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Uncommon - Custom design your own iPhone case (getuncommon.com)
80 points by mattking 2628 days ago | hide | past | web | 35 comments | favorite

Matt King (op), myself, and the rest of our team at Instrument have been building out the site and backend infrastructure for this manufacturing process for the past five months.

It's been one heck of a ride...we're web guys and don't exactly have a lot of experience in building factories or making, um, real physical objects.

The frontend is powered by Interface (http://www.getinterface.com), with the backend order fulfillment / manufacturing infrastructure built in Rails running on top of Ruby 1.9 and Unicorn, all sitting behind Nginx. All asset processing on the backend is done using GraphicsMagick using a modded mini_magick, which is way faster and more efficient than ImageMagick.

We'd love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and criticisms!

I'd be interested in hearing more about how you went from idea to production, finding a manufacturer, etc. I think this is a big stumbling point for a lot of people in the same position as you were — interested in manufacturing a physical product, but only familiar with the web.

Seconded. A few years back for a school project I had designed and digitally modeled a chess set in 3D. After showing the renders to people, some folks claimed they'd buy an actual physical version. I pursued it for a bit, but all the places I emailed required orders too large for me to afford, or made the one-off prohibitively expensive on a per-set basis. It would be interesting to hear more about how you folks pursued this.

One of the more interesting aspects of the site was image processing. Since the print process requires high-res images, we have to deal with fairly large images (anywhere from 5-20mb). Using image caching from Interface and a custom nginx module, we sped up image resizing and caching considerably for this site.

Love it. Awesome idea and prior to seeing this I hadn't even considered getting a case for my iPhone.

Very cool, great work.

Is there a picture of a real case in someone's hand? I want to see what they actually look like, but all I see are shiny renderings.

They look really good though.

Of course! Sorry for all the renders; they look nice, but it's good to see the real thing.

Here are some of the cases coming off the line now: http://u.phoreo.com/pa.JPG

And here is a hand shot (the original art was a bit messy; the printing is correct): http://u.phoreo.com/en.JPG

Could you add a couple from multiple angles (including front)? It's not clear to me what the whole case looks like.

Cool, so they kinda snap onto the back. How thick are the cases?

Do you have an affiliates program?

I really like the site, however, I would like to give this as a gift to someone and you don't seem to have a build in gift card interface. I know it's not that long till X-Mas, but it seems like a great tech gift for a reasonable price the only problem is the cool part is letting them pic the picture.

Nice site! Cool to see you can grab an independent artist's design, or upload your own!

Is there a way to gift these? I'd buy two right now if so. Also, when is the touch version going to be available?

I just ordered one. This is a great idea! I really like the flash tool that helps you place custom artwork on the case. The checkout process was very smooth as well.

That being said, there's a problem with the custom artwork process. The vast majority of my photos are landscape, and these simply don't fit well onto a case. I had to photoshop one of my photos to add some extra sky onto the top in order to graft it onto a case. Any landscape photo taken with the rule of thirds will have this problem.

This is compounded by the tool, which has a nasty looking warning if you fail to fill the entire print area with your photo. There's nothing in the FAQ about the "print area", and none of the photos show the front of the case, leaving me completely in the dark about how serious an issue this is.

Obviously being an iPhone you expect to view it in a vertical orientation, however we do provide a way to rotate the image to landscape.

We're working on updating the FAQ about the bleed area. Basically since you're looking at the back of the case, it's hard to visualize the fact that the case wraps around the sides of the phone and has a slight lip around the front. The image printing process does cover that entire area. We wanted to make people aware that the image does in fact need to cover more area than is visible in the configurator. You do have the option to not cover the bleed, it will just end up being the white base color of the case.

Thanks for the feedback, it's much appreciated!

I understand. A couple of suggestions:

1) Document this better! I figured it out eventually, but there were a couple of people looking over my shoulder who wanted to "just click continue", which would have resulted in an ugly surprise later on.

2) You could auto-expand my image to cover the bleed. Basically, just take the last few pixels on each side and expand them out to the edges. That would almost always be better than plain old white, right? This is basically what I did manually with Photoshop.

This is awesome. Price is right too, in my opinion.

The biggest value to me is to be able to upload and use my own photo; I don't care too much for the existing art, not that there is anything wrong with your selection.

Uploading the photo was easy and resizing and centering is easy and intuitive.

Couple things, though: When I submit my uploaded pic for approval, it just spins indefinitely.

Also, when I was centering my custom picture on the phone, the picture filled the entire area of the phone, but not the entire "print area." I don't really get this. If the pic covers the whole case, how does this not cover the whole print area? It wasn't originally clear to me that the blue dotted square is the entire print area.

Dang... I wish I had seen this two weeks ago. I would love to have purchased something as a Christmas gift for my wife. It's cutting it a bit too close at this point, though.

If you place an order today, it'll be printed and shipped today. Ground shipping should be okay depending on your location (they will be shipped from Louisville, KY), but 3-Day might not be a bad idea.

Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you have any questions: scott@weareinstrument.com

WOW! Nice biz model and killer implementation. I wish you guys luck, but it looks like you may not need it. I'll be ordering a couple of these.

Looks great! The custom designer works well and the available artwork is fantastic.

One thing: maybe this is just me, but the account verification email got caught in my spam filter. If I had to guess, I would say it's because the title was "hello" - kinda spammy sounding.

I usually _hate_ Flash intros, but this one was just right. Quick intro, and the animation leads the eye nicely to the products. The shifted perspective on that spinning product animation gives it a bit more impact. Really well done.

I just went through the ordering process and from a designers standpoint, this is a really solid execution. I'll probably order a case soon but I need to spend some time designing something worthwhile. Bookmarked! Great job fellas.

I love the idea, well done guys!

A friend mentioned he's unable to upload artwork from Safari 4 on a mac, if you'd like to double check that. (it worked in firefox on the mac).

Also, $60USD shipping to Australia for a $40USD product? is that correct?

Really slick. And that's saying a lot since I typically dislike iPhone cases (they look clunky and makes the iPhone look big and ugly) - I love the designs you have on the site. Good job folks!

I don't know if it's just me, but this page isn't loading:


Hey Phreanix,

Do you have Javascript disabled, by chance? JS and Flash are required to display the product configurator.

I did some looking around, and I can't find another way that you might have arrived at this link (unless perhaps the JS did not initialize correctly).

If you still have trouble after ensuring that JS and Flash are both available, drop me an e-mail at scott@weareinstrument.com and we'll look into it right away.


- Scott

It would be nice if this degraded more gracefully. There are going to be people that arrive at that link without hitting the JS for whatever reason. Arriving at a blank white page is going to confuse them.

It isn't working for me either. I'm on the latest version of Chrome, with both Flash and JS enabled!

I think it would be great to deign your own case and be able to share it from your "saved designs" list in your account. For instance, I made a cool case with a picture of mine and I would like to post it to facebook or sent it in an email to share with my friends. This would let them see my cool case and be good marketing for you.

That's just some sort of sticker, right? Not a case?

Can you elaborate on the manufacturing process? Do you outsource the files to a printer? I would think it's just getting a blank case made (not too hard to find someone to make an unbranded one, right?) and then sending it to a printer for fulfillment.

Seems really cool. I clicked around though, looking for the price, and couldn't find it.

$39.95 to make your own. Not bad.

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