By Rob Kinslow, Senior Strategist, Brand Communication

Call me a curmudgeon, but I disdain the expression, “Think outside the box.” I just feel it’s been overused to the point of shallow city. Today, however, I have to admit that Brooklyn paper crafter Katherine Belsey has truly taken something outside the box—namely, a chess set—and it’s that very portability that smacks of honest-to-goodness innovation.

A self-described designer, gardener and chemist who also used to work for Woody Allen, Belsey offers on her web site all the templates you need to make yourself a chess set out of paper. The PDF will set you back a whopping $2.95. I couldn’t resist. Here’s my first attempt:

What’s so ingenious about Belsey’s invention? Let me count the ways:

  1. It looks cool. (Well, mine may not, but trust me, the one on her site does.)
  2. It is instantly accessible. You pay by PayPal.
  3. It’s lightweight so you can carry it anywhere.
  4. You never run out of replacement parts.
  5. It’s fun to make.
  6. It’s fun to play.
  7. It’s incredibly inexpensive.

But what convinced me to order Belsey’s chess set kit as soon as I saw it was the fact that you can collapse the entire thing mid-game, then open it somewhere else and continue the game where you left off. Every piece folds up and stays in its little chamber. As anyone with children can attest to, many games of chess go unfinished due to mealtime, bedtime or deep-seated family issues. In my mind, Belsey hit on—and addressed—the number one problem with chess. Would that we all approached marketing challenges that perceptively.

Now that’s out-of-the-box thinking. Nice move, Belsey! (What would Woody say?)