Award for Palo Alto International Film Festival

October 2012



Create an award for the 2012 Palo Alto International Film Festival (PAIFF). My colleagues at the Palo Alto Institute didn't have much of a budget for the award at their annual film festival, but they did have high aspirations for an iconic piece that felt impressive enough to satisfy the international set of artists receiving the award.


Prototyping, Sketching, Project Management


The PAIFF team sent me a few photos of awards that they liked, as well as a few requirements. They made it clear they didn't want some cheesy laser cut piece of plywood and acrylic; they wanted a hefty award that made the recipient feel like a million bucks. The PAIFF team also wanted a piece that included two symbols:

I worked with Travis Kirton, a colleague whom I met at the Ars Electronica Center in Austria, to put together a few prototypes to share with PAIFF. In the spirit of low-resolution prototyping, we tried to get across the spirit of the award without spending too much time perfecting the details.

After a brief meeting with the PAIFF team, the rice, paper and dowel prototype emerged as the winner. The design is an abstract representation of the El Palo Alto, and was Travis' contribution to the mix. The designer in me liked its iconic nature, and the mechanical engineer in me liked how simple it would be to manufacture... or would be if I actually had access to any sort of CNC mills. Now that the design was decided, there was just the small problem of figuring out how to have 12 awards manufactured with essentially no budget and only a month of time.


Trying not to panic, I contacted the Menlo Park Tech Shop and learned that they're really only good if you have a few months and the few hundred dollars necessary to train on all of the various machines needed to manufacture the parts yourself. Nix that option. After calling a few shops and hitting more dead ends, I stopped by IDEO to get the advice of the shop manager, Nacho Mendez (best name ever, right?) Nacho came through for me and told me to contact the ex-IDEO team at Proto-Quick. This advice earned Nacho a six-pack of beer, cookies and profuse thanks after the project was successfully completed.

I called the Proto-Quick team to describe the project and our nonexistent budget. They were excited about the award, so Art Director Kaitlin Sullivan quickly put together a sponsorship package as compensation for their contributions to the festival. Proto-Quick proved to be a great partner for us.


I finally got to see the awards on-stage at the awards ceremony on the final night of the festival. It was incredibly gratifying to see them all lined and ready for their new homes!

Full credit goes to Max Morse/Getty Images for all award ceremony images.