Before there was Oculus Rift and Cardboard, there was View-Master. Children who grew up in the analog era will have special memories of this stereoscopic viewer and its accompanying cardboard disks featuring images of their favorite characters and scenes from books, TV shows, and movies. Now, a company called Reelagram is tapping into our collective nostalgia for this simpler time by offering a new way to print and view Instagram photos. Yes, via a View-Master-like device which you can buy online alongside the photo reels.
The idea for Reelagram comes from Darren Marshall, a designer and co-founder of Doejo, a 30-person digital agency in Chicago. A serial entrepreneur, he has also co-founded a coffee company called Bow Truss and shared offices dubbed SPACE.
Around five years ago, he and his partner were looking for a clever way to show off the best of their portfolio. They ended up reaching out to a company in Portland that was cutting and gluing View-Master photo reels by hand. That company, Image3d, was run by Rich Dubnow – a guy who had shot stereo photography for View-Master for nearly 20 years, including some of the memorable Disney reels you may have had as a kid.
When Marshall later caught back up with Dubnow and introduced him to Instagram, they realized a partnership between the two companies would make sense.
“Over the years he’s stayed completely committed to growing this business and is doing very, very well,” says Marshall. “When the tech caught up began printing and cutting film on the fly opening up new opportunities. The team capable of fulfilling hundreds of orders per day with the facilities and capital to scale up as necessary.”
Today, the business lets you choose 7 photos from your Instagram gallery for $19.95, or you can buy a reel and a viewer for $29.95. At checkout, you can choose whether you want a red, blue, black or white viewer, which ships in five business days.
Reelagram has been piloting its service for a few months, and has seen a couple hundred paid orders during some light testing. But already, the site is converting 10% of its visitors to sales, they say.
According to Marshall, the viewers are generally being bought as gifts for others – including for birthdays, holidays, weddings, teams, company gifts and more. Some are even being used for special purposes, like an engagement proposal or a welcome home message for a returning U.S. Marine, for example.
Now Marshall says that Instagram is asking Reelagram to change its name. Facebook-owned Instagram last summer began targeting connected mobile apps that were using “Insta” and “Gram” in their titles, citing trademark violations. But Reelagram, to be clear, is not an app. It’s a physical product, so there shouldn’t be any confusion between the two services from a consumer perspective. But that’s up to the lawyers to sort out, we suppose.
In the meantime, you can order your own Reelagram here.