The making of a Lackey Tag

Lackey Tags have been around since 2011, when they were given to Lackeys* to commemorate their Lackeyversaries (the anniversary of the date they joined the company). These coveted tags are traded at events, dropped into caches, or sent off into the world as owned trackables. Since the only way to acquire one of these tags is for someone to interact directly with a Lackey, they can become quite popular among SWAG collectors. (Or would it be SFLO—Stuff From Lackeys Only)? You may be wondering how these special tags get created. Here, graphic designer Roxxy gives us the scoop on the history, design, and production of Lackey tags. 

The creation of a Lackey tag begins with a pixel icon. When a Lackey joins Geocaching HQ, they are awarded a Lackey pixel icon, a small pixel art avatar that represents their interests, hobbies, or what they do in their role at HQ. Some icons are very straightforward, and some can be incredibly elaborate, but each and every one is specifically tailored to their recipient. Design elements have included things like cross-country skiing, skydiving cats, visiting Machu Picchu, riding unicorns, and showing off favorite pets. 

Since the details of the icon are entirely custom, the new Lackey works closely with an artist from the HQ Creative Studio to get their icon just right. Even though some pixel icons can appear to be fairly simple, designers use multiple reference photos to put a lot of detail into small spaces to give each icon that personal touch. When we say small, we mean it. When each icon is only 66 pixels square, there’s only 100-ish pixels to get someone’s hair right.

The pixel icons are so beloved by Lackeys that they end up as profile pictures, stickers, coffee mugs, or even cross-stitched onto fabric for decoration—not to mention their place of prominence on the annual HQ Lackey Coin. Featuring them on a trackable tag was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

When a Lackey has a find count of 200 and accomplishes a number of geocaching milestones—such as completing certain calendar-based challenges, finding one of every cache type, migrating trackables over long distances—they are eligible to receive Lackey Tags. Sometimes pixel icons have to be adjusted to fit the tag design, and Lackeys work closely with the HQ Creative Studio to ensure any changes don’t interfere with the spirit of the icon. Lackeys also have the opportunity to update their icon on an annual basis (just in case they grew a beard, got a new motorcycle they’re really excited about, or adopted a new dog) so it’s important to make sure the most current icon is the one about to be printed.

When the Lackey is satisfied with the layout of the tag, the designs are handed off to the merchandise department. There, they are paired with a batch of tracking codes, and sent out for manufacturing. Three to four weeks later, boxes and bags of Lackey Tags arrive at Geocaching HQ and are distributed to their respective Lackeys.

If you could design your own Lackey tag, what would it look like?

*Geocaching HQ employees are known as Lackeys.

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