Featured Project: This Project was a Moving Target for Michigan’s Britten

Though it started as a sign shop, Britten Inc. in recent years has become known at least as much for devising unusual types of signage and displays.

Traverse City, Michigan-based Britten Inc., a full-service, large-format graphics and print shop, recently partnered with Bank of America on a project in New York City that attracted attention over the holidays and raised money for a good cause.

According Britten, Bank of America and its marketing agency, Octagon, wanted a unique display that would help it raise funds that would be used to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa. To do that, the idea for creating a “Rube Goldberg” device was hatched.

Goldberg was a 20th-century sculptor, author, engineer and inventor who is best known for devising bizarre and complex contraptions that would illustrate cause and effect in a humorous and unusual way. Mimicking his work would be perfect, Bank of America thought, because the whole idea was to create something that would demonstrate how small actions can go on to create a big reaction.

Britten’s invention was set up at the famous Bryant Park Winter Village in New York City.

Octagon contacted Britten and told the company it had just a month to complete the project. Britten’s president, Paul Britten, has a background in architecture and was happy to take on the challenge, his company says.

“It took a lot of study on Rube Goldberg and his thinking. We created storyboards of each and every element in the process, then created three-dimensional models until we were confident that the scale of each component was going to work,” says Britten.

The first trigger of the domino effect was to swipe an oversized Bank of America credit card that caused the machine to activate and go through a series of 10 different steps, until it opened up a gift box at the end with a (RED) gift inside.

(RED) is a division of The ONE Campaign, a Washington D.C., nonprofit corporation.

The Rube Goldberg “machine” was designed to look like old-fashioned toys, built out of plywood, and cut using a MultiCam CNC router.

The Rube Goldberg Experience was on display for four days in Bryant Park, and raised thousands of dollars for project (RED). The entire machine was delivered in-person, assembled, tested, and staffed by Britten’s creative team.

“We’ve been in business since 1985, originating as a sign company, but today we are really architects of special projects,” says Britten. “We help agencies and other creative people bring their creative ideas to life. We only had a month to pull off this project, from the very first phone call until opening day. The kids were thrilled; there is nothing more fun than seeing their smiling faces.”

To watch a video of the device in action, click here.

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Tony Kindelspire

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