Sharpie thinking

When Sharpies debuted in the 1960s, they made their mark as the go-to autograph pens for stars like Sean Connery and The Beatles. Now, global vice president Sally Grimes has elevated the permanent markers into a creative status symbol: “Our fans show us what’s possible – stuff we never could have imagined, like decorating cars, lampshades, and prom dresses,” she says.

Grimes fuels creativity by promoting customer-created Sharpie art: 18,000 pieces have been uploaded to the gallery she added to Sharpie’s website last summer, including the work of edgier artists such as Cheeming Boey – whose grotesque squids and fantastically violent sea monsters are created on paper coffee cups that now sell for four figures.

The result of Grimes’ community building is a circle of inspiration between Sharpie and its users, leading to new products and a 9% sales increase since 2011.