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Dual color combinations immediately trigger emotions from loyal fan bases around the globe. Blue and Orange provokes the “Swamp” to clap their hands resembling a Gator. Crimson and White makes the Southerns resound the call of Roll Tide. For this reason, branding is a pivotal aspect in the sports world. They create a sense of belonging and pride to the sports team.

Successful organizations have developed and marketed their brand through excellence on the field. However, the continuation of the programs image is derived through constant renovation and innovation of their brand. For example, the New England Patriots, a powerhouse for the last two decades in the National Football League, have changed their logo five times since 1960. This not only keeps things fresh for the program and its fan base but it shows the demand to constantly advance the brand.

For sports institutions all over the globe, branding establishes the identity of the team. Without a clear brand, the team would lack the necessary push athletes’ needs in order to perform at their peek. The best way to connect the fan to the athlete is bridging the drastic gap of the everyday life of a normal fan to the professional. Therefore, jerseys donning the player’s last name are sold at alarming rates. Additionally, trading cards and team gear all play a role in connecting the athlete to the everyday fan.

In the same manner, our mission in partnering with collegiate and professional institutions is to brand the programs’ identity from the moment the fan or athlete enters into the locker room or arena. Despite what seems to be a minor aspect in the brand, successful teams throughout the U.S. have deemed our product as a vital contribution to the overall experience of the fan and athlete alike. Subconsciously, custom door pulls assist in associating the nine to five fan to the three hundred pound defensive end. Our team of skillful craftsmen strives for excellence. They specialize in creating custom knobs, pulls and hinges in order to enhance the customer's experience of entering or exiting wherever they may be.

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All our designs begin with one objective, to design the perfect piece for your project… and every project is unique so every design is unique.

Our customers are always at the forefront of our minds here at First Impressions International. As part of our ongoing efforts to show our customer who we are and what we do, we’ve begun to pull back the curtain into our door hardware design process to give you the opportunity to understand us and our process better. Last month we featured an interview with lead designer James Padilla, you can see that here. Design is something that everyone here at First Impressions is passionate about, and we work to deliver the best designs day in and day out.

Our process of creating designer door handles is one that takes into account customer needs, specifications such as brand and icons, location, and material restrictions. By taking a holistic view of the design process we can create beautiful, functional door handles for our clients that are exactly what they are looking for. Every design begins with understanding the scope of the project and design requirements. Our process only commences when we know exactly what it is we are producing, nothing derails a great design faster than unexpected parameters or requirements. Once the scope of the project has been finalized we set about designing your pulls and hardware. This includes all elements of the project from materials to size to finish, everything is planned out ahead of time. Whether we are creating custom knobs and door pulls or starting a new line of retail handles we take time to ensure we deliver the best products on the market.

Now the design process can begin in earnest as we try to keep the designs true to the aesthetic value that our clients need without sacrificing any of the comfort and ergonomics of a designer door pull. The actual planning and design occurs on a 3D platform, combining Solidworks with Adobe products to generate a 3D rendering with all specifications, including size, color scheme, materials, and finish. This is where our team of dedicated and talented individuals is really able to shine. By being bold in our designs we are able to deliver exactly what our clients want, whether that is a modern chrome look or combining metal and wood or other materials to create a truly unique piece. Our team has the knowledge and experience to understand a concept, turn it into a design and ensure that the manufacturing process remains true to your goals.

After client approval of the designs we break them down into drawings of the various parts needed for manufacturing and production. This only happens after the customer is fully satisfied and happy with the design, otherwise we go back to the drawing board, so to speak. Only after we’ve gotten full approval from our client do we begin production, a process that we will look more closely at in the future. Be sure to check back as we will be showcasing some of our custom designs, and if you’ve got a need for custom door handle design we’re here to work with you and together create a great product and experience.

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“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs

James Padilla, Director of Design & Product Development here at First Impressions International knows the truth inherent in this statement about as well as anyone. As the lead designer, we thought it would be great if James could share some of his expertise and grant some insight into how First Impressions is able to provide the highest levels of customer service as well as meet custom specifications for a variety of projects and designs. With his vast array of knowledge and lengthy experience, Mr. Padilla is the perfect individual to share our process and vision with our current and future customers. With all that in mind, we asked Mr. Padilla to sit down for a Q&A session in order to better illustrate how he arrived at First Impressions and the process that goes into our custom design work.

