PBS children's programming reminds us, we are all special and unique. Thus, computer enthusiasts strive to extend a uniqueness to their computer cases in the form of case modifications. Computer cases have come a log way since the boring beige boxes of yesteryear. According to Wikipedia it was the release of the iMac, who's design was quite different than the beige box, that spurred mainstream case modification. In the early days, case mods, as they're now called, were undoubtedly difficult. Today, there are companies which make the majority of their profits suppling hardware enthusiasts with a variety of pre-modded computer cases and accessories. It's safe to say, pretty much everyone and their mother sports a silver case with a window and some blue lights, or maybe a black case with red lights. In a world of pre-modded cases, it's becoming increasingly difficult to create something truly unique.
So what is the formula for an award winning case mod? Other than determination, there isn't any. Creativity is the key and the bane which makes case mods so difficult for the average logical left-brained geek. For them there are pointers and tips to help stir the creativity cauldron, and even possibly help inspire totally kick ass mods.
Like any artist one has to decide up front what the goal is. For example, the Half-Life 2 case mod had a very clear theme. The case mod itself is complex, but there was a focus. It's very easy to look through xoxide.com and come up with great ideas, but it requires a goal and some focus to weed through these ideas. Obviously PC games are an easy choice, but instead of trying to incorporate the Quake series into a case mod it would be a better idea to focus on just one of the games in the series or perhaps a specific level in a game. It doesn't just have to be PC games either. Almost anything anyone could find themselves interested in can be incorporated into a case mod. The Bender case from Futurama springs to mind. However, creativity doesn't always spring from PC games, TV shows, movies, or books.
There is also a sense of creativity that encompasses a need. How often have you been in the middle of a fast paced round of gaming and reached for your Mountain Dew only to discover it's empty? A case mod with a built in cooler would be an alternative to getting another soda without the risk of being fragged while AFK.
After the idea comes the easy part; because with enough time, resources (as in money), and access to the Internet, anything is possible. First, an adequate work space is in order. Preferably a place with a work bench; the work space can vary depending on the case mod. Definitely read safety instructions and use some common sense. If most of the mod can be done with duct tape and glue, a kitchen table will be fine. More aggressive case mods, like that which require Bondo, will need a well ventilated work space. Don't try accomplishing what cannot be facilitated. This can lead to a lack of quality in the workmanship.
Whether the case mod is created from an existing computer or done on a computer while it's being built, parts are going to be purchased. Definitely read up on those parts beforehand and be sure they can do what you want them to do. A bountiful source of information is often located on forums; they are a wonderful place to see where others have succeeded or failed. When purchasing computer components make judgments not only on their specifications but their looks. Specifications are more important, but it's guaranteed a DFI LAN Party will look better under a black light than anything Abit or Asus puts out. If the spec sacrifice is small then it may be wise to chose what is aesthetically pleasing. The majority of the time a case mod is incorporated into a pre-existing computer. In that case (pun not intended), open the computer up and determine what is usable before ordering new case mod parts. It may make a difference on the accessories ordered.
Other than that, have no fear. Do not be afraid to cut and splice some wires just because they are apart of the 600 watt modular power supply that cost a small fortune. The best case mods usually cannot be undone. Case mods only serve two real purposes: to be the envy and center of attention at the next LAN party, and because it could be done.