By Victor Paul Alvarez | Digital Crave
It’s not every week when a unique item comes across my desk.
First, unique is an overused term. Something worthy of that title should be one of a kind. It should stand alone, without equal. To a lesser degree, something unique should at least be unusual. (And, while I’m on a roll, please don’t say something is “really” unique or “totally” unique. It is either unique or it is not. Sorry; back to the tech stuff.)
The Papernomad gadget sleeves I tested recently are a fine example of unique products emerging from a “me too” market. You have likely never seen anything like them, but they feel immediately familiar. That’s a good thing. In a market as saturated as phone and tablet cases/sleeves, it’s refreshing to see something that transcends the unusual and becomes inspired.
You may not think you’re the kind of person who needs a biodegradable sleeve for your mobile device. But ask yourself these questions:
1. Did you ever doodle in the margins of your schoolbooks?
2. Is there a box — or boxes — of spiral notebooks covered in designs and poems from high school in your basement?
3. Are you the kind of person who looks at the cookie-cutter crop of tablet and smartphone cases and are left wanting?
Meet Papernomads — you’ve been waiting for them.
“We love the word ‘nomad,'” said Benjamin Kwitek, the company’s co-founder. “Although commonly associated with ancient tribes or bands of wandering people, we believe it has modern meaning. Even in our urban world, every individual is on a journey. He or she explores the physical and digital worlds looking for satisfaction and meaning. Our product is meant to accompany the customer or modern nomad on that journey. The journey is often better than the destination and Papernomads help record the stories along the way.”
The company consists of designers, marketing professionals, artists and “one or two lunatics,” as they put it. Their passion is to question existing systems and design sustainable solutions with respect to social and environmental issues. They did it by answering a simple question: What if traditional materials could be replaced by paper? The answer was “yes.”
Most cases are made of plastic and neoprene, materials that will outlast the devices they are protecting and, eventually, end up in landfills. Instead, Papernomad produces patented paper composite bags for such devices. They look and feel organic — both in material and function — and they offer surprising protection and durability for something made of paper.
Their best feature, however, is that you can personalize them with your own sketches, verse or anything you choose to write or draw on their paper surface.
“There are numerous ways to design up a Papernomad,” Kwitek said.
“We generally think a felt-tip pen or marker is best as it’s something that people often have with them during the day. Pencils also work great and can be erased but we like the permanence of pens and markers. It’s important to appreciate what one draws — even the mistakes.”
Papernomad uses 100 percent recyclable paper and cardboard along with nontoxic inks. All products are shipped using carriers that offset their carbon emissions.