Once upon a time…
…products had meaning. Tools were forged to last generations. Personal items were cherished and passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. Whether out of necessity or pride or some other reason, people bought things with care and cared for the things they bought.
From Memory to Mission
One of my early childhood memories was watching my dad polish his shoes. Maybe it was a chore to him, but to me it seemed like a labor of love. He would spread out newspaper on the kitchen table and line up his shoes in a neat row. He would open an old shoebox that contained some brushes, rags and small tins of black and brown polish. Then he would systematically work the polish into the leather with a brush and buff it out with a rag until his shoes reached a brilliant shine. The air smelled of shoe polish and worn leather. The rhythmic sound of the brush whisking against the shoes was trance inducing. When he finished, he would carefully pack up the shoebox, roll up the newspaper, and pause momentarily to admire the row of shiny shoes.
We wanted to capture that sense of pride and care for one’s belongings when we started Lever Gear. We wanted to create products with meaning. So we developed a mission statement.
Our Company’s Mission
Our mission is to restore the art of craftsmanship to manufactured goods—to design great looking products that solve real problems, work flawlessly, and stand the test of time.
That mission statement is a bit of a mouthful. But if we unpack it a bit, it’s a blueprint for how we plan to design products with meaning.
Our Business Blueprint
What do we mean when we talk about restoring the art of craftsmanship to manufactured goods? Years ago, all goods were hand crafted. Artisans trained for years to master the art and techniques of their craft, whether it was woodworking, blacksmithing, leathersmithing or any number of production methods. The tools of the trade were primitive but the finished products were unique, personal and often beautiful.
With the industrial age came new production methods and materials. Companies made products with more precision to be stronger, lighter, more affordable, and generally better. But they also lost the personal touch and attention to detail found in handcrafted products. More significantly, mass production allowed for a lot of crap to be mass produced.
Today there seems to be a clear divide between handcrafted objects and mass produced products. At Lever Gear, we strive to bridge that gap by combining the sensibilities and care of a master craftsman with the precision and technologies of modern production. We thoroughly test and refine our designs until we are confident in their quality, efficiency, and endurance. We agonize over the details, and work with local vendors whenever possible to make sure we have hands-on involvement in the production process. And our in-house team puts on the finishing touches that make it a Lever Gear product.
The Mission of Our Products
The second half of our mission statement provides four pillars that our products must embody.
Beautiful design. Beauty can be subjective, and not every style appeals to all people. But any experienced designer will tell you; you just know when you get it right. As a design consultant for over fifteen years, I’ve designed products that were beautiful, other products that I was borderline embarrassed about, and everything in between.
Sometimes a brilliant design just comes to you. More often it’s a long slog of iteration, adjustment, false starts, and disasters until you get something that resembles a good design. When you’ve worked on a design for awhile, you get to a design you really like, until someone looks at it with a critical eye and points out it’s not quite right. Deep in your heart, as much as you hate to admit it, you know they’re right. So, you begin again. The beauty is, when you finally get it right, you know it. The forms, the functions, the colors, and materials coalesce into a unified, beautiful product.
Solve real problems. I feel like many products just exist because companies think people will buy them. Others solve a problem that others have already solved a thousand times. The screwdriver is a wonderful tool that solves the problem of fastening things together. But does the world benefit if we put a red handle on a typical screwdriver and slap our logo on it? We’re not interested in designing “me-too” products.
There’s nothing wrong with companies designing products based purely on style. We’re just not interested in doing it. If we’re going to develop a product, it needs to have some level of innovation to it—whether it’s a completely new invention or a tweak on an existing idea that solves the problem in a new and better way. The invention of the can opener solved a real problem. When OXO designed their “Good Grips” can opener, they didn’t reinvent how to open cans. But by improving the grip, they solved a real problem for millions of people with arthritis.
We designed our first product, the Toolcard Pro, to solve a problem I had in my own life. I wanted to have my tools with me, but didn’t want to carry an extra multitool in my already full pockets. There were some other card tools out there, but they didn’t have many tools, and they didn’t work very well. So I designed the Toolcard that I could carry in my minimalist wallet, and it ended up becoming my wallet.
Work flawlessly. The engineer in me despises products that don’t function well. They’re frustrating to use and often don’t get the job done. The old adage that form follows function has persisted for a good reason. As we develop any product, we thoroughly ideate, test, and iterate until the product functions as well as it can.
Stand the test of time. If we get the first three pillars right, this should fall into place. Speaking of pillars, the Greek column is a perfect example of how beauty, problem solving, and functionality are combined to create something that endures the test of time. Styles come and go, but beauty is eternal. Our style is classic, simple, and clean. We eschew trendiness and embrace simplicity, efficiency and natural relationships. There are often several ways to solve a problem, and as we develop our products, we want to explore them all until we find the solution that works the best and won’t be eclipsed in time. Finally, we choose our materials and engineer our products to last for generations. Our goal is to design products that your children’s children will love as much as you do.
Lever Gear is a design driven company. We’re a problem solving company. We won’t let timelines, target price points, or consumer surveys drive our decisions. We will be guided by vision and motivated by a passion for perfection. We will keep at it until the design is right.
That is our mission. We may not always succeed, but we will be relentless in our pursuit of that mission. And through that pursuit, we will create products with meaning.