Designing The Key Ring
What was the inspiration for our key ring? It all started with the desire to create a collection of products that go in your pocket.
“Everybody, empty your pockets!”

Sounds like a bank heist… but this is where we started our Everyday Carry design process. Our design team piled everything we had onto the table—knives, pens, keys, wallets, phones, notebooks. Everyday carry is a ubiquitous product category. It’s made up of the stuff we carry and use all the time.

But it means we had to do a lot of research when we started to design—and the easiest place to start was with our own pockets. We assessed what we all carried, and then branched out to various corners of the internet to see what everybody else was carrying.

We settled on three objects: a knife, a wallet, and a key ring.
We each had a different solution for carrying our keys—Ken used a small brass clip, Kevin had a leather wrap, and Sean had a carabiner that was “suitable for climbing.” All three of these made for secure, easy access.
We liked the idea of keeping things secure, but we also like to keep things simple. The carabiner was secure, but too difficult to operate. We quickly honed in on the simplicity of a key hook—it uses it’s own shape to slip through a belt loop or over the edge of a pocket.
We took this functional concept, and began experimenting with materials. We started with our signature mix of wood, metal and leather. As we worked, we slowly stripped things down until we were left with only metal.

This felt right. As with all of our designs, we wanted to push towards simplicity, to wed the form and function without adding unnecessary bulk or complexity. An all metal key ring was where we wanted to go!
We started churning out prototypes, fashioning key rings out of plastic using our laser cutter. We tried a variety of overall shapes and designs before we settled on a key ring with a circular opening.

"Sean had an acrylic prototype that he kept twirling around his finger during our critiques. That fidgety action may seem trivial, but we really liked it and made us pursue a circular inside design."

Once we’d made a handful in our shop, we tested them out in the real world, wearing them to and from work to see how they held up to our varied commutes. We tweaked and prototyped and the design slowly evolved.
Keepin' It Moving
Unfortunately, time and money had run out on our design budget, and we had to wrap up and move on. We finalized our drawings and handed it off to the engineering team. We had ended on a key ring with a circular interior, but the exterior was a rounded square similar to our pen pots.
This would have been the end of the story, but something didn’t sit right with Sean, our lead designer. The night after we handed off the design, he stayed up sketching, burning the midnight oil until he was totally satisfied. He focused on an idea that had been kicked around, but ultimately discarded: integrating a bottle opener. Making room for this functionality made for an entirely different, and entirely circular, key ring. Sean was inspired—we had to test it!
The next morning, we laser cut and assembled a prototype and bought a couple of sodas at a food cart down the street. The opener worked like a charm.

"I still remember Sean texting me late at night that he just wasn't happy with the design and he was working on a fix. When I saw his revision later that night, it was immediately obvious that this was it, this was the design that was meant to be."

We coordinated with our friends in Oregon City who do metal machining to manufacture a line of key rings using this circular, bottle opening design. We started with stainless steel, then added brass and titanium.

The simplicity of this design really sparkles in our collection. It’s a design that we like as much for the form and the material as the functionality… and we think it stands out in a crowded product field.
Within our EDC collection, the key ring was seminal—the Pocket Knife shares the same angle, and the Minimalist Wallet shares the same chamfer. We were able to create visual continuity within our line of products, while also respecting the unique geometries and forms that ensured the functionality of each.

Shop The Key Ring & Friends

For all your everyday carry needs.

Designing the Bifold Wallet

The Bifold Wallet took a longer journey to create than we could ever have imagined.

Further Reading