by Dave Howell

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    1. Timir on

      I think actually, you're looking at this in entirely the wrong light. You're considering this as if it's the small words on a painting that make you know it. I don't know the Mona Lisa because I've ever even looked for Davinci's signature on it. (Did he actually sign it?) I don't know War's for his signature, (though sometimes his can be a little big :) I could continue to list artists but I won't.
      I know them for their style. I know them for their art, and in a sense, for their products.
      Every person I showed this kickstarter, thought these were beautiful and awesome. I can't wait to have them so I can show them around. Maybe not everyone is like me, maybe they won't remember improbable objects off the top of their heads. But I know I will.
      It's not the logo on one token that will make you know, and it's not what you should be proud of.
      It's your work. And these are awesome.

      (Also, I'm one of the people that asked for all of them with the logo, because I happened to think there was something cool about one token having the writing.)

    2. Cheryl Orosz on

      I was already unsure I did the right thing when I answered the survey saying i wanted 'partial' insignia. Now I'm really sad I did. I wish I knew how to take it back without making your situation worse in terms of workload. :-/

    3. Paul Stefko on

      I just want to say that was the best Kickstarter update I have ever gotten. Kudos.

    4. Julia Gosztyla Ziobro

      Awesome update. I want to say that I chose full logo because I WANT you to get credit for your work, and I wanted it to be easy for me to tell people where they're from.

      We own over 600 games, and I say without any hesitation at all that they are by far the nicest game bits we own. They are in fact, art. They tickle every magpie nerve in my body (shiny, sparkly!) and they feel perfect... warm, soft, firm (how can they be both? but they are), bright, slightly sticky but not TOO sticky, fun to stack, beautiful as a handful in terms of balance and weight.

      EVERYONE admires them, touches them, runs their fingers through them and makes little expressions of joy and jealousy.

      I am ready to buy more, sir. I am willing to pay more for them, so it's slightly less a pure labor of love (count ALL your hours, please). And now for the controversial bit... I want two kinds that you're not making now.

      One is that I would like a custom sheet of a single token, or maybe two different ones. Just like 20 of each. Maybe too much of a pain in the ass, I'm not sure.

      Also, I really love the heft and size of the nickle-based ones. I would be beyond thrilled with a SET of nickel-sized tokens, even if they cost 35 cents each (though I will admit that my budget would require a smaller set than $140).

      And please make a "signature" line that actually has your SIGNATURE on one of them (especially if it's not just a squiggle). :-) And put Improbable Objects on a second one of the tokens in the set. Ya got two choices here, take it or leave it. Worked for my mom, works for me.

      And awesome essay. I love long updates! One of the coolest parts about Kickstarter for me is getting to "know" the artists, at least those who share enough to feel some warmth from them. To wit: Ogre. Steve Jackson was all over those comments and updates and people hung on his every surrrrrrrrrrrvey, myself included. Don't be shy, and don't apologize. Those who want an anonymous, mass-produced item have by and large already gone elsewhere already. :-)

    5. scottie4442 on

      I have my PennyGems made up and my game groups has used them 10 or 12 times already. Everyone in the groups absolutely luvs these things and the first thing they all asked was where did I get these and how much were they, they all wanted sets of them. I told them about the kickstart project and your website, and then showed them the signature on the silver PennyGem, everyone of them told me that they did not notice that was even on there. I have no problem with an artist signing his work in fact when I back projects on here that is one of the things I ask for extra, how much to have the designers sign their creation, to me it makes the item more valuable. These things are the "BOMB" at my gaiming sessions and I would order more right now.

    6. Marc Watson on

      I'm one of those OCD design guys that prefers the clean look of things. I ordered the ones with less branding, and will be giving away or reselling the ones with writing (I bought a large amount to distribute to some friends, so it's not that I'm doing it entirely because of that, I'd just rather that others ended up with the branded ones). And even though my penny gems won't tell people where to get them, when people are playing games with me, I can still tell them where to go. Word of mouth marketing is still powerful.

