Published on July 10th, 2020 | by Alison Barclay0
3 Legged Thing is 10 – Danny Lenihan Remembers…
It was 10 years ago, this Sunday July 12th, that I first said the words “3 Legged Thing”. Just a week previously, the concept for a tripod brand had seeded in my mind, although the picture was incomplete. I talked to my (then) very small team about what I wanted to do, and the brand identity was first on a very long list of steps to bring a product to market. It was apparent, even from that early stage, that the general trend of tripod brand naming was to create something that ended in an “o”. We later went on to slightly (and apologetically) mock this trend in our 2014 April Fool’s video – 3LeggedThingO.
That time Brian May met a 3 Legged Thing.
A week long conversation ensued, with many arguments, and much laughter, as each successive idea was rebutted, dismissed, ridiculed, or ignored until one of my team suggested that we think about things that are “3-Legged”. “Fish” was the first response, which had us all mildly hysterical, and it was a serious consideration for about ten minutes, until I poured water on that terrible suggestion but stipulating that “we really need to think about a 3 Legged Thing…”
The name grew on us quickly, and took us on a wild path of random opportunities, from gloriously coloured tripods, to cartoon monsters hell-bent on world domination.
Danny demonstrating the strength of our tripods (do not try this at home!)
I had returned from Shanghai Imaging with a prototype tripod, that I had stumbled across lurking in a tiny 10’x10’ booth skirting the back of the once enormous trade event. It was inspiring – this little tripod, which barely weighed 1.5kg, and had fabulously stripey legs, and a glorious, pearlescent black anodised ball head. My first question was “does it have to be black?”…
Earlier Brian 2, Adrian 2 & Eric tripods
Ten years on, and the seedling has germinated into an oak. Our growth has been incredible, and completely unexpected. Much of our success has come from our determination not to conform to industry norms. Many of our failures can also be attributed to this, but I knew from the day I created 3 Legged Thing that there was something special about this opportunity – that it would capture the imagination in a way that no other tripod brand had. I was 37 at the time – surely I couldn’t be the only 37 year old in the world who loved photography, skateboarding, cartoon monsters and heavy metal? Apparently not. Our first ever customer, when the brand website went live on 1/1/11 was a 92 year old.
Danny and occasional office dog, Buddy, working on some new designs
Over the years I’ve made it my mission to listen to our customer base, to my team, and to the voices in the back of my head that encourage me, when I’m about to do something really stupid.
We’ve innovated in so many ways that I am proud of: the first brand to introduce colour, creating products using natural pantones, instead of black. Naming conventions went out of the window when we called our first product “Brian”. Multiple section centre columns, configurable, modular products that inter-connected. We standardised technology across all of our products, and as we invented and created new things, we ensured backwards compatibility, always. “Sexy” was a genuine term used by any number of high profile journalists, reviewers and publishing houses to describe our creations, and as the frequency of this adjective increased, slowly we started to believe it and grew in confidence.
Some industry friends at trade shows over the years
In the early days we had little idea what the technical names were for almost all of the components, as so we built a vocabulary that we could apply to our work, some of which has since been adopted further afield. “Chicken Lips” became an everyday phrase, and an apt one at that, being that we were trading out of an old, converted chicken shed, on a farm in Stagsden, Bedfordshire. The original shed is still our home and headquarters, although it is no longer our only domicile.
The Chicken Shed (Shedquarters) and Chicken Shed 2 (Return of the Shedi)
And it is Stagsden, where we were conceived, born and raised, that will always be our home. This little brand has taken me around the world, to hundreds of cities in dozens of countries and for those experiences I will always be grateful.
And here we are, 10 years old, and unable to leave the house because someone decided it was a good idea to eat bats. Go figure.
That time when a customer couldn’t find any bubble wrap to return their tripod for a service!
Behold, Danny in a suit, accepting the Lucie Technical Award for Tripod of the Year
And Danny in rather different attire…