Connecting Through Art: The Dinosaurs of Simpson Strong-Tie

One of the first things you notice when you visit our home office in Pleasanton, CA, is the art. Our late founder, Barclay Simpson, had a great appreciation for art. It’s one of the many legacies he left us. From the eight-foot metal sculpture of Michelangelo’s David — made completely from Simpson Strong-Tie products — that greets you at the main entrance, to the one-of-a-kind paintings, prints and sculptures scattered throughout the building, it’s quickly apparent that ours is not just another suburban office building.

Michelangelo’s David, produced with Simpson Strong-Tie parts, greets visitors.

Of all the art in the building, an employee favorite is the simple but intriguing DIY collection of dinosaur art made from wood and Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and fasteners. Individual pieces of this collection, the creation of master DIY builder Joe Way, are perched atop cabinets throughout the marketing department.

The Simpson Strong-Tie DIY dinosaur art collection.

Yet Joe’s dinosaurs are more than just whimsical pieces that bring smiles to our faces. They actually served a business purpose.

Some 20 years ago, Joe was asked to create an attention-getting tabletop display for a trade show. The idea was to build something that showcased connectors and joist hangers in a unique way.

At the time, the work of Robert Bakker, an American paleontologist who helped reshape modern theories about the appearance of dinosaurs, was receiving considerable attention. Joe was struck by how joist hangers reminded him of dinosaur skulls, and so the idea of creating wood dinosaurs emerged. “The new thinking at that time was that dinosaurs were more light bodied, somewhat similar in design to birds,” says Joe. “I used the four-way connectors to show how the long necks and tails were sort of cantilevered. I also used parts that depicted how they could balance on two legs.”

Dr. Bob Bakker with Dino. (Photo credit: “Dr. Bob Bakker with Dino” by Ed Schipul — originally posted to Flickr as Dr. Bob Bakker with Dino. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.)
A unicorn built with connectors.

The pieces proved to be popular, and Joe received many requests to produce additional dinosaurs. Other animals were created for Simpson Strong-Tie offices around the globe, including two dragons for Asia that now reside in Hong Kong and Zhangjiagang, China. And, during the Chinese Year of the Ox, an ox shown pulling a load of epoxies and anchors was similarly built from Simpson Strong-Tie parts. Joe also built a kangaroo for Australia and a Godzilla for Japan.

A dragon built for the Zhangjiagang office.
An ox pulling Simpson Strong-Tie products.

You probably never imagined our products could be used in such creative ways.