Tag Archives: Tornado

Designing a Popper – Nine Lives

This is a behind the scene look on how the Nine Lives Popper came to life. The end product you see took several months of work by several people. We hope you enjoy this step by step process.

The first step in designing any Popper is coming up with a concept, this one was of course cats. The cat theme was proposed with several other themes to the product development team to gauge an interest. From there, I start working on how this pen will be stylized. For the cat pen, several doodles and sketches were drawn (with a Tornado of course).


They were rough drawings, but I scanned them and turned them in vector based artwork.


That’s when color was brought into the design. After playing with the original doodles I presented two rough ideas , plus three different looks. From simple to more complicated, everyone has different tastes, so I try to cover a broad range.


These concepts are then off to the product development team for review. A vote is taken and revisions are requested. Some designs are lucky enough to be “one and done,” but this cat design was scrutinized for optimal cuteness! The team liked option three but for several reasons we decided on a less colorful approach. Here was the second revision:


The product development team was happy with this design… woo hoo! The next step is prepping the art to produce a sample. This is the technical part of the design, and it can be tedious separating the artwork in color layers plus choosing Pantone colors. Finally it’s off to the printer and a couple weeks later we get a sample back…


The first sample came in and they looked great! Sometimes colors need to be changed or an art layer printed incorrectly and revisions are necessary, but this time it was “one and done.” Now it’s onto the product development team to see if it’s cool enough to produce for the Popper line. After more scrutinizing, we all agreed that the “cat pen” was going to be a Popper! Now onto the next steps, because yes there are more! First, we need an official name and then we need a packaging label. Several names were thrown out including: BOO, Superstitious, Tom Kat, but Nine Lives was the winner.


Since the cats were hand drawn, I felt the name should have the same rough, hairy, fun feeling to match.  I hand drew all verbiage and repeated the same process for the name as done for the pen. After approval from the team, it’s sent out for production and a sample comes in for our review. Finally after weeks of production, the product is delivered and the final step of making a sale sheet (this one was an animated version), photographing the product plus writing sales copy is done.



After several months of work, the Nine Lives Popper was released to our retailers for sale. The design process is complete, but the promotion, sales and customer service support are more steps to complete the Popper release. On the design side, it’s back to square one. Time to create another design fast, pronto, like yesterday!

The best part of the process is hearing our customers response to the designs. It makes the months of work worthwhile knowing that someone cherishes this pen and it brings them such pleasure. We hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at Retro 51’s design process. Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you.


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New Tornado Packaging


Life is too short to carry an Ugly Pen has been our motto for 20 years and we’re sticking with it for the next 20! In the same mindset, Retro 1951 has also sought to house our fine writing instruments in equally beautiful packaging that makes the pen inside all the more exciting to give or receive. In this pursuit of unique and inspiring packaging, we bring you the new Tornado packaging!

The transition from old to new packaging will take place over the next couple of months, and will debut this week with the new Snapper Tornadoes!


The newly designed tube has several characteristics that will make you fall in love all over again!
*    They are wrapped in the vintage graphics Retro is known for, plus Crossword and Sudoku have their own stand-alone designs.
*    They are more environmentally friendly with less waste thus being more efficient!
*    A foam insert in the bottom tube securely holds your Tornado when not in use, plus it can be used as a desk stand or for merchandising.
*    Each tube top will bear the product’s unique name, UPC barcode, and item number for easy identification.
*    Finally the tubes will be shrink-wrapped to protect them in shipping all while showing off the fun Americana graphics.

What are your thoughts about the new packaging? We would love to hear your thoughts!



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Caption Contest II Winner!


Congratulations to Dujuan J. on his winning caption! There were several clever comments that we liked, but we narrowed it down to Dujuan’s caption which referenced our tagline. We were also impressed with Dujuan’s self correction when he reposted “you’re” instead of “your,” because good grammar is always a plus for members of our marketing team. Congratulations and good job Dujuan!

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Caption Contest II


Our resident pet “Beagle” is on the prowl, what’s on her mind? What is she doing? Add a caption to this photo for a chance to win the Vintage Metalsmith “Jefferson,” an acid-etched Tornado with all antiqued finish. Funniest, wittiest, most creative, unique or whatever we like the best wins!

The contest will end on Monday at midnight, so get your captions in.



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Write me to the moon!

The winning entry in our caption contest… congratulations Mary. We loved the simplicity of the saying in combination with a twist on a Frank Sinatra lyric… good job.



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NEW Retro Designs!

Each May Retro 51’s offices begin to buzz with excitement as the start of the National Stationery Show approaches.  Months of hard work are finally realized as new products start to roll in and we can finally put our hands on them.  And what a feast for the senses we have this year!  New finishes, textures, concepts, and colors abound!  Here is a sneak peek of the items that will be making their debut at this year’s Stationery Show in New York on May 20th. 


Who could make a grander entrance than the King and Queen?  This pair of Tornado pens are covered in iconic playing card graphics that we hope will improve your luck, if you keep them at hand that is!  

We are particularly excited to introduce you to the Vintage Metalsmith series.  Each pen in this series has a brass barrel that has been finished with a unique process to provide some stunning results!  Whether they make you nostalgic for that old pen your grandparents used to carry, or you simply find them intriguing, we think you will love the sensory experience that these pens have to offer.  

The Jefferson and Franklin have been acid etched to produce distinctive raised designs and then treated to an antique finish.  The Lincoln also has an antiqued finish, but in a copper color that is reminiscent of a lucky penny, and finished off with a light lacquer coating for a smooth touch.  And finally, the Monroe’s diamond cut barrel is truly a textural wonder with its lacquer overlay that adds a smoothness to the texture that is quite delightful!  


Be the Big Shot again with our latest designs in this classic Retro series.  The Black Label offers yet another new finishing process with its matte black barrel that has been overlaid with contrasting black gloss checkers.  The result is not only pleasing to the eye, but gives a smooth yet ever so slightly textured feel that makes for some excellent gripping. As for the new Infusion, acrylics are always a favorite with their bold blend of colors that an acrylic material can offer.  And the Infusion does not disappoint in this regard with its mélange of vibrant colors.  The Infusion is also available in a 1.15mm Tornado pencil as well as a classic Tornado Fountain Pen!  

Last but not least and driven by our devoted fountain pen lovers we introduce the Tornado Fountain Pen EXT.  Yes, that’s right; EXT means that the barrel has been extended!  Our latest Tornado fountain in a classic White Nickel finish (look familiar?) comes loaded with two standard ink cartridges in the barrel and a converter on the side!  We think you will enjoy this new spin on a classic.  

Which one is your favorite? We’d love to hear your opinions!


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