    7. Missing avatar

      Jan Karell on

      I'm kinda with Cheryl. When the survey came I just thought "cool, I can get some without the text, I guess I can dig that. (It's almost like an ninth colour!)". And after reading this I almost feel bad about it.

      I like reading the post-updates a lot. I can't wait to get my hands on my pennygems.

    8. Ronald Whited on

      First let me start with the fact that I love your pennygems and appreciate the work you have put into them. I've gotta second Marc though, in my case using the logo'd tokens as a signature really doesn't work. I don't use the logo'd tokens at all, I can't make myself throw them away but they aren't going to ever be used for their original intent. I use them for my roleplaying games and the text printed on the object like that just ruins my verisimilitude. In the same manner I would never use a mini figure with a visible signature, it just takes me out of the game when I notice it. I would have gotten the logoless version but I couldn't afford that much money. All having a logo on them meant is that I'll be using 1 less color of pennygem. If all the pennygems had logos I wouldn't have backed the project.

      In my opinion you don't need a logo on the pennygems to spread the word. I love the pennygems I have, and when my gaming group oohs and aahs about them I spread the word of your website and this project. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising.

    9. Alarian DarkWind

      For me I guess I didn't see it as a signature. I saw/see it as an ad. A signature is something that someone who is familiar with an artist is going to recognize. An ad is a website URL. It says "Go to this address and buy my products. That's why I went with the less option. Could you imagine playing a card game where every card had in 1/2 in letters "" across them? It wouldn't be popular. Or a board game with 2" letters with the web address printed all the way around the border? Imagine the Mona Lisa with 4" writing "Go to my shop at 415 Front street Paris for more products" The signature or logo needs to be unobtrusive that doesn't take center stage on a product. Something that people who want to know more can google or whatever but doesn't hit you in the face every time you look at it. I thought the bonus Nickle gem you gave us would have been plenty. And since you were throwing it in for free, I had no problem with the advertising on it.

      By the way I LOVE my penny gems. They are awesome! Everyone that's seen them, even non-gamers think they are really cool.

    10. Beverly Block on

      Man, if there were Hugos for gaming, I'd nominate this update for Best Related Work in a heartbeat. I just wish my group had ordered earlier -- I'm headed for Origins on Tuesday, and would have loved to have the big bag full to show off!

    11. Kristen on

      I chose full label because I liked the idea of giving you full credit. I totally understand what you were saying earlier about seeing this project as art, and I wanted you as the artist to have the credit! In my mind they don't detract from the gems at all.

      To me, this is like Eurogames, where the creator of the games is a BIG THING and their name is displayed prominently. One of the hallmarks of Eurogames is their quality work; another is their creativity. PennyGems are surely an example of both of these!

    12. Missing avatar

      Daniel on

      I chose the partial label, and I think PennyGems are great. My Seattle board game group likes them, and I'm sure you'd have more customers if you did another run regardless of whether they had signatures. The reason I chose partial label is because "Improbable Objects" is entirely useless for identifying you or Penny Gems, Google or Bing won't lead me to anything useful based on that, even if go to Etsy and search for Improbable Objects, I get nothing, and or couldn't be guessed from that. I'd be much happier with a signature that was both artistic and functional.

    13. Rusty Q. Shackleford on

      See... You can't be telling me nearly half of the backers wanted Partial Insignias... That's just insane. First off: It makes some of the gems look different than the rest of the same color. Second off: It's nearly impossible to see and even when seen doesn't obstruct the rest of the image. Third off:

    14. Rusty Q. Shackleford on

      Frellin computer! Stop reposting that every Single time this page comes back up after FF crashes >.> Well, hopefully someone else can delete those, as I can't.

    15. Francis Cermak on

      I'm so lost as to what the point of this update is. Penny Gems are cool little tokens. They are not, to me, some kind of art that deserves a signature. Everything needs a design. Why is one design more worthy of a sig over another? The guy with the Hydra Dice KS project isn't signing his dice designs. You want to brand your gems? Go ahead and do it, but this public lamentation and guilt trip to the people who exercised the option that you gave them to not get branded ones is just self pity.

