Victor van Doorn & Pim Schachtschabel | Uncover Lab
A competition for the best design to
engrave on a MacBook
for King Willem
Alexander brought Victor van Doorn (1987) and Pim Schachtschabel (1988) together in April 2013. Their friendship inspired them to take Victor's first venture
, the customizing MacBook with laser-cut modifications, to the next level. After a three month pop-up stunt
on the Zeedijk and a store-in-store at popular concept store Hutspot on the Rozengracht, the duo is now moving to the
Local Goods Store
in de Hallen in Amsterdam West. With a team of enthusiastic graphic designers, Uncover Lab brings to life
everyday objects like iPhone covers, MacBook backs and Moleskine notebooks by engraving them with custom or ready-to-go designs. We spoke to Pim and Victor about how things are going
and their plans (and dreams!) for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
I’m Pim. I grew up in Amsterdam and when I graduated high school, I traveled around the world. I spent some time at Emily Carr in Vancouver, and lived in London where I worked at a cocktail bar that I helped set up. When I moved back to the Netherlands I started studying engineering in Delft. I’m currently finishing my studies, living in Rotterdam, and I’m cofounder of Uncover Lab. And I’m Victor. I was quite bored in high school and started a film production company with a friend of mine. I then spent a year making an app but never got to the point that I thought, this is it. I had also become involved in customizing MacBook with laser-cut modifications as Uncover . We were the first in the world to do this.
What inspired you to start Uncover Lab?
A friend of Victor worked at The Next Web and was involved in deciding which startups could have a few minutes with the king (the crown prince at the time). Even though we were told to keep it quiet, we decided to launch a competition for our meeting with the king. iCentre sponsored a MacBook that we could design and give to the king. We launched a competition for the best design and from the 124 submissions, we selected one as the winner – that one was Pim’s.. We didn’t know each other before that, and when we met, there was an immediate click. Victor mentioned that he wanted to focus more on engraving as opposed to taking laptops apart and cutting out designs, and that he would like to open a store someday. Pim said, if you start a store, let me design it. That’s how it all started.
And what happened with the king?
Pim had designed a complex crown and we were up late making adjustments the night before our meeting with the king. Victor had to put the MacBook back together again and spent the whole night doing it. When we finally presented the MacBook to the king he told us he couldn’t accept it. He wanted to buy it from us. It was a great experience. It didn’t result in a lot of business but people who work in the industry know of us as the guys who made a MacBook for the king. The most important thing that resulted from this project was our friendship.
What happened next?
We wanted to start our own store, but that resulted in a lot of questions. What does it look like? How much money do we have? We don’t have much, so how are we going to make this happen? Victor met with the organization of the Zeedijk and lobbied to get us a location for three months. We fixed the place up in just a week. During the construction, we asked Barcelona artist Borja Sanchez to create artworks on milky sheets stuck to the windows of the store. On the day of the opening we peeled away the sheets and ‘uncovered’ the lab (destroying the artwork). We were open for three months, from 2pm to 11pm everyday. When our time was running out on the Zeedijk, we noticed that Hutspot was working on opening a second location on the Rozengracht. We approached them with our concept and they invited us to take up on prominent space in the store. That’s what Uncover Lab is now, a store-in-store.
How’s it going?
It’s going well! It took some time to get used to because we were used to having our own space. On the Zeedijk we were open late and often hosted movie nights in our store with our friends. We had all the space we wanted. But we’re very happy to introduce our concept to more people. In general it takes people some time to get to understand what we do and how it works. We try to explain it the best we can.
So how does it work?
We have a database of great designs made by talented graphic designers. People can also have custom designs made. We work with wood (like cases for iPhones and iPads), leather, aluminum (like MacBooks and iPhones) but we can also engrave glass and paper.
Would you say the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Pim: I grew up in Amsterdam, studied in Delft and live in Rotterdam. In Rotterdam, there are many opportunities for young people. I always thought this was because it’s cheaper and perhaps easier in some ways to start something in Rotterdam as compared to Amsterdam. But it surprises me how well things are going here. I’ve really learned a lot and come to appreciate Amsterdam’s open attitude towards new ideas.
Victor: I was inspired by Fablab in de Waag, the first maker space in Amsterdam started by Alex Schaub and Bas van Abel, modeled after the open source format that was born at MIT. I spent a lot of time there and always thought it was more on the geeky/crafty side. There was a huge gap between Fablab and design stores like Droog, which were too inaccessible. With Uncover Labs, we were able to bridge that gap. We created a space where people can come in and see the technology for themselves.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Victor: I live around the corner so I stop by the store everyday. I don’t drink or smoke so in compensation, I treat myself to a sandwich across the street every morning. I go climbing regularly and often work late.
Pim: In the mornings I have breakfast while reading the newspaper. I bike to my university, which is about a half hour ride. Then I study all day, bike home in the evenings, and try to get some exercise in, like swimming. In the evenings I try to do some things for Uncover Lab. I lead a double life of studying and staying involved with Uncover Lab!
What's next for you?
Pim is more concerned with making sure things are going well here. Victor's the one who will go to London for a few days and visit all these great locations for a possible second Uncover Lab store. If we were to expand internationally we would start in London and then look at San Francisco. Our ambition is to bring the concept abroad but we have to make sure things are going well here first. And we want to become a platform for young graphic designers. It would be great to exchange designs between graphic designers in Amsterdam and graphic designers in San Francisco. Let’s see where it goes!
Thanks Pim, Victor and Esther for your time! Uncover Lab will move to the Local Goods Store in de Hallen in Amsterdam West, opening Friday April 17th. Find out more about Uncover Lab on their website , or follow them on Facebook .