After looking through a large number of pins on the internet, sketching out some things to brainstorm and otherwise trying to lock on an idea for pin, I started to browse through the challenge coins on the apple metal website and pretty rapidly decided I wanted to do one of those.
My favorite example on the Apple Metal website was this US Customs challenge coin. I like all of the different levels to the coin and the detail in the eagle.
After a little brainstorming I locked on the idea of a challenge coin for a software development team I work with just as a thank you to them. They're a great bunch of folks scattered across the planet and this has turned out to be a pretty inexpensive way of giving them an unusual keepsake.
As the three pages from my sketchbooks show, I bounced around a little before arriving at that conclusion and ended up starting well before arriving at my final design.
When I started working in Illustrator I hadn't locked on the final design but that gave me a chance to experiment with different looks and trying different things as I went through a number of variations (including several that aren't shown here).
The number 7 has significance which is why you see the gears changing around in some of the of the designs. The star does as well. The binary code around the edge just says "Tools & Automation" and included the pleasant surprise of fitting the coin perfectly at the font size I wanted.
The final design I opted for is below:
I exchanged a few emails with Apple Metal to confirm the binary and some of the other details would come out okay, work out details on the size and verify color and metal choices. For anyone else who's interested here is the metal plating guide they sent me:
I ended up going with a one sided coin (they can to two sided) and with a single depth (as you can see from US Border Patrol coin they support more than that) and went with Antique Brass for the finish. I chose 1.75 inches (44.5mm) diameter for the coin. They do other sizes, but I didn't get details as that was just the right size.
For small orders like this, the biggest cost is in creating the mold rather than the cost of each unit and I couldn't decide if I wanted the enamel or just a plain coin so I ended up ordering both.
I sent my illustrator document to them and they made some very minor adjustments including the color of the metal and sent it back to me. After I approved it, they invoiced me and I've already paid them via Paypal. They're estimating they will ship in 11 calendar days and will send me pictures of the finished coins before shipping.
For my options and small quantity, the total price (including the mold and shipping) came to well under $5 each which I think is quite reasonable. I would imagine pins are less than the coins are.
This is the final proof they sent me (including the Pantone colors I asked for):
I'll attach a picture of the coins once I get them. Working with Xie at Apple Metal was an absolute pleasure. She was very helpful and easy to work with. I highly recommend them.
I know the class was on Illustrator rather than doing business with Apple Metal but I included the info on working with them because I would imagine other people are curious about having their designs turned into physical objects.
Update After Receiving the Coins:
Overall, I'm very pleased with the results. The coins have a nice solid heft to them and feel and look like a solid quality product.
Lessons Learned in the process:
1) The colors did change a little bit but I was expecting that and still like the end result.
2) Several of the enamel coins have very small defects in the enamel. It looks like maybe tiny bits of debris or bubbles were stuck under the enamel resulting in a tiny bump. Out of 20 about 8 are bad enough that I would have returned them if I were planning on reselling these.
If I were a customer buying just one from me, I'd be disappointed if I received one of those. Of course I'm pretty critical visually. A lot of people probably wouldn't even notice them. In this case I have enough good ones that it's not worth the trouble to return and this entire exercise was meant to be a learning experience for me so I don't consider this a problem but it's something to be aware of.
I also haven't done enough work with enamel products to know if this is normal or not so this may just be a normal part of working with this medium (I suspect it probably is). All of the defects I noticed were in the larger flat area of the coin which may have something to do with the cause. I don't see any near any of the raised areas so they don't effect the ability to read any details. On something smaller like a pin without a large flat area it's possible there wouldn't be any defects at all They're just a minor cosmetic issue.
4) I'm really glad I had some done without the enamel because I really like those. There are things I about both the enameled and plain coins. I can't decide which I like better.
5) I wish I had done a second design on the back of the coin. I knew it would be a little weird with only one side and it's not actually bad, but I feel like I could have made them substantially better by adding a design on the back as well.
6) The details (like the binary around the edge) came out spectacularly well. Apple did a great job on these.
7) I should have made the line around the cloud thicker. The same width is good on the ring inside of the binary but looks "off" on the cloud without enamel.
7) Overall Apple Metal was really easy to work with and super inexpensive. I'm sure I'll use them again.
8) I love having a physical, solid, metal manifestation of the artwork I did in Illustrator. It makes me feel good.
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