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January 24, 2018

As home of the world’s only pinback Button Museum, we are constantly harvesting inspiration from the buttons that line the walls of our building. The free museum (open Monday-Friday 10-4pm) offers itself as a well of creativity and is filled with pins that have us reflect on the past, laugh, and even leave us feeling positive about ourselves!

We gathered some of our favorite buttons that boost our self-esteem and leave a smile on our face:

1. What You See Is What You Get

This is a popular expression that became wide-spread by Flip Wilson with his performance of Geraldine in “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” where he played a drag character during the late 1960’s. Today this motto, especially in button form, is a declaration of confidence!

2. Support Sloppiness

Instead of constantly feeling like you have to be the person with multiple to-do lists or color-coded folder— try embracing your unsystematic ways! This pin was originally produced by Topps. A company usually best known for its sports memorabilia, also produced the “Wise Guy” pins during the 1960’s that featured  satire/parody for novelty and humor.

3. Normal Neurotic

The best part about this “Normal Neurotic” button (besides the typeface) is its message. We’re all a little erratic on the inside and that’s total normal! This button emphasizes that the set of quirks and traits that make you, “you”, are something to be celebrated on a 1.25 inch round button.

4. Huggable

Let people know you’re probably the best hugger they’ve ever met with a button that states the fact.

5. I Refuse to Grow Up

Like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys have taught us, sometimes it’s good to hold onto that spark of adolescence. Wear this button to let all the other adults in your life know your stubborn ways like eating dessert before dinner, riding a scooter to work, and purposely mismatching your socks won’t be going away anytime soon.

6. I Know About Me

One of the most empowering statements you can wear on your jacket! By displaying this pin to the world, we guarantee people will ask start a conversation with the purpose to get to know you too!

7. I Am So Smart I Make Myself Sick

Taking a lesson from Nebbishes, sometimes we need a button to remind us to bask in our own genius. The comic character was originally created by artist Herb Gardner and was featured in his strip “The Nebbishes” in the Chicago Tribune. The comic went on to be picked up by about 70 major papers in the country and ran from 1959-1961. The character Nebbishes was this small, white, blob-like figure who often used self-deprecating mottos and sayings—however we found a way to make this one have a positive spin!

8. When I’m Good I’m Very Good But When I’m Bad I’m Even Better

This button features the classic line from the 1933 film, “I’m No Angel” by the main character Tira, who was portrayed by Mae West. The movie tells the story of a woman who is seeking a better life and rises to fame appealed to Depression era audiences. The pin that can be interpreted a number of ways leaves us wanting to celebrate that “good” things come in a variety of different packages.

Now that you’re feeling inspired and cherished, it’s time to make your own buttons that express your personal attitude! Needing help getting started on a text design? Don’t worry! We have design services available for any button idea big or small.

December 27, 2017

From the start, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been an organization pushing boundaries to explore and uncover our galaxy. Since 1958 the mission of NASA has been to educate and inform the American public about their discoveries in formats that reach many—such as the 1969 Apollo 11 moon flight being broadcast live across the nation to the multiple academic articles published every year. One of the most strategic methods used was to produce buttons that put the information of their research and missions right into the public’s hands.

Let’s take a look back through history at the pinbacks that helped spread the message of NASA:

Voyaging Around the Earth

As a part of Project Mercury, astronaut John Glenn became the first person to orbit the Earth (and the third American in space) on Feburary 20th 1962. On board the “Friendship 7”, the mission itself nearly 5 hours. Glenn quickly became a popular household name in America with multiple buttons representing his bravery.

Only a few months later, we had our second courageous mission to orbit the Earth. On May 24th, 1962 Scott Carpenter became the second American to revolve around the planet, and the first person to eat solid food in space in the Aurora 7 space capsule.

Gemini Missions 

The most notable achievement of the Gemini flights 1 and 2 was that those missions were some of the first “manned” spaceflights, as in our pilot Gus Grissom and his partner John Young manually changed the orbit of their craft. After the date of their launch, March 23, 1965, the men conducted radiation and cell growth experiments. The third mission under the Gemini name was nicknamed “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” after a popular Broadway show at the time.

In 1965 the Gemini 4 (Gemini IV) was the first NASA operation that worked with the Houston Mission Control Center. The mission was publicized on as the first spacewalk attempted by an American, Edward White, who spacewalked for over fifteen minutes.

The Success of the Apollo Treks

The Apollo 8, the first spacecraft piloted by humans was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 21, 1968. The crew consisted of Frank Borman the mission commander, James Lovell the pilot of the command module, and William Anders the pilot of the lunar mode. The mission provided experience for their next Apollo mission, 11, which brought astronauts to the moon and back.

Space Shuttle Program

One of the reasons that NASA’s space shuttle program was immediately successful was the utilization of their older spacecrafts. In 1977 Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, two unmanned spacecrafts, were launched into outer space to gather images of planets, their moons, and beyond. As a precaution to anything the shuttle found, the Voyager 2 was equipped with a phonographic record that contained greetings in 55 different languages, sounds, and images that were meant to portray life on Earth.

The legacy of these NASA missions has shaped the way the entire world views space travel. The memory of these important expeditions have also luckily been captured on these pins that have survived decades, and will continue to educate the public.

For more space buttons, please check out our Button Museum online, or make an appointment to see it in person!

December 20, 2017

Along with being a custom button manufacturer, Busy Beaver is also the home to the world’s only Button Museum— the display cases filled with historical pins line the walls of our office. The Button Museum, a certified 501(c)(3) organization, was created to show how people have used wearable items to chronicle significant events throughout time.

