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We all know about the Call for Makers by now: Makers across Europe are invited to present their projects and ideas by June 2, 2013, to take part in Maker Faire Rome Oct. 3-6. But very few of us know the story behind the photo used for the call – the one with the hand holding the giant magnet that is attracting a whole swarm of objects.

The first thing you need to know is that everything you see in that picture is real, not post-produced. The second is that behind this story there is Giorgio Olivero, co-founder of ToDo, and a team of three creative talents that stepped up to the challenge. We asked Giorgio to tell us how they “made” the photo, in full maker spirit.

Giorgio, it all began with a phone call, didn’t it? 

Yes, on the evening of Jan. 2. The organizers of the Maker Faire Rome told us they wanted us to create the campaign for the first Maker Faire in Europe. They knew we are close to the world of makers, and that we were behind Arduino’s restyling. I started brainstorming some keywords for the brief: DIY, hands-on, physical, ironic, chaotic, over-stimulating, family friendly,  rough, amateur, and punk rock.

Can you explain the choice of these words? 

The Maker Faire is a celebration of the DIY movement and of contemporary inventors. The ones we often call geeks, to use a really inadequate and lowly term. First and foremost, the maker movement is non-elitist. Anyone can become a maker, and ideas are exchanged horizontally throughout the community. That’s why we wanted a “warm,” pop, playful communication – something definitely not snob.

What are maker graphics like? 

We didn’t want to create synthetic, excessively virtual images. Instead, we wanted to create something tangible, using real materials, making things by hand, limiting the use of the usual mainstream graphics software. For the call’s image we had to have a prototype, something to build, something to invent from scratch. Bits that would become atoms and occupy real space.

Which led to… 

A still life photo, shot using and echoing the tools that are related to makers in popular perception. All the items you see in the image can be linked back to the great themes of DIY culture. And we made each one of them with our studio’s laser-cutting machine.

So you are expert makers too? 

I have to admit, we had never done anything like this before. We didn’t have enough experience to say “this is the right way to go.” But we decided to give it a try, and sent our concept to Jason Babler, MAKE magazine’s creative director. He enthusiastically gave us the green light, and that’s when we panicked. It was the good kind of panic though, the kind you feel when you embark on a project in which you have to invent everything – and I mean everything.

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That’s when you started getting your hands dirty. 

We choose the objects we wanted to create from a very long list, and started experimenting. This is where our project assistant, Alessandro Argenio and Luke Zanconi, an Android developer with a penchant for modeling, came into play. We started using Blender to build the 3D models. Then we processed them with Pepakura and sent the files to the laser-cutting machine, testing dozens of different paper stocks. Little by little, we assembled the paper models and painted them with graffiti spray paint.

Then all you had to do was take the photo. 

We set up a photo shoot in our studio, getting photographer, Vincenza De Nigris on board for lights and set. We shot the final photo on Feb. 21. That’s a total of five weeks of work: two-and-a-half  for testing, one to make and paint the final objects, followed by the some very industrious model hanging, and three days of picture taking.

What’s the outcome? 

A surreal image that is also ironic, and cartoonish, at the same time. It’s pure maker style, and it’s simple and accessible. That’s how it should be, because we expect the Call for Makers to bring up some crazy and visionary concepts, but also some solid, down-to-earth projects.

See you at the Maker Faire Rome. 

We’ll definitely be there. Our job won’t be done until October. It’s a real challenge… I gave my right arm already – no injuries, don’t worry: I mean that the hand holding the magnet in the photo is mine. Now it’s up to makers to give their best ideas.

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See all the photos of the “making of” on Flickr
Concept and design direction: Giorgio Olivero/ToDo | Shooting: Vincenza De Nigris | Project assistant: Alessandro Argenio | 3D modeler: Luca Zanconi

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The Road to Maker Faire Challenge will award $2,500 to one winner to bring his or her project to World Maker Faire on Sep. 21 & 22, 2013 in New York. Use the funding for materials, transport, or anything else you might need to get to Maker Faire. Applications are due by 11:59pm PT on August 5, 2013.

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