How long have you been designing custom door handles? In general and for First Impressions International?
I’ve been designing graphics for about 25 years, and for the past 12 years I’ve been combining graphics with industrial design. Designing door handles for FII is another facet of industrial design and I have done this for the last 2 years.

What program do you use for your design work?
We mainly use Solidworks for 3 D design, combining Adobe products for rendering and conceptual presentations.

What is the average time it takes to finish a customized door handle?
Average time for design on a custom handle is about 1 to 3 hours for average to medium complexity and 3 to 8 or more on highly complicated projects.

Can you describe the process you go through when creating a custom door handle design?
Gathering all information from clients and sale team.
Develop conceptual ideas based on client’s requests.
Design the 3D model in Solidworks, develop CAD drawings for submittals.
Develop drawings for parts required in manufacturing.

What is the most challenging aspect of designing custom handles?
One challenging aspect designing custom handles is keeping a balance between ergonomics and aesthetics.

What inspires your custom designs?
Designing for corporate I like to explore using their logo as handles and possibly incorporate different materials such as Acrylic, Wood, and Leather.
Designing new products I get inspired by shapes in nature combined with geometrical shapes.

What’s the difference between modern and classic design?
Classic design, in my opinion, is very much decorative and not necessarily practical.
Modern design looks for simplicity and it’s what I referred to as ergonomically friendly.

Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on?
Combining metals and wood it is always my favorite, especially when live wood is utilized.

Are your designs often detailed from the clients or are you given freedom to design as you see fit?
We get both scenarios- some clients are very specific and detailed in their vision and others come with a general concept and allow us to design as we think is best.

How has the design world changed since you first began?
We have become more environmentally friendly and that is a big plus, not only is this industry but for all aspects of business.

Are the design and material interdependent? Are there specific designs that only work with certain types of materials?
The answer is yes. We always need to consider application and the durability of the product.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to get involved in the world of custom design fixtures? Be it door handles or anything else?
Keep it simple, practical, and pleasing to look at. Besides that, just enjoy your designs.

Check out our array of door pulls or contact us about ordering a custom pull for your business and give James and our team another great project that you can be proud of!!

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Before answering the question of what the difference between the two is let’s examine some other products that are in the same situation. Kleenex, Scotch tape, Band-aid, Vaseline, Lucite. What do all of these items have in common? They’re all brand names that have taken the place of the product name itself. Lucite is a high quality, trademarked version of acrylic resin developed by DuPont in 1937. Acrylic plastics can be used as replacements for glass in many products, with varying degrees of visual and constructive qualities. Lucite is an acrylic plastic resin used primarily in windows and fashionable interior and furniture design due to its strength, crystal transparency, and flexibility along with its resistance to UV rays, wind, and water.

Not all acrylic is created equal. Some acrylic is low quality and may not be as clear or resistant to the elements as a higher grade acrylic plastic, such as Lucite. Lucite is used in our acrylic pull handles and knobs as we only use the best materials. Lucite is crystal clear and scratch resistant, meaning that it won’t lose that perfect look the first time someone opens the door. Lucite is incredibly flexible for a material with its strength, making it perfect to use in the creation of custom or exotically designed knobs and handles. It can also be colored by adding dyes, pigments, and other substances to create a one of a kind look. The reason we here at First Impressions International use Lucite is because we believe in using only the highest quality materials to create the best products on the market. Our customers deserve nothing but the best and we wouldn’t work any other way. In short there is no real difference between Acrylic and Lucite, Lucite is just the best version of acrylic on the market. When a company says they are selling acrylic products the quality may run the gamut from poor to the highest possible, there’s no way of knowing until you see the product itself. Since we use Lucite in our products the quality is always of the highest order, whether that is a custom designed piece, a totally translucent handle, or a multi-colored knob, our products are held to the highest standards.

