Full STEAM Ahead: How the Creative Artists Agency Wowed Us

Editor’s Note: With the deadline for HOW’s In-House Design Awards fast approaching, we thought you’d appreciate a look at last year’s Best of Show winner. Read on to find out what impressed the judges most about this holiday gift, then take some time to determine which of your team’s projects could possibly take home the win this year.

Generic_Competition_Logos_Inhouse_300x220 (1)“Have a bright, blinking, buzzing, whirring, wonderful new year.” This message accompanied the engaging gift Creative Artists Agency—a global full-service entertainment and sports agency—sent its clients to celebrate the dawn of 2014. This gift served double duty as it also announced that thousands of students at 50 schools had received technology toolkits they could use to make that blinking, buzzing and whirring really come to life, all donated in CAA’s clients’ names.

Each kit includes an open-source library of littleBits electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets to encourage exploration through science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). As students connect the brightly colored modules, they can play, tinker, build, hatch, test and invent. A companion video shows how kids have used the modules to make gears spin, fans blow, objects orbit and lights illuminate with their own innovative creations.


The CAA holiday gift included robot characters designed to represent science, technology, engineering, art and math.

But CAA made sure its clients got in on the fun, too. “The objective of the [client holiday gift] was to present and explain the program, create an emotional experience and build a tangible keepsake as a reminder of their generous gift to STEAM,” says Sarah Kaja, senior creative at CAA Brand Development.

caa_steambots_1Creative-Artists-AgencyTo that end, clients received a series of five neatly packaged “bots” constructed from folded, thick-weight kraft paper. Each bot embodied one of the five concepts/letters in the word STEAM, and illustrations on the bots represented different littleBits parts that were given to the kids. Foil-stamped details helped bring the illustrations to life.

“On the cover of this bundle of kraft-papered joy are five expertly designed letterforms comprising the logotype,” says In-House Design Awards judge Ed Roberts. “I also love the use of bold graphic shapes and bright color combinations, as well as the incorporation of metallic inks.” The packaging and details also impressed In-House Design Awards judge Andy Brenits: “I especially love the foil-stamping, which in today’s digital world, adds an extra special touch.”

Each bot has its own backstory to help engage clients in the idea of play and discovery. “I felt like each needed a unique personality, and wanted the small details to tell the story of [all] aspect[s] of the program so that [every] time someone inspected a bot, they would find something new,” Kaja says.


With foil-stamping, metallic inks and bright colors, the packaging for this gift cleverly housed technology toolkits to encourage recipients to build, create, discover and explore.

“Mad Scientist Sam” delights with beakers and electricity. “Theo Technologybot” computes with buttons, dials and fans. Kaja imagines that “Ginny Engineeringbot” zooms about with her extra hands, busy circuits and blazing light bulb eyes. “Artbot” hypothetically flies using a spray paint jet pack. And “Mathilda Mathbot” calculates with her buttons and graphs.

caa_steambots_5The biggest challenge was creating a piece that reflected the exploration and creation aspect of STEAM in a straightforward way—and could be mailed. “We researched paper engineering and carefully constructed the packaging to help guide our clients through the program, as well as researched special printing processes, such as foil-stamping, that would embody the magical delight of discovery,” Kaja says.


In this download, designers, design students and packaging design professionals all benefit from an inside look at packaging that works.

The CAA Foundation, the agency’s philanthropic arm, has a longstanding history of creating meaningful and memorable holiday gifts, and this year’s mailer was no exception. “We received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from recipients who were motivated to learn more about the STEAM movement and get involved,” Kaja says.

In-House Design Awards judge Robin Colangelo was a big fan, too: “You can see immediately how much care, thought and planning went into this project, from the custom lettering [used] to create the logo, the foil-stamping to enhance the packaging, the paper stock to make it feel young and fresh, the color palette that hangs together, down to the vehicle to deliver it all in one happy little gift box,” she says. “Who cares what’s inside when the packaging is this good!”

For the lucky young makers, what’s inside does count. “Because of our clients, some great kids will get to make something that does something,” Kaja says. “And this can make all the difference in how they see the world, how they see themselves and how we just might see the future.”


Project Credits: Title CAA Foundation STEAM 2014 Holiday Gift | Company/organization Creative Artists Agency, Los Angeles; www.caa.com | Creative Team Sarah Kaja, Alice Ann Wilson, Lawrence Rubin, Rachel Kropa, James Bernard | Project Objective The CAA Foundation donated technology toolkits to classrooms, and the team aimed to bring the sense of exploration and childlike playfulness to the resulting client gift. Each letter on boxes represents iconography from science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

HOW’s In-House Design Awards
is organized by industry, which means that
this year’s Best of Show winner is out there right now in any number of industries—b to b, entertainment, consumer, to name just a few. It’s up to you to enter your strongest project for a chance to win.