History of the Twilio Coding Gloves
Time to read: 4 minutes
This year, October is SIGNAL-season – that's Twilio's customer and developer conference. Amidst the incredible product launches and announcements, there's another eagerly anticipated launch: our first full-run of Twilio coding gloves.
Long desired by fans (and employees!), the oft-rumored Twilio coding gloves have had quite a journey to their perfect fit as the star swag at this year's show. I set out to trace our coding gloves' gripping history and share how Twilio grabbed the opportunity and shipped a beta version of coding gloves to production this year.
Twilio's coding gloves first made their way to the stage... on the stage at SIGNAL 2019.
Twilio's Ben Stein refereed a coding challenge between our developer-CEO Jeff Lawson, our Director of Solutions Engineering in Enterprise West Darlene Volas, and the awesome attendees in the audience. Darlene had the benefit of Twilio's just-announced CLI – and handily won all the challenges – but Jeff unveiled coding gloves that you didn't soon forget:
As you know, Twilio is well-known for our swag... and since 2019, our most requested swag has been a pair of Twilio-branded coding gloves. And – outside of a few oversubscribed-yet-limited prototype giveaways – this year is the first we've been able to ship a full run of pairs of Twilio coding gloves.
Ironically, Jeff's original coding gloves weren't exactly the coding gloves we're now releasing – they were cycling gloves owing to the tight deadline of the 2019 show. Well, more specifically, they were fingerless cycling gloves, known as track mitts.
Biking gloves generally have features such as padding near the heel of the palm to protect the ulnar nerve, materials that wick sweat and absorb road vibrations, and soft material to wipe sweat and (ahem) nasal discharge from a rider's face.
This batch of Twilio coding gloves comes in 7 awesome styles
While there's some helpful crossover useful in a coding competition, track mitts aren't ideal coding gloves. Twilio's coding gloves are closer to compression gloves – they encourage you to keep your wrists in a natural position to avoid repetitive stress injuries (RSI), wick sweat with breathable material, and are fingerless, so you get the full benefit of tactile feedback.
And as Jeff requested while our team was scoping out the gloves: the Twilio-branded gloves have light pads on the heels of the palm. Ulnar nerve protection is useful on the keyboard and on a bike: the synergy is enough to make any marketing department smile.
Once our Brand team figured out the perfect features needed for a coding glove, they got to work building prototypes.
We built the first 2-3 prototypes manually, taking the glovely dream from a basic hand-shaped pattern to the fully functional coding gloves you see today. Most of the features of the gloves came from those early experiments with glove patterns – including the slick hardware security key storage you can find on the glove today.
Nathan Sharp, Twilio's Principal Visual Designer, said of the early days on the glove project, "We had stacks of samples behind my desk at the office. Every kind of fingerless glove you can imagine – from leather motorcycle gloves to elastic manicure gloves, and a bunch of padding material, too."
And the team appreciated the chance to do the hands-on research. Nathan added that the "research phase was critical because none of us are glove designers, and we needed the gloves to not only look great but be comfortable to wear... and functional too."
And after all that work, we ended up with gloves we were proud to wear. These coding gloves:
- Have an adjustable strap to provide light compression
- Are made of breathable stretch material for your long coding sessions
- Are fingerless to maximize dexterity and tactile feedback
- Sport a hidden pocket for your USB drive or hardware security key
But getting to something wearable wasn’t the end of the challenge – the team also had to figure out how to manufacture coding gloves in quantity.
Of course, even with a glove design in (and, well, on) hand, just getting a full run of gloves done in time for SIGNAL this year was quite a challenge. COVID-19 has impacted supply chains worldwide, and everything from sourcing materials to production to shipping completed gloves was a challenge.
Jennie Janzen, our Senior Manager of Creative Production, recalls, "This project took us about 20 months to complete. We went through many iterations which took weeks each round, one of our earliest prototypes was stolen from our designer's doorstep."
(After that, the team moved to couriers to ship prototypes back and forth!)
Further, Jennie remembers, “It was all-hands-on-deck (pun intended!) in getting these done. Two of our Senior Designers working on the project, and 3 different producers managed various aspects of the project throughout the 20 months it took to bring these to life.”
And aren’t they awesome? (A perfect fit, even?)
Hopefully, you found the Twilio coding glove origin story as fascinating as I did; I had a ton of fun getting my hands dirty and shining a light on the project. But most of all, I'm thrilled we were able to successfully produce a batch of coding gloves – in seven incredible designs! –we can hand out to you this year.
We're always looking out for you – whether we're optimizing our APIs to help you provide best-in-class customer experiences in your applications, or putting our hands together and building incredibly useful swag. Happy SIGNAL 2021; we can't wait to see what you build.
Paul Kamp is the Editor-in-Chief of the Twilio Blog. He owns six pairs of Twilio socks – but, alas, no pairs of Twilio coding gloves (yet). He can be reached at pkamp [at] twilio.com.
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