    16. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Cheryl: Please do NOT feel badly about having chosen 'partial insignia.' I had actually decided to not ever write this essay, mostly because it seemed to me that either (a) I'd come across as a whiner, or (b) I'd make a bunch of my backers feel bad. And then the darn thing spilled out of my fingers anyway. If one of my backers thinks that I'm just way too concerned about that writing, and leaves the inscribed silvers in the closet, that is their right and prerogative. I tried to convey that there isn't inherently a "right" and "wrong" way to look at these things, just that there are some different ways.

    17. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Rusty: No, it's certainly not the case that "nearly half" wanted partial insignia. Most of the backers didn't back at a high enough level to choose. However, if I just count backers at Double Rainbow or higher, then 85 chose "full insignia" and 114 chose "partial." So, for those backers that were offered the choice, 57% chose partial. I rather expect that what they plan to do is not mix them together; if they just use the non-inscribed ones, then they'll all look the same.
         As for "nearly impossible to see," well, how were they to know that? It looked pretty darn obvious on the flat artwork samples I posted, after all. And, as some of the other comments here illustrate, what is practically unnoticeable to some people is glaringly obvious to others.

    18. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Francis: The point of the update is mostly to help people anticipate and understand what some of my upcoming decisions will be based on. It's certainly not intended to establish one design being more 'worthy' than another. The border between 'art' and 'design' is nebulous and fractal, and I have no doubt that we could find myriad examples were an anonymously designed object was more 'artistic' than something presented as Art. Then there are non-anonymous 'signature' designers like Michael Graves. It's all very fuzzy. I think there is, indeed, a very good case to be made that I'm really (just?) a designer in this case, and I have no doubt that some percentage of my backers will remain firmly convinced of that. That's cool.
         In a sense, the fact that you don't really see the point of the update is actually the point of the update. Mr. Suit says "Don't post that! Laying a guilt-trip on your customers is a terrible idea, and so is starting arguments with them!" Mr. Smock disagrees. "One thing great art can do is change people's view of the world. If you cause some of your backers to reconsider their approach to art and design, if you make some people stop and think, then post away!"
         So yes, as long as you approach this update from a commercial/industrial/design/business perspective, it's not going to make any sense, because the essay, like the gems, are coming from an artistic perspective. That is not supposed to have any value judgement attached, by the way. If you don't see how this is all supposed to be 'art,' that's fine. If you *do* understand it, but you think it's weak or lame, that's fine too. Without a doubt, there are people who will think PennyGems are nice, but not even close to being worth what they cost, and there'll be some people who think they're just dumb. (I found a post made during the campaign on another site where one guy was downright offended that anybody would offer, or waste money on, crap like 'blobs of plastic stuck onto pennies' instead of helping the hungry or something like that.)
          Maybe the take-away is just "Oh, geez, I guess I'd better get used to Dave not acting like an intelligent businessman, 'cause he thinks he's DaVinci or Christo or something." If so, so be it.
         Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shopping for a beret.

    19. Kristen on

      @Dave just above = /smile

    20. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Daniel: ""Improbable Objects" is entirely useless for identifying you or Penny Gems,"

         Yea, I know. I screwed up last September: I *thought* I had registered the domain "," but I didn't actually do it. I figured that out in February, one week after somebody else picked it up. Doh'p. And I've been so busy making PennyGems that I just haven't had the time to work on my site, so it doesn't really have a lot of search-engine-optimization applied to it yet. I do expect that to change, though, if/when people start talking/posting/blogging about PennyGems and linking to it. It's all still quite new, and it takes time to wear grooves in the Internet. I am fairly confident I'll start floating higher in the Google/Bing results over the next few months.

    21. Tyinsar on

      Hmmm, Very interesting and insightful posts Dave. (And I see some great replies as well.)

