Innovation Starts Small




Have you seen this meme floating around the internet? Some of the most revolutionary companies had the most quiet, ordinary beginnings.







unnamed-3The future doesn’t always announce itself with fanfare. The first telephone transmission was made in an old family home in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Tech companies that revolutionized the late 20th and early 21st centuries started out in garages in unassuming suburban neighborhoods. And an unmarked warehouse a few miles south of the Canadian border in Washington holds a machine that is already changing the game for imaging and sorting.




Capable of sorting over 80,000 coins in the course of an average workday (for more details on the machine’s capabilities, please click here), this machine uses computer vision and machine learning to quickly “see” and grade coins, sorting them according to the specifications set by the user. We can rapidly sort by date, mint mark, grade, value, and more, faster and more accurately than hand-sorting allows; the machine has sorted 2 million numismatic coins in 2 weeks. We may not be the most polished coin company in the world, but we’re agile and passionate, and excited to share our knowledge.



But it doesn’t stop with coins. We started there, because it was easier to teach a computer to see something that we ourselves know thoroughly. But a computer can be taught to see anything, even to make aesthetic judgments. Our technology has applications not only for sorting and identifying physical objects, but for improving accessibility for the disabled, creating a digital “fingerprint” for individual coins, preventing theft and fraud, and more.


Not every new invention is a game-changer, and not every game-changer comes from an established name or a well-known brand. Innovation often starts in a simple warehouse.





The Legacy of Raphael Tuck & Sons


The company Raphael Tuck & Sons has left quite a legacy in their wake ever since its start as a family business in 1866.

The company is especially known for its postcards. Between the late 19th century and early 20th century, postcards became hugely popular, and Raphael Tuck & Sons capitalized on this.

However, they didn’t start with postcards; when Raphael Tuck and his wife Ernestine opened up a small humble shop in England in 1866, they simply sold pictures and frames.

Four years later his sons joined him in the business. As well as continuing with pictures and frames, the family established themselves as great printers of lithographs, chromos, and olegraphs. Soon they also made their first Christmas card.

Raphael Tuck & Sons also made its own books. Pictured here is a childrens' book printed on fabric.

Raphael Tuck & Sons also made its own books. Pictured here is a childrens’ book printed on fabric.

Tuck’s son Adolph created a contest in 1880 for the best Christmas card designs. More than five thousand designs were submitted, some of which were displayed in galleries for viewing. Thousands of pounds were spent on buying entries. The contest was one of the main events that made Christmas cards into an annual tradition.

In 1893 the company even got a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria, letting them show the sign of royal approval on their products.

Raphael Tuck passed away on March 16, 1900 before postcards really hit their peak of popularity. However, the business continued to thrive.

Bad luck hit in London 1940 during the war when tons of bombs hit London. Raphael House was shattered to bits and tens of thousands of original art was destroyed.

Despite this huge setback, the company gained its footing fairly quickly.

A postcard of the Main Street of West Littleton.

A postcard of the Main Street of West Littleton by Raphael Tuck & Sons.

By the 1950s, all of the original family members of the company had passed away, and in 1959 Raphael Tuck & Sons combined with two other companies to become the British Printing Corporation.


Hand Painted Signs: Your Solution for Attention-Grabbing Storefronts

Hand painted signs are making a comeback.  This may not be obvious at first glance. Store signs are everywhere, and it takes an observant eye to notice the quietly appearing hand painted signs.  But where uniformly printed signs usually stand in store doorways and windows, hand painted signs have begun to grace storefronts in their place.

Before vinyl lettering, hand painted signs were the norm, creating a sense of personality and familiarity. But once resources allowed, saving time and money became the priority over the originality of hand painted signs, and the vinyl plotter took center stage as way of easy signage.

As a result, impersonal 1980s printers threatened to make hand painting traditions obsolete.

However, businesses are beginning to recognize the value of hand painted signs. For the same reason that companies work hard at crafting their image on social media, hand painted signs make that image for them, creating a down-home, personal and unique company image that says “We’ll be around for a while.”


Hand Painted Sign in UK

In fact, sign painting is making such a comeback that a documentary called “Sign Painters” was released this year in March 2013. Reviewer Mary Louise Schumancher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote this succinct summary of the lost art of hand painting as a metaphor for today’s technology-saturated world: “[The documentary] is a cautionary tale about the head-long rush into a technology-driven time and a meditation on what’s lost along the way. It is a reminder to look around and recognize the physical history in our presence every day.”

Casa Crocodilo

Casa Crocodilo

So maybe the art of hand painting represents something else: a new appreciation for, or recognition of, the need to slow down and be in the moment. Learning to hand-paint signs takes years, and only the most dedicated will master the art. Only one school teaches hand-painting in a two-year graphics program: the Los Angeles Trade-Tech College run by Doc Guthrie, who teaches “time-honored brush skills”.

So next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes open for these gems among storefronts. You may gain a new appreciation for your local artists.

And if you yourself are a store owner, keep the power of the hand painted sign in mind.

Have you come across any hand painted signs lately? What’s the coolest one you’ve seen, whether in-person or online? Let us know in the comments!


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