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client. case knives

description. product innovation

organization. VCU Brandcenter (graduate school project - live client)

my role. primary research: focus group & interviews\ consumer research\ strategy development\ art direction\ product design\ branding and identity\ prototyping\ presentation design

team. caitlin russell (st)



It is the mission of W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company to hand-craft the highest quality knives exclusively in the USA, and to promote knife collecting/ ownership as a lifestyle decision.


Case knives are tools, not weapons. Case believes in being useful and helpful, and that people and their hands are meant to do things. Case has captured a loyal demographic, one that is masculine and rural — represented by mud, grit and dirt.


A knife is one of the most practical tools in human history, yet it seems fewer and fewer people are carrying them in their pockets. Case can tap into new audiences and communication methods to expand and modernize its scope.


Case makes tools you can take with you. So we looked at how people are moving today. 


Most of us aren’t exploring the backwoods. We’re commuting through urban and suburban environments, and hustling through our 9 to 5. 


We asked our focus group which tools they used in their day-to-day. None of them mentioned knives. Even knife owners were using scissors or keys for cutting.


The knife was replaceable. But there was one tool that was irreplaceable. And used every single day.


the utensil. 


We found that following the sub/urban traveler actually meant following our stomachs. So we focused on a largely overlooked product in the Case catalog of tools:

The Hobo.


Our strategy was to focus on The Hobo knife as a tool for the meal prepared.

We divided the ‘meal prepared’ into three key audiences.


the famished families. 


Parents struggling to feed their kids on the go (and generally resorting to tube feeding. How much better could they be at feeding their families whole foods with utensils they can take with them?

the meal packer. 


They’re cooking on Sundays and storing in Tupperware for the week. They take pride in being prepared, but the payoff is a visually underwhelming meal. How could we add a pop of color to their routine? And could this encourage them to share their meal preparedness on social?

the take & throwaways. 


Commuters who don’t have time to prepare meals, so they’re ordering take out at lunch time or scarfing a yogurt on the bus. They run through plastic - if they can find it. How could they benefit from having a tool for eating on hand?

The Hobo is the right product, but it doesn’t travel well and its name isn’t working hard enough.


We wanted to provide Case with a product innovation that would allow the brand to more easily travel from a rural focus demographic to one that can live in an urban environment as well.


There was a key pain point that arose from our focus group. For those who said, “Yes, I carry a pocket knife,” the major hurdle was the metal knife being a breach of security. We looked to solve this with The Kitch.


We gave The Hobo a contemporary make over. The metal has been replaced with high quality silicone that is 100% recyclable. The logo is a heavy, san serif typeface with a minimalist appeal. Combined that with a new color palette, The Kitch will lend itself to a more urban, design focused audience. The color saturation will add vibrance and expression, in comparison to the more neutral, rustic tones of The Hobo.


The design is clean and simple, and built to transition well from the mountain trails, to the city streets.


The Kitch kept the essence of the Hobo. The tool is still able to function as separate utensils, sans the bottle opener due to the softer material. We didn’t want The Kitch to disrupt the daily routine, so we added a keychain to make carrying it as seamless as possible.

The Kitch was our ultimate vision, so we wanted to map out a path to get there.


phase 1.

We’d start by shifting messaging for The Hobo with pop-up vending machines. By placing the product side by side to its primary use-case (snacks!), we’re furthering that relationship. 


Also, we'd like to utilize the space with advertising that further tells that story.


phase 2.

Once The Kitch is ready for launch, we’d introduce it at festivals that create out-of-home food experiences like Bottle Rock and Outside lands. We would also send ambassadors to pass out product at smaller food gatherings like food truck parks. 


phase 3.

The crown jewel of our new Kitch experience would live in-store, at a place we called “The Kitchen.” The experience would allow you to fashion a custom Kitch to fit your personality, in limitless color combinations


The Kitch is a departure from the traditional optics of Case knives, but it is still on brand.

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