Niche to Norm

Fall 2021


The goal of this project was to identify an object of interest, research it, and design a book based around its function, meaning, and significance. For my book I chose the zipper, covering the evolution of its design, cultural relevance, and future. Specifically, I chose to focus on the zipper’s place within niche markets before it entered the mass market and was used widely.

Artifact Selection

In order to select an artifact, we participated in an activity where we reflected on stories from our past. From these stories, we picked out items of interest that could be researched as artifacts, considering the history and design. Possible objects for my research included: baseball hats, quarter zips, snorkeling equipment, tin can pulls, and zippers. Ultimately I chose zippers, given their silent, but important, place within our everyday lives.

Research and Narrative

In order to familiarize myself with the history and design of the zipper, I divided my research into the following areas: history, design and development, how zippers work, marketing and use in products, moving from niche markets to mass markets, widespread use, types of zippers, the future. Research was done using online sources, including blogs and articles, along with a detailed book called Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty.

From this research I decided to focus on the use of the zipper in niche markets during its early days, and the impact that had on later products. I chose to use BF Goodrich Boots and tobacco pouches as my two areas of focus, with history, evolution, and the future falling in around that.


My inspiration for the design of the book came from the patents for the original zipper designs. Using these as the central focus, I pulled other forms of inspiration to round out the illustration style I wanted, the types of colors, and the type.


The first draft of my narrative and book design was much more linear, moving through the life of the zipper in much greater detail. Below are initial digital layouts for the first few pages of the book, with the same design being carried out through the rest of it.

The second draft saw a change in shape of the book, along with refinement of the narrative. I also changed the typeface to Tuppence, as it matched the energy of the book more than the original did. These drafts also introduced the illustration style I planned to use for the book.

Final Draft

For draft 3 I refined the narrative to focus more on the niche markets of the early zipper design. I chose new colors after test printing, switching the orange and yellow to red and orange. The size of the book was also changed to a square, as I felt the design and layout of the text and images would be more interesting.

Visual Language

Final Design

Copyright Kevin Ward 2023 ©