Since Lucite is a specific type of acrylic, namely the best, comparing it to glass is the next step in discussing why we choose to use it in our products. Glass was the standard bearer for clear home fixtures for a long time. With the development and advent of Lucite home and business fixtures and Acrylic furniture, especially following WWII where it had been used exhaustively for military purposes, glass became less prevalent over time. Today Lucite continues to see many uses in home furnishing, mainly due to the strength of the material and its break resistant nature; making it safer to use as furniture and functional pieces. While strength is a key factor in using Lucite, the material is also incredibly flexible, weighs less than glass, and is even clearer than glass. All of these factors, especially the safety, weight, and malleability of Lucite makes it the superior option for creating pull handles, knobs, curtain rods, and other deluxe home hardware.

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How Green Is My Door Handle?

“It’s not easy being green,” or so says Kermit the Frog of Jim Henson’s Muppets. But for the global economy and nearly every industry, going green is no longer a lament. Rather it’s a call to arms being led in no small part by investors eager to realize sustainability in addition to profitability. They seek, among many goals, to reduce environmental damage and become more socially responsible members of their communities. For many businesses, and even entire industries, this means reducing waste through the use of recycled materials. Door hardware and door handle manufacturers and fabricators are in a nearly unique position in this regard, and as a result, we just may be one of the greenest businesses around.

In the United States, recycling has become a growth industry. According to the EPA, in the past thirty years, the recycled portion of municipal solid waste (MSW) has increased from less than ten percent in 1980 to more than 34 percent as of 2010, with no signs of leveling off. A key statistic in the EPA reports is the amount of metal recycling, which stands at 35.1 percent (EPA 2010). Although steel and aluminum recycling tend to get all the good press, it’s the nonferrous metals—mainly alloys of copper like brass and bronze—that are recycled at the highest rates. In fact, more than 70 percent of all nonferrous metals are recycled, which gives the green patina these metals achieve some real symbolic meaning.

Wherever you go, look at the door handles you use and you’ll see that many, and probably most, are made out of metal. And, whether they’re made of steel (generally stainless), aluminum, brass, or bronze, it’s likely they contain at least some recycled material. In fact, it’s more and more the case that any metal door handle you happen to grasp, will be made mostly, if not entirely, from recycled material. Recycling not only reduces waste significantly, but in most cases, it is both more cost-effective and energy-efficient compared to manufacturing and fabricating products from new metal refined from ore.

Let’s look at some recycling facts about the most common metals used in the manufacture and fabrication of door handles:

More steel is recycled on a global basis than aluminum, glass and paper combined, making it the most highly recycled material—not just metal—in the world. Upwards of 100 million tons of steel are recycled each year in the United States alone. Steel can be recycled almost indefinitely without loss of strength, making it one of the greenest of all materials. Recycling steel from scrap not only reduces pollution from mining waste by 70 percent, but also reduces air and water pollution by the same amount.

Recycling one ton of steel saves:
• 2.5 tons of iron ore,
• 1 ton of coal
• 120 pounds of limestone
• More than 80% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by smelting iron ore

Interestingly, the recycling rates of steel packaging (46%) are nearly double that of aluminum packaging (24%).

Copper and its alloys: Brass and Bronze:
Brasses and Bronzes are probably the most well-known families of copper-base alloys and probably account for more door knobs and door handles than any other metal. Brasses are alloys of copper and zinc, with white brass having a higher zinc content than red brass. Bronzes are alloys of copper and tin along with other elements such as aluminum, silicon or beryllium.

Copper, brass and bronze are also highly-recycled metals. Each year, nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material in the United States as is produced from new ore. With the exception of wire, most of which uses newly refined copper, more than 75 percent of the metal used by copper and brass mills, ingot makers, foundries and other industries comes from recycled material.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2011 the production of brass and bronze alloy ingots from recycled materials (ungenerously referred to as “scrap”) in the United States was 108,000 tons!

Unfortunately, even as green an industry as the door handle business has its limits. One of those limits is the inability to easily recycle acrylic plastic, a highly versatile material that is increasingly popular for door handles due to its ability to take any shape, form or color. It’s also very easy to clean, but we’ll talk about that issue in another article.

We shouldn’t end on a down-note, though, so look for more and more bright, beautiful and environmentally-friendly door knobs and door handles made of steel, brass and bronze!

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First Impressions makes amazing custom door pulls and handles.

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