Gold Medal Products

In the mid to late nineties, I was in need of a new challenge. I had worked at two straight advertising agencies and wanted to sink my teeth into something entirely different. I found a unique opportunity at a home goods manufacturer in Richmond, Virginia (USA). They were looking to reinvent the beanbag chairs they had been selling since the mid 1970s.

Gold Medal Products had just celebrated their 100th year in business (they were founded in 1895) by hiring a new executive to lead their casual furniture manufacturing into the next century. His first order of business was to locate an art director who could think outside of the box, provide ideas to drive product development, guide branding, and generate advertising. That’s where I fit. He and his wife had established key contacts at Toys R Us, eToys and Urban Outfitters for the purpose of placing a new product line. We hit it off quickly, signed a six-month contract to kick out the work and away we went together.

My first order of business was to weigh in on current products. I decided to focus on their beanbag chairs — a prominent component of their casual furniture offering. I reviewed the entire line and removed outdated products. I shopped new fabrics and tested improvements in die-sublimation techniques. I created new artwork that took advantage of the enhanced capabilities.

My biggest moment, however, was the realization that we needed to work harder to capitalize upon an emerging market in hard-core video gamers. I explored a new form for our beanbag chairs — one that supported a gamer’s head and neck. achieving this was remarkably easy (see below). All we needed to do was shift the form from a squashed circle to a triangular wedge.

To help brand the new product line, I called upon one of the seven deadly sins. Sloth was a natural choice for what was essentially slacker gear. I recalled Atari and other retro gamer brands in the logo. I brought in a bouncer from a local nightclub to act as the face of the product. The “sinful comfort” posters featuring him and the signature Sloth chair were wildly popular with the college crowd (see wall display in the above advertising slick). My final item of business within the short-term contract was to ensure that the product shipped to our three outlets. Upon moving to Washington DC, i remember taking great pride in introducing my newest friends to the line at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown.

A bonus to the experience at Gold Medal Products was the impact that Sloth had on subsequent casual furniture lines. Today’s popular video gamer lounges sure share a ton with their predecessor!