Roundhex is a design studio seeking out clients we believe in—individuals and organizations with vision, integrity, and know-how. Once we find them, we work to earn life-long relationships and inspire others to believe in our clients as much as we do.
Growing up in Manhattan, with his mother’s darkroom behind the kitchen and his father’s string quartet practicing in the living room, Alexej has long had an interest in the intersection of art and technology. In high school, he took first place in the New York City Science Fair by inventing a wireless communication system for the Macintosh that used Morse code. In college he studied music, and briefly pursued a career in conducting before turning to design. He attended the MFA “Designer as Author” program at the School of Visual Arts, and counts among his teachers Milton Glazer, James Victore, and Stefan Sagmeister.
Senior Web Developer
There was a time when Kevin avoided red ants in his sleep by placing bowls of oil outside of his room (his room also happened to be stilted 5 feet above ground). He was testing the waters of life as a monastic in Thailand. After three and a half months of single-meal days, ants, and the thickest spider webs he’s seen to date, Kevin washed his robe, hung it up to dry, hitched a ride to the airport and made his way back to Seattle. He eventually stumbled upon web development, and found he enjoys it very much. He now lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife, toddler (aka the “Unintentional Tyrant”) and their cat, Fitzroy Newsum.
Meet Lauren, rememberer of the bizarre, imbiber of makgeolli and swallower of eels! We trace her artistry to age seven, when she won a contest by drawing the Classroom of the Future: robot cats playing with computer mice. At age nine she won 2nd at the California State Spelling Bee (“perseverance” has two R’s, not three), yet snubbed practical lexicography to follow an artistic path. Lauren studied Fine Arts in college, calligraphy and printmaking in Japan, and taught English in Korea before turning to design. What’s next, Lauren? “I want to hike across Taiwan, and go eel fishing in Bodega Bay.”
Who is afraid that wild turkeys might kill him on his afternoon runs, participates in market research studies that require him to watch cartoons and wave blue light-emitting wands over his face, and once blacked out because he thought he was falling out of a roller coaster? Jesse Martin! Jesse’s love affair with coding began at the age of 12 when he created virtual pets for fun. He went on to get a BA in Mathematics and dreams that one day he will do special effects makeup while living in an elaborate beach house in Australia. Until then, Jesse bakes octopus-shaped cakes and helps run Hoodslam, a burlesque wrestling event replete with fire eaters and zombies.
Elana Belle Caroll
Former Studio Manager
For two and a half years, Elana effectively kept all of Roundhex’s many balls in the air and perhaps single handedly also kept the Post-it company in business. She can now be found creating sounds, writing and performing music from electronica to her own brand of Americana with her incredibly sweet and strong voice. We are so proud of you, E!
Roundhex regularly invites outside talent to collaborate with us on specific projects. Drawing on our relationships with illustrators, photographers, writers, designers, and coders has allowed us to offer a broad range of design and technology solutions.
Roundhex is short for rounded hexagon—the shape of most modern-day pencils. When we first discovered the history of the pencil, the story resonated with us as it parallels the approach and work of Roundhex. Given the important role the pencil plays in our design process, the name seemed appropriate. Ordinary as this object may seem, the pencil’s shape-shifting over the last 455 years is a remarkable parable of design and its process.
In the year 1560 in Borrowdale, England, or so the legend says, an old oak tree toppled over during a storm. Two shepherds investigating the tree discovered an unusual substance beneath its roots. They found that the substance, graphite, was an excellent way of marking their sheep. Unfortunately, it was also excellent at marking their hands, so they wrapped string or sheepskin around the chunks of graphite to keep their hands clean. And thus was the first pencil made.
Artists soon realized the advantages of graphite in their work, and began putting strips of it inside hollowed-out sticks. It was natural for them to put the graphite inside of a round stick, as the form resembled something they were already familiar with: the paint brush.
By the 1660s, as people discovered more uses for pencils, craftsmen in Nuremburg were gluing sticks of graphite between two slats of wood. These pencils were square cores of graphite inside square cases of wood. The leads were square because that was how they were sawed off of the high-quality Borrowdale graphite, and square leads required that only one of the wood slats had to be fitted with a groove. The second slat was a flat piece of wood glued to the top of the lead and grooved slat. The square form-factor enabled pencils to be mass-produced and they soon became commodities.
But the square shape was not very comfortable to hold. Some pencil makers started making octagonal pencils by cutting the corners off the squares, and they might have caught on, if not for Napoleon.
early 19th century
At the turn of the 19th century, at the height of the Napoleonic wars, the French and the Austrians no longer had access to high-quality English graphite. They each independently discovered a method of combining lower quality graphite dust with clay, forming it into a rod, and then firing it in a kiln. These round cores, though, also required that both wood slats be fitted with grooves. While this required more tooling, it also created less graphite waste, as the graphite no longer had to be sanded down to accommodate the top, ungrooved, slat. And since both slats now had to be tooled anyway, pencils were usually round.
Unfortunately, round pencils roll off tables. Who exactly invented the hexagonal pencil is unknown. Some, usually Americans, say a man named Ebenezer Wood created the first one in New England in the mid- 19th century. Others, usually employees of Faber-Castell, claim it was Lothar Faber. We will probably never know for certain, but hexagonal pencils are less likely to roll off of tables. And, perhaps more importantly, because the hexagon is such an efficient shape, one could make nine hexagonal pencils with the same amount of wood required to make eight circular ones.
Hexagonal pencils were efficient, but not very comfortable. Some argue that the most comfortable pencils, and those least likely to roll off tables, are triangular. Companies have been making triangular pencils since at least 1897 when Sears & Roebuck had several brands listed in their catalog. But, they were also nearly 12 times as expensive as the round or hexagonal ones because their shape was not easy to make from the standard “sandwich” used to make other pencils.
New York, 2012
As John Steinbeck wrote, “Pencils must be round. Hexagonal pencils cut my fingers after a long day.” Thus, we have arrived at the shape of most pencils today: the rounded hexagon. A compromise between utility and comfort.