      And here I was seeing the Token of Appreciation as the signature in the set - and it's such a lovely piece I almost ordered extra for myself (just because it is so awesome). Also, like Timir I was seeing the work itself as bearing the stamp of the maker.

      Like some others I ordered a "partial insignia" set because:
      1) It might give me more options when playing with them (that extra color Jan spoke of). Since I'm still excitedly waiting for mine to arrive I don't know if this difference is even easily discernible enough to be useful or if the difference will be a minor distraction (Even though this was my main reason for this selection).
      2) Like many others I prefer the clean design. If I was playing a game called "Improbable Objects" I would be fine with branding on all the pieces. And, for an unthemed game (like Pente) the branding is also OK. But I think it might feel out of place if I'm using these in a themed game (like Dune).

      If you do another run of these - and I really Really hope that you find this to be worth your while - please let me offer a couple of suggestions I would appreciate and support:
      1) Create a logo and drop it in the middle of the dot - something like: (very very rough & quick but they incorporate both your initials and that of your company - do with them as as your artistic side will).
      2) Print your information in a ring on the current blank side (or replace only the dot with this). Make it small enough and dense enough that from any distance it looks like a ring (or empty circle for game purposes) but from very close (or with minor magnification) it can be read. With most artwork the signature should be unobtrusive. Since these are small to start with it is logical that the signature would be that tiny.

    22. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Carl: Man, I don't dare stop for a moment or I'll be completely overtaken by my backers. Let's see . . .
      (1) Yes, I've become aware that some people picked partial because a mere eight kinds of PennyGem aren't enough. As other people have commented, the insignia's rather subtle, so you don't really get a ninth type; it's more like 8 1/4. As a result, currently fighting for the top slot on the R&D list is an auxiliary set of PennyGems which you'll be able to add to the core set for a total of sixteen different kinds. My plan is to have a brother/sister Gem for each of the existing ones, so there will be a pink one (pairs with red), a brown one (pairs with orange), a chartreuse one (pairs with green), a cyan one (pairs with blue), a lavender one (pairs with purple), et cetera. I'm not sure what to do with black and white yet, but that's why it's still in R&D.
      (2a) I have, in fact, already created a logo, although it hasn't been released yet. I'm still putting the final touches on it. Dropping it into the dot is definitely something I'm planning on testing, although I think that punching a hole in the dot is going to look more obvious to me than the current ring-of-dust look. But, that's why one tests these things.
      (2b) I suspect that if I put anything on the *blank* side, I'd really be looking at a mob of villagers with pitchforks outside my walls. The current edition of PennyGems (ed. 9.87, if you're curious) has the ring in 4.5pt type. I don't think I can get much smaller. Some of the gems were printed in the printer's "fast" mode, which is 360x720dpi, and the degradation to the type was . . . unsatisfactory. I've had to switch back to 'standard' mode to get 720x720 dpi in order to keep the type from looking scruffy. I don't think I can push it much smaller before it will decompose into little black blotches.

      Artistically, my 'perfect' solution would be to laser-engrave the edge of the penny. Under the current manufacturing scheme, there are obviously some obstacles to this approach.

    23. Kristen on

      @Dave - re: pairing with black and white = dark gray and light gray?, dark burgundy and pale (sky) blue?, cordovan and peach?, mallard teal and light cyan?, forest green and pale rose?, steel blue and light silver?


