Paint Drain

Posted by Mattiel on May 18, 2016

Our art department began experimenting with brightly colored paint about two years ago. For the most part, it began as a happy accident, inspired by leftover cans of paint around the office.

In early 2014, some of MailChimp’s designers were about to attend a conference in Australia, and we needed a video to showcase our brand for this event. Jason Travis and I were exploring different concepts for the video and stumbled upon this video of a group of artists pouring paint onto large wooden blocks and letting it cascade over the objects, eventually covering them in different layers of color.

This led us to our first project, the cleverly named “Paint Drip Billboards.” After ordering several white 3D prints of the script logo, we secured them to a white base. Then, we filmed the paint, in multicolored layers, dripping over the logo.

The final results were a full billboard series for Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon Avenue, a video for the conference, and MARTA bus stop ads for people to scratch their chins about. When we finally saw the billboards on display, we were so glad that they weren’t those giant, obnoxious advertisements you typically see on a ride to work. Our intention was to turn a section of Ponce de Leon Ave into an art gallery where people could enjoy the simplicity of each billboard without being bombarded by aggressive ads. Also, they just looked super rad.

Backyard Production

The response to the paint drip series was so positive that we began toying with different versions of our original idea. Troy, a member of our creative team, took the paint concept in a new direction by laser cutting the script logo out of white foam core and allowing the paint to drain through the “logo hole.” This, along with many other trials, led to the production of a giant metal sink with a drain hole shaped like the MailChimp script logo—you know, like you do. “Paint Drain” was born.

A few weeks ago, we were finally able to complete this project. I don’t mean to brag, you guys, but the results were pretty outstanding. It was clear from the beginning that this project would be pretty interesting, but it’s very different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Take a look, and don’t forget to crank up your headphones.

Before production, Troy and I spent about a week researching the most interesting ways we could possibly throw paint down a drain. One of our main sources of inspiration was an old BBC video of a professional paper-marbler in England. (Seriously, I could watch it for hours). After trying other methods with spray paint, stencils, and powdered pigments, we decided to stick with the marbled paint method, applying it to our project the best way we could.

Before production, Troy and I spent about a week researching the most interesting ways we could possibly throw paint down a drain.

On a trip to Home Depot, we chose a color palette and experimented with different viscosities of paint—some mixed with water, oil, or mineral spirits. It was important to find the best way to keep our base color and the additional colors from mixing too much. (After all, nobody likes muddy brown paint.) We found that a water-soluble base color and a lighter, oil-based top coat was the best mix for what we wanted to achieve.


On the morning of our shoot, we met at Ron’s house in Grant Park and unloaded a van of C-stands, lights, flags, and silks. I mixed several gallons of paint, measuring the ratio of water, oil, and paint accordingly. Slowly and carefully, we filled the drain with our first base color and then began to drop the pea green, bright red, and deep blue hues onto our drain filled with yellow paint. From the techniques taken from the BBC video, we made a large wooden comb and dragged it through the colors to create a pattern, and slowly pulled the drain plug to reveal the MailChimp logo.

So, why do we make this stuff?

These projects end up on billboards, social media posts, blog posts, at conferences, and in print ads. The works we produce create an emotional connection between the user and our brand. We aim to establish a memorable human connection, not just a business partnership. Plus, it’s just nice to have cool stuff lying around that we can put to work.

We aim to establish a memorable human connection, not just a business partnership.

Art exploration is important. MailChimp has an unapologetically wild visual style and we like to push boundaries—and we also want to encourage our users to be limitless in their creativity, too. Now, go forth and paint drain!

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