new identity and conceptualized and designed nearly 50 new products. “Office has produced some of the most ravishing and funny buccaneer supplies yet known to man,” says Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia founder and McSweeney’s editor. Reflecting the store’s wildly imaginative experience, the products represent 826’s mission to support creative expression. All proceeds directly benefit 826 Valencia’s writing programs. For the Regional Design Annual, Jason Schulte and Jill Robertson talked about the process of designing pirate supplies and doing good at the same time.

Packaging for 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store, a nonprofit tutoring center for youth. DESIGN FIRM: Office: Jason Schulte Design, San Francisco; DESIGNERS: Jason Schulte, Rob Alexander, Will Ecke, Gaelyn Mangrum, Jeff Bucholtz; PHOTOGRAPHER: Vanessa Chu; WRITERS: Dave Eggers, Lisa Pemrick, Jon Adams, Anna Ura, Dan Weiss, Jennifer Traig; CREATIVE DIRECTORS: Jason Schulte, Jill Robertson

What’s the backstory behind the concept for this piece?

The pirate store is a wildly imaginative, inspiring, interactive experience. We tried to create an authentic, visually cohesive story around the idea of an 18th century pirate walking into a 21st century store to pick up a few things. People really aren’t buying what’s inside the bottle—they’re buying the idea. For example, Eau de Mer cologne is water we collected from the San Francisco Bay. But it’s packaged with beautiful metallic gold patterned paper in a black wooden box, with a pirate “love poem” inscripted on the bottle.

Copy on a few of the products:

Captain Blackbeard’s Beard Extensions Patchy spots got ya down? Fear not, Capt. Blackbeard grows ’em where you can’t. So silky the ladies will swoon. So coarse your crew will covet. Recent studies have found that CBBEs are indistinguishable by 9 out of 10 naked eyes, and able to weather the most savage of gales, tidal waves, and tugs of fraternal greetings. Warning: CBBE may cause an overwhelming sense of adequacy.

Captain Blackbeard’s Beard Dye Color: Black Beards can get bleached by the sun. Beards can turn white from fear. In either case, Blackbeard’s Beard Dye imparts a midnight hue to your whiskers, leaving them shiny, conditioned and bristling with health. Next time you take it on the chin, be sure it’s covered with a beard you can be proud of … a Blackbeard beard. Also suitable for mustaches and mole hair. Made for the trade; available to all.

Quick Acting Scurvy BeGone Dosage: a tablet a day, maybe more Each capsule contains the power of one entire lime or lemon or small lemon Fairly probable side effects: hirsutism; supernumerary organs; chimerism; sudden onset of fake English accent; boils

What was the process like? The brief was something around the lines of, “We’d love any ideas to help refresh the pirate store.”

We approached it the same way we do any of our projects … We started with research, immersing ourselves in all things pirate. We considered the audience—pirates, of course, and the kids, volunteers, parents, teachers, and others curious about buccaneering. We had some pretty insane brainstorming sessions.

We came up with tons of ideas and several different design directions, and then edited and refined. And arm-wrestled for the final selections.

826 Valencia founder Dave Eggers was involved in the process, particularly writing and editing copy.