Research Competition: The Expanding Slipcase – Bookbinding out of the box

Research Competition: The Expanding Slipcase

We are pleased to announce our first Research Competition.

The goal of this competition is to contribute to the advancement of bookbinding by encouraging the development of new designs and making them available to all. 
There will be two prizes to reward the winners: the out of the box prize, and the public prize.


Last November Dr. Paul Garcia (who was a proofreader for our last tutorial) sent us this photo when his copy of the book arrived. It was accompanied by the words:

'Dear Ben, Thanks for the pristine copy of the Pianel book, which arrived yesterday. Now, of course, I’m going to need a bigger slipcase...'

We teased him that he might have to make a new slipcase every year or so, since we aren't planning to stop the collection any time soon, to which he replied (💡):

'I am going to have to invent an expanding slipcase!'


The subject of this first research competition is to come up with a design for a slipcase capable of expanding and contracting in the width. We believe that the resulting product could have real applications for things like magazine collections, sample presentation, or any collection of items of the same size whose number is likely to increase or decrease over time.

Of course, we can all easily conceptualise such a slipcase, it is another thing to actually make one, hence the idea to tap into the collective to achieve it.

The prototype slipcase will have an inner capacity of 150 x 235mm (the format of our tutorials) and should be able to expand in width from 30mm (6 volumes, the current amount of tutorials) to 60mm (12 volumes). In short:

  • Inner depth of slipcase: 150mm

  • Inner height of slipcase: 235mm

  • Inner width expansion range: 30-60mm

The slipcase can be made of any material, using any available processes.
The prototype can be made entirely by the candidate, only partly (fabrication partly outsourced), or not at all (fully outsourced). This is primarily an ideas competition.


The winners will be selected based on the following criteria:

1) Functionality

  • Does the slipcase perform its primary task, which is to keep its content safe by protecting it from dust and light (with the exception of the entry)? 

  • Is the slipcase able to stand up on its own, or does it need other books or book ends to support it? 

  • Expanding function: does it work? And does it work well in each width increment between 30 and 60mm?

  • Is the slipcase safe for other books in the book shelf (or are there nuts and bolts sticking out of its sides that could damage neighbouring books?) 

2) User-friendliness

  • How easy is it to expand or contract the slipcase?

  • Is the mechanism self-explanatory (or does the user need to read a manual first)? 

  • Can a 'regular' person do it (or does the user need to have special technical skills)? 

  • Are there any tools needed to expand the slipcase? 

3) Aesthetics

  • Does it look good?

  • Is it well executed? (not the heaviest criteria but will be taken into account)

  • Does the slipcase design complement its content well?


Participants must sign up (free of charge, at the bottom of this page), and send in a physical prototype of their expanding slipcase before the deadline. Prototypes mustn't be signed in any way in order for them to be assessed anonymously by the jury. It is the participant's responsibility to ensure that their prototype is sufficiently protected and ensured for shipping. All shipping costs are at the candidate's charge.



The out of the box jury will be composed of Ben Elbel, Nadine Werner and Marja Wilgenkamp. They will assess the designs by giving points in each of the above mentioned categories. The highest scoring design will win the out of the box prize, which is the full collection of 6 tutorials plus material packs, and a one hour 'Ask me anything' zoom session with Benjamin.


In addition to the out of the box prize, the 10 highest scoring designs will be submitted to a vote by the general public. The winner of the public vote will win 1 tutorial of their choice and material pack.
As we won't exclude the out of the box winner from this vote, it is possible for one design to win both prizes.



1) Deadline for prototype sending: 01 October 2021

2) Release of shortlist: 15 October 2021

3) Public vote: 15 - 31 October 2021

4) Announcement of winners: 01 November 2021



The return of prototypes will be organised in the weeks following the winners announcements. We will do this on an individual basis. Shipping costs will be at the charge of candidates.


We reserve the right to cancel the competition if we receive too few contributions, or if we consider the quality to be insufficient. 
All designs remain the intellectual property of the candidates. Candidates must agree to share photographs of their designs. Depending on the case we might offer the winner a publishing deal with us to release details of their invention.




[powr-popup id=c4b18c78_1467902011]