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Brooklyn Robot Foundry

Building a brand—and boxes—to help kids build robots.

Brooklyn Robot Foundry is a physical space and online platform where children are given the opportunity to learn basic STEAM concepts through hands-on robot-building. They reached out to Zenpack for a rebrand and packaging refresh in order to reach a wider audience through at-home education.

The Problem

Brooklyn Robot Foundry reached out to Zenpack in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic gripped New York City. Their three brick-and-mortar locations served the Five Burroughs, but all in-person classes were cancelled for lockdown. Like every business, COVID-19 forced BRF to pivot, and they decided to accelerate their plan to offer more online classes for kids located throughout the country. Before the pandemic, online students were only a small percentage of their class participants, so they sent robot parts, tools, stickers and accessories in minimally branded cardboard boxes. But the world turned upside down, and their business model flipped to e-commerce. BRF needed a complete rebrand and packaging overhaul.

The Outcome

Printed with custom robot illustrations, the family of boxes tells the story of the BRF slogan and approach to learning—“Building fun together”. The packages are eco-friendly, designed for limitless content combinations, and feature built-in tools to incorporate the box into every project. When students sign-up for a remote robot building class, a few days later they receive a bright orange box filled with all the parts, tools, and accessories they need to create a one-of-a-kind robot creation.

Challenges

The name says it all: BRF teaches children how to bring ideas to life by building robots. But these aren’t just any robots—they’re super fun, moving, jumping, spinning, flashing, not-your-average creations designed to be built by children. The foundry is an actual physical space located throughout New York City, but teachers use Zoom to transform homes into mini workshops where children can build and learn together in their own environments.

While the concepts are complex, the process is simple: BRF ships the materials to students, they then log-on to Zoom, and then create! Whether a child is dropping by for a single session or taking a full semester, these STEAM classes are educational, fun and cover a variety of subjects. The programs are designed for children ages 2-13, but if people feel like they’re missing out on the party, BRF offers adult classes too.

Every week, we collaborated with BRF to learn about their process and goals. We even took a few classes to fully understand the magic of robot building.

These experiences led to a simple revelation: Let’s create packaging as unique as the Brooklyn Robot Foundry approach to learning. We were inspired by the 500+ robots designed by BRF teachers, each using common parts and materials found at craft and hardware stores. We were also intrigued by the robot building process where kids learn advanced STEAM concepts and decorate their creation however they want, all while building in a supportive, collaborative environment.

The BRF team needed packages that were flexible, sustainable, and interactive. With so many different classes, the box would have to accommodate an endless combination of parts, tools and accessories. BRF students were known to get creative with regular cardboard boxes—canvas to decorate, parts holder, flying robot landing pad. Why not create something that fuels their creativity? We set-out to produce a box that would support the company’s mission and that would get kids excited when they saw it on their doorstep.

Solution

We started with a complete rebrand, including logos, colors, fonts, copywriting, brand identity, and original robot illustrations. We illustrated six colorful cartoon robots and multiple parts and tools chosen by the BRF team, and then wrote a simple story about the robots collaborating to achieve a common goal. Meanwhile, our structural engineering team designed three main boxes, a glue gun box and a mug box. The illustrations extend to collateral cards, sticker sheets and activity sheets produced by Zenpack.

The final box is designed to provide excitement before the class begins. Each side of the box tells a chapter in the story, and each layer offers an activity or directions. Kids are introduced to Bitsy Bot, Pet Puppyborg, Artomatron, Proppy Jalopy, Robo Rex, and Bambino Beast working together—outside on the Brooklyn streets and inside in the Foundry—to build a sign with the BRF tagline, “Building fun together.”

We created an exterior sticker labeling system for smooth and efficient fulfillment. The production team sorts through hundreds of designs and thousands of parts when assembling robot kits. They apply a class sticker to the back of each box, which is then covered with an Avery label with variable class information. Since the sticker area is designed into the print, the team only needs to print new stickers when a class or robot is added to the curriculum.

Each box has exterior and interior stickers with opening instructions and class information. The sticker prompts students to grab a screwdriver to unscrew the top lid, getting them ready with one of the main tools needed for class. Once the lid is open, students encounter the STOP sticker letting them know to wait until class to go further. While they wait for class to begin, they can learn about the BRF process and instructions as well as draw their own robot. Under the interior lid, students will find an instruction card, tools, a BRF mug and all the parts they need to build their robots. Sticker sheets provide students opportunities to decorate their robot creations, laptops, books… wherever they want to stick them.

Once class begins, students can build their own phone or tablet stand using the existing box and a provided shoelace. The box comes with pre-cut holes and an instruction card from Bitsy Bot. This built-in feature gives students an immediate sense of accomplishment, and the adjustable shoelace allows students to tilt the device forward, transforming it into a hands-free overhead camera for teachers to see when they ask, “Show me what you’re working on!”

Result

Launched in January 2021, Brooklyn Robot Foundry has put their new style guide into practice with a new website, advertisements, collateral, and email marketing. Their robots-as-cartoons bounce across the new website as kids and parents sign-up for classes. The updated packaging has helped Brooklyn Robot Foundry introduce robot building to a new audience across North America. True to the BRF do-it-yourself core, the packaging celebrates ingenuity and facilitates kids to learn while building fun together.

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