Being one of Chicago’s unusual museums, we understand the importance of spreading awareness of our institute to as many people as possible. We heard from three interesting museums that share this sentiment: The Pizza Museum, Brewseum, and the Chicago Design Museum. They all speak about how their idea for the local museums came to be and how they found the home.

US Pizza Museum

Kendall Bruns, the founder of the US Pizza Museum, was like most kids who start to love pizza from an early age. Her love for the ‘za grew after a trip to New York when she discovered that depending on the part of the country, the style of your pizza slice differed. The collecting portion of her passion began in 2012 when Bruns would take the menus home from the pizzerias she had tried. Fast forward a few years later, and after initially being a pop-up exhibit that opened in October of 2016, Paulie Gee’s in Logan Square is the official home of the US Pizza Museum.

Does the location of the museum influence the variety of people who visit?

Paulie has a policy of having his staff wear hats and t-shirts promoting other pizzerias in all of their locations so it’s a good marriage. I like the idea that diners who don’t know about the U.S. Pizza Museum are getting an unexpected surprise in addition to the great pizza they’re enjoying.

I’ve noticed the Pizza Museum appearing at local events like the Pizza Summit—why is it important to showcase the collection past the walls of the museum?

You have to go where the people are! Some people might not think that they like museums or don’t quite get what a pizza museum might be but are into once they see it. The Pizza Summit events are filled with pizza enthusiasts so it’s a no-brainer. Most of the other events that we’re organized or participated in have been at pizzerias. I love the idea of displaying the collection in context that also allows people to eat pizza because it’s exactly what people want to do after looking at a bunch of pizza stuff.

Why is it important to the community to keep museums accessible and free to the public? 

The items in the museum collection tell the stories of the communities that they came from. These stories belong to them and they evoke memories and encourage telling additional stories. That dialogue and sense of place is valuable and should be protected and encouraged.


Beer has strong roots in this country (before and after prohibition) so it is not surprising that beer historian Liz Garibay cultivated a business “History on Tap” that would eventually transform itself into an entire museum. Brewseum is looking to announce their permanent location in this next year and in the meantime utilizes the bonding effect of beer and collaborative communities to spread their message. 

Why is it important to collaborate and increase Brewseum’s reach?

Our project is extremely collaborative – we have amazing partnerships with fantastic cultural institutions and amazing breweries.  My approach to all of my museum work and work in general has always been rooted in creating strong partnerships with a myriad of amazing organizations all over the world.  There’s strength in numbers and, honestly, beer is everyone’s story. Going to other locations and cities also allows us to not only reach new audiences but it provides the opportunity to learn from others.  We need to do this together.

Why is it important to keep Brewseum free and open to the public?

All cultural organizations and centers of learning need to be accessible to all people. Museums are built by community and supported by community – it’s all incredibly synergistic.

Chicago Design Museum photo:

Like any project, they begin small. The Chicago Design Museum, that now established on the 3rd floor of Block 37, had its humble beginnings in a one-bedroom apartment in Logan Square. A group of 6 volunteers had a vision similar to the Phoenix Design Museum as a starting point, and were crafting their own version in the Windy City. Tanner Woodford, the Founder and Executive Director, explains that the project was worked on the nights and weekends of a 6 month period. The fundraising, installing, curating, and labor were all worth the hard work in the end when the museum had opened its doors to over 1,000 people in June 2012 for the first time. The idea was formed and started to grow.

What came next after Chicago Design Museum’s initial opening?

We started questioning the role of a museum in today’s society. We partnered with Architectural Artifacts on a one-day typography exhibition on a moving CTA Blue Line train, then moved into a 17,000 square foot downtown Chicago. This time, as volunteers, we would build on the knowledge gained in the first round, this time installing electricity, building walls, and getting permits from the city. All-in-all, the second pop-up took about 9 months, but at the end of it, we pretty much had an operational non-profit organization, for one month. At that point, it became clear that Chicago needed a design museum. I left my full-time job, and we launched a Kickstarter for our first exhibition.

Since, we have organized hundreds of volunteers to design and install dozens of exhibitions (from as far as Hong Kong and Dublin), partnered with Cards Against Humanity to release the Design Pack, and opened the Chicago Design Market, an assembly of connected pop-up stores in Block Thirty Seven.

Does the downtown location of the museum influence the variety of people who visit?

Yes, absolutely. Nestled on the third floor of a public shopping center in the heart of Chicago, ChiDM is organized to strengthen design culture and build community. As a nascent museum, it fosters unexpected cultural experiences for its visitors, who more often than not, discover its offerings by chance. A central, fortuitous location attracts the general public as a cornerstone audience, which is comprised of families, tourists, passersby, and students. The museum significantly lowers the barrier to entry, invokes an audience that might not otherwise seek it, then capitalizes by remaining free and open to the public. (It’s worth noting the museum also acts as a destination for designers and creatives, hosting and planning hundreds of events, workshops, and discussions since its founding in 2012.)

In questioning whether a museum needs to be a destination at all, ChiDM posits unexpected cultural experiences as a means to the accessibility of its content, and presciently asks whether people should be attracted to a museum, or a museum should be brought to the people.

 ChiDM also curates and collaborates in other spaces, for example The Clutch Gallery or the window display at the Whistler— why is it important to extend past the physical space of the museum and art gallery?

Design plays a powerful role in our culture: drawing together communities, igniting imaginations, empowering critical thinking, promoting questioning, and encouraging understanding. ChiDM is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to learn about design via active participation and reflection. Beyond its cross-disciplinary exhibitions in a public space, it intends to create unexpected cultural experiences in other contexts and with other audiences.

The Button Museum shares a community with a group of incredible Chicago museums. These establishments are homes of knowledge, regardless of the subject, a museum offers a space of learning and  understanding the past, present, and possible future.

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