    24. Julia Gosztyla Ziobro

      "My plan is to have a brother/sister Gem for each of the existing ones, so there will be a pink one (pairs with red), a brown one (pairs with orange), a chartreuse one (pairs with green), a cyan one (pairs with blue), a lavender one (pairs with purple), et cetera. I'm not sure what to do with black and white yet, but that's why it's still in R&D. "

      OMG. You *are* going to get another $140 out of me. Crap! LOL
      White -> burgundy or maybe really bold candy-cane style silver (white)/black stripes, like a lighthouse
      Black -> 50% grey
      Red -> pink
      Orange -> brown
      Yellow -> amber (can you imagine that one? nom nom nom)
      Green -> chartreuse/lime green
      Blue -> turquoise or robin's egg blue
      Purple -> violet or lavender (fuschia is too close to pink/red)

      Kids, there's a 100% blank side on EVERY gem! If the shapes/logo annoy you, flip them over to their crystal-clear just-colored side. We've played a few games with ours now, and one player called the silver one the "eyeball" because of the colored iris (the words) and now it's stuck. I've noticed that players seem to strongly prefer the shape side, or not, but nobody has complained yet (except that they don't have their own)!

    25. Tyinsar on

      Yes, I suspected that the font size might be an issue. I too thought of the engraving on the edge but short of getting your own mint ... (and how awesome would that be!)

      I still think a logo like (a little abstract) might be nice in the dot - as a finishing carpenter once told me: "If you can't hide it decorate it and call it a 'feature'." I look forward to seeing the final - unrushed, fully fermented (at least that's the way my final results always feel to me) design of your logo.

      Anyway - I'm going to shut up / try to stop distracting you and go back to a quiet (and slightly giddy) anticipation of these wonderful little marvels of design.

      P.S. Thanks for the updates. 8-)

    26. Beverly Block on

      You could pair gray with the black and white with the silver (though I suppose differentiating those could be tricky)...

    27. Missing avatar

      Stoli on

      For the sister colors, why not state that white and black should be paired together. Then you only need to come up with a full color pair in the new set, since the black and white are already out there.

    28. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Stoll: Hmm. On the one hand, black and white do very much want to pair. On the other hand, they have totally different icons. On the third tentacle, I suspect the alternative will be that I'm forced to pair one of them with an actually color; magenta, for example, and that's pretty weird, too.
      @Beverly: White and silver are the same "color;" a surface that reflects nearly all the light that hits it. I think there's room for a gray between them, but I really really doubt there's going to be room for two grays. Even silver can look almost like black if it reflects somebody's black shirt. If I had printed PennyGems on non-metallized 'normal' white vinyl, then I could easily have twenty or thirty colors that were all clearly identifiable from each other. The shiny-chrome (aka 'metallized smooth silver'), by mixing in large amounts of environmental color (you mostly see what the Gem is reflecting, much more than you can see the color itself), makes it much much harder to keep the colors distinct.
         I think it's a pretty safe bet, though, that, color differentiation problems notwithstanding, we all like the chrome vinyl better. Shiny!

    29. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Ronald: by the way, even though you don't have the partial insignia, and you don't like the writing, that doesn't mean you have to only use seven colors. Just build your silver PennyGems with blanks on both sides, and throw away (or give away) the icon sides. The same trick works for anybody who super-desperately wants more than eight kinds of Gems. You can have sixteen kinds if you pair up blank with blank and icon with icon.

    30. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      Belatedly, @Jason: "Could you imagine playing a card game where every card had in 1/2 in letters "" across them? It wouldn't be popular."
         {Dave gets out his ruler....}
         As it happens, I have a deck of cards for a card game sitting nearby where every card has the name of the game on it, in letters just over 1/2" tall. It's called "Magic: the Gathering."
         Seriously, though, there are many many examples of objects with more 'branding,' or bigger more obvious signatures and insignia, as well as all kinds of things with *less* branding or smaller (or no) insignia. I signed my Hugo bases on the bottom, and my clocks on the back. The bases, as a commissioned work, were much more about the design, and the organization commissioning them. The clocks are much more clearly art pieces, but I still keep the signature where most people will never see it. Paul Revere stamped his mark into every silver object he made. PennyGems, alas, don't have a convenient "bottom" or "back" that is normally unexposed.

    31. Ross Thompson

      I didn't order enough to get the option of partial insignia, but I wouldn't have even so. Mostly because I wanted them all to match, but also because I thought they deserved the branding.

