A key to the city is frequently given away as token of a person’s contribution to making that city a better place. It can acknowledge contributions in civic life, the arts, or even recognize a heroic act performed by a citizen. On December 8, 2015, the city of Long Beach, California completed a project that had many designers working together on a new 3D printed key to the city. Intended as a symbol of the city’s technological future, this key was granted to three people — former LBUSD Board President Bobbie Smithformer, formerGovernor George Deukmejian, and his wife, philanthropist Gloria Deukmejian — by the city’s current mayor, Robert Garcia. It took one year to complete the design of the key, and the idea was to take a detour away from the “trophy keys made with cheap metal by low-wage workers overseas,” according to DW Ferrell, who sits on the city’s Technology and Innovation Commission.
DW Ferrell describes the idea behind this new city key that embodies the spirit of local innovation:
“With our thrust for innovation and increasing local skilled jobs, this did not represent the ethic we stand for in Long Beach. [The mayor] wanted [to] honor local leaders and international leaders alike with a symbol that embodies Long Beach, and the city already had trophy keys from a previous administration, but they were not made in the U.S. and did not reflect our focus on local innovation.”
This key was the brainchild of two local designers who designed and worked on every aspect of the project. David Hedden is a faculty lecturer at CSULB who runs The Studio, which is the Long Beach Public Library’s MakerSpace at the Main Branch. The other designer, Gabriel Gaete, is a graphic designer who also works with Hedden at The Studio.
Hedden got Gaete involved with the project because the two designers share a similar aesthetic and they already worked together. What they came up with is a key that represents Long Beach’s heritage, and also its future.
Gaete explains the design concepts further:
“One of the exercises was we [drew] a grid of concepts, so we would combine concepts together and create a pattern based on keywords that we chose. So [words] like ‘city’ and ‘ocean.’ So what does ‘city’ and ‘ocean’ combined look like together in a symbolic form and what kind of pattern would that be?”
The design also incorporates many of the qualities that has long represented the city: its port, major landmarks, its shipping- and aerospace-based economy, and its citizen’s health and eco consciousness. The key, which is emblazoned with the year Long Beach was founded, 1897, also displays a large sun in its center, of course representing the sunny weather that Long Beach is so well-known for. Each of the nine sun rays represent the nine city districts, and a port crane, a jet and CSU Long Beach’s pyramid, are also included in the design. Eight different 3D models were printed before the final design was settled on.
Of the design process, Heden explained:
“We actually used three different CAD software[s] to make this key because SketchUp got us the concepts and then Gabe took it into 3D Studio Max to make the refined version. When we needed to work with the jeweler who would 3D print it in the castable resin we had to use a different software, so we built it three times, once [using] each software.”
Much thought went into the final master key that was then 3D printed. The keys were then cast, using low-wax casting, in metal. Max Schneider Design, with guidance from Steve Chandler, 3D printed the final model, while Long Beach artist Sherry Ray-Von cast the final key in bronze, finishing it at her studio, Ray-Von Designs.
Mayor Robert Garcia was quite pleased with the final outcome, as were all the designers who worked on the project. It was everyone’s chance to contribute to a small piece of Long Beach history, while also drawing from the latest technology to indicate Long Beach’s own aspirations to remain on the cutting edge of new technology and support local artists and designers along the way. Discuss this story in the Long Beach 3D Printed Key forum on 3DPB.com.[Photos: Asia Morris, via Long Beach Post]