Behind a Kickstarter campaign: An interview with Kevin Hayes of Blank Forces

edc-ink detail tip and laser engraving options

Kevin Hayes, also known as Blank Forces, has a very interesting Kickstarter campaign going at the moment. The EDC Ink is a keychain pen made from stainless steel and brass that uses D1 refills. It’s available in two sizes and a range of fascinating finishes.

I need to stress that I haven’t tried one of these pens out but I have backed one. I’ve been looking for a good keychain pen for a while and I’m hoping this may be the one.

I’m always interested in the people-behind-the-pens and so I was very happy when Kevin kindly agreed to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions. I hope you’ll find his answers as fascinating as I did.

Kevin Hayes portrait

Why did you decide to design and make a pen?

I always love making things and working with metal. About a year ago, I began learning about handmade knives and I began making a few kitchen knives for fun. With all the research I did, I started learning about the world of EDC (every day carry) and became interested in the things that we carry around every day – from pocket knives to flashlights and pens. As a designer, I would sometimes carry around a full size pen to be ready to sketch an idea when it popped into my head. So with all of these things coming together I began to look for a nice quality compact pen that I could always have with me. There are some compact pens out there but I didn’t really like how they worked or how they looked so I decided to make my own cool keychain pen. When I started carrying and using the pen, I had several people ask me how they could get one. And that is how EDC Ink was born.

What makes your pen different to what’s already out there?

Let me start my saying what i didn’t like about the other compact pens that were available. One had a magnetic cap that would stick to anything metal in your pocket and that was a pain. Others always stayed connected to your keyring, so writing with the keys dangling over your hand was uncomfortable and clumsy. The famous Bullet Fisher Space pen is beautiful and simple, but the walls of the tube are very thin and the add-on clip just looks like an afterthought. And it still wouldn’t connect to my key ring easily. So I designed EDC Ink to address all of these issues. They are super rugged and made from thick-walled 304 stainless steel and solid brass. The design is very refined, simple and robust – there isn’t much that can break on these pens. With the two sizes of the EDC Ink pens they can accommodate people with larger hands as well as someone looking for a super compact sized pen that can go with them everywhere. I also wanted to increase the functionality of the pen. As a product designer I often have to measure small things, so I decided to laser engrave a measurement scale right on the surface. I really loved how this looked and the pure simple geometry of the surface of the pen creates the perfect canvas to engrave beautiful decorative patterns. This really opened up the pens to be more than functional and become an accessory that was practical as well as beautiful.

using x1 pen at beach

What’s your experience in design and manufacturing?

I’ve been a professional designer for almost 20 years here in Los Angeles and have been lucky to work with some very talented designers and engineers on some amazing projects. I started my career at one of the top design firms in LA and was fortunate to work on many award winning projects for some of the largest companies in the world including HP, Brita, Apple, Harman/Kardon, and Kawasaki. Often traveling to Asia during the product development process. I’ve designed all kinds of products from medical equipment, speakers, home theater equipment, to toys and sporting goods. As a hobby I also love designing and making wood furniture. I have to say that I love designing and making just about anything.

Why Kickstarter?

It is the crowdfunding site that I was most familiar with. A company I was working with had just run a successful campaign using Kickstarter so it just evolved from that. My experience so far has been amazing. To be honest I was a bit worried how it would go, but we reached our funding goal in less than two days. All the backers have been really great, positive and supportive. It really is an amazing community and crowdfunding appears to be perfect for someone like me that loves to create and make things. You can very quickly see if you have a good idea or not.

Sketching motorcycle closeup

What are some of your favorite pens and how do you use them?

I’m pretty practical when it comes to the pens I use. For a long time I carried and used the Pilot Razor Point II to sketch with, and over the past two years started to enjoy using the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 05. It comes in some other colors than black; I like the sepia and blue colors just to mix it up a bit. When using black ink, I’ll also use a thicker felt tip (like a lightweight Sharpie) to give more depth to the drawing. I also love sketching with the old style lead holders. I will sometimes use a pencil to add some shading and depth to a drawing. It is subtle but can make a big difference in a quick sketch.

What are your plans for once you’ve fulfilled your Kickstarter pledges?

That is a very good question! To be honest I’m not sure. From the looks of it, there is demand for these pens but I’m not sure if the true retail price will make them a viable product. What I mean is that they really are a quality product and may end up being too expensive for retail (after the retail markup), so I have to do some homework and talk to some retailers about pricing and margins. I have many more ideas for the EDC Ink line of pens and would love to do an ultra-lightweight titanium version as well. I’ve also created a couple of other pen designs that I would like to offer, so hopefully I’ll be able to have another great Kickstarter campaign.

x1 and x2 pens in palm

Thank you so much to Kevin for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven’t already backed the EDC Ink then take a few minutes to look over this great looking project.

Photos by Blank Forces.

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