      Ironically, I can see the text far more clearly on the actual gems than I could in the pictures or videos. But maybe that's just because I know to look for them. Certainly no-one I game with has mentioned them as a negative.

    32. Ronald Whited on

      @Dave: I wish I had thought of that before I put them on. I had assembled the insignia ones and tried to use them before I decided that the insignia just wasn't for me.

      Regardless of whether we all agree on the insignia branding or not, it has been brought to your attention that it is an issue that people feel strongly about and that was all I cared about :)

    33. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Ronald: Well, if you're not going to use them, then you've got nothing to lose anyway, but I think you'll find if you're careful, that you can pry the labels back off the pennies, and re-arrange them to suit. The plastic will want to flex, but try to pry it off so that it says fairly flat, and be sure to press down the edges when you apply it to the other coin. And believe me, it was made abundantly clear how strongly some people feel about the insignia during the first few days after this project launched.

    34. Alexander Keith on

      As great as your product is I do wish you would stop bringing up that you call yourself an Artistic Engineer, because unless you're actually qualified as an Engineer it's very offensive to those who are Engineers or who are training to become Engineers.

      Sidebar: You should try and get on the show Unchained Reactions, you'd do brilliantly.

    35. Karl R. Olson on

      Favorite Update ever. My friends and I still can't figure out the problem people have with the logo.

      The Pennygems are a hit with the friends and I ran out of business cards on the first night.

      Would also love a Nickelgem variant in larger quantities (preferably with the awesome logo).

    36. K.C. Skedzielewski on

      I can honestly say that I waffled between the choices a few times before finally choosing full insignia, for 2 reasons. 1, I was only getting 20 of each, so then with 4 out of them being odd, I really didn't want any odd ones. 2 I felt that if you wanted them to have the insignia on them, that I should yield that to you, and have you give me what you wanted me to have. Now after reading this, I feel a heck of a lot better about my choice, ;-)

    37. Amanda Milsom Reid on

      Offensive? Really?

    38. Dave Howell 6-time creator on

      @Alexander: Hmm. I apologize for any offense I have given. Nobody's raised that concern to me before. I've been trying to figure out how to describe what I do for years, and that's the closed I've come so far. Just plain "artist" makes people leap immediately (and understandably) to painting, and I definitely don't do that. I'm usually working with multiple types of materials, and frequently there's a sculptural or dimensional component. "Carpenter" implies wood, which is not usually one of my media. I've had friends call me "jack of all trades" or "Renaissance Man," but I'd feel like a total egomaniac if I put *that* on my business card. "Knave of some trades" is more like it.
         I believe that a Mechanical Engineer would be an entirely different field of study, with different qualifications, than, say, a Software Engineer or an Electronic Engineer. Can you suggest a way I could establish my qualifications for being an Artistic Engineer?

    39. Julia Gosztyla Ziobro

      Hey Dave,

      Go watch the videos I shot. Think about explaining to me:
      - the materials in the cutting head on the printer, and why, and why they cost what they do, and why/how they wear with different materials
      - the nozzle system on the domer... in fact, the whole damn machine, from repurposed IV pump to dual pumps, to mixing tube, to the connections to the nozzle, to the aluminum nozzle and bracket that you created
      - the curing cabinet why and how
      - why pulling faster works better when weeding (as you explained it to me)
      - what you are doing that's subtly but critically different from how it would be done in mass production
      - the other related projects you're dreaming up, and their hows and whys
      - the challenges of the submersible project
      - the complex interplay between vinyl and ink at various coverage levels; drying and shrinking; optimum production throughput to minimize risk of spoilage while maximizing use of all machines and your time

      I think you are supremely well-qualified to consider yourself an Artistic Engineer. Want me to go write you a recommendation on LinkedIn? :-)

    40. Beverly Block on

      Merriam-Webster includes as a meaning of Engineer:

      "c : a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance"

      That describes perfectly what you do, and I think Artistic Engineer is a brilliant term for it.