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Archive for June, 2010

Photos by Pablo Abuliak

Working with Jonathan was one of the most give-and-take relationships I have experienced as a designer. Jonathan had ideas of what he didn’t want but was not sure what he did want, so it was a matter of deduction to get to the point of achieving this beautiful result. I made a super-graphic of his JC monogram, letting the flow of the two letters dictate placement. The color came out of nowhere…a fabulous, arresting chartreuse. Printing a solid chartreuse square on one end of the card with the monogram dropped out gave a two-way texture blast. The JC monogram comes UP from the paper, while the black type presses INTO the paper. Jonathan smartly got script cards (aka Buck Slips)  and #10 envelopes at the same time, so that the entire package held together in perfect synergy.

We printed Jonathan’s cards on 600 gram Lettra for its extra-ultra-yummy weight, thickness, and subtle texture.

We got to have dinner together at WPPI to top the whole party off. Very fun to make that connection after working so intensely together by phone and email.

I will post the buck slips and envelopes in another blog entry soon.


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A friend sent me this link to an article about the beginnings of business cards, and I found it so interesting that I wanted to share it with you: From the web site, The Smart Set from Druxel University, Take My Card, Please, an article by Greg Beato, kept me fascinated to the very end. Things have changed but maybe not so much. Read on!

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At Studio Z Mendocino, we know a lot about letterpress and have seen just about everything that can go wrong, go wrong. We approach each job with the years of learning behind us guiding us and our clients along the way. We love to know the rules of fine letterpress printing, and we follow them with a sense of gratitude and awe. Yet there is a little of the maverick in us, too, that makes us also love to misbehave now and then.

Mark Pawlyszyn, whose name I constantly try to say but know I am totally killing, of Unique Images Photography, based in British Columbia, Canada, already had this fantastic logo when he came to me looking for letterpress business cards. He wanted them to be on very thick paper, so, of course, I suggested 600 gram Lettra, our all-time favorite. But the problem is, Lettra only comes in white — white front/white back, and Mark had the idea of this solid teal color on one side.

You would think it would be a small matter to print the teal on one side of the thick paper and call it a day, but ohhhhh, nooooo. May I just tell you that one of the cardinal rules about letterpress printing, that we have learned very well, is that you absolutely can’t print a big solid with dropped out type and expect to have a good result. It’s just not done. It’s actually AGAINST THE LAW!!!!!!

But we really couldn’t get around it. This design NEEDED to be printed in reverse this way, and there was nothing for it but for me to pipe up and agree to risk a prison sentence by saying, OK, we are going to try it. We succeeded once before, on Troy Covey’s solid red cards. Maybe we can do it this time, too. Like The Little Train That Could, we got busy chugging along the dangerous curves of this difficult maneuver, risking our reputations and possible time in the letterpress pokey.

But look at what happened: We didn’t go to jail. Mark didn’t either. The cards are, as they say, AWESOME. What happens if you print a solid color with dropped out type, is the paper-colored type kind of puffs up OUT of the background color, giving a very different effect than what is on the back, where the letters press INTO the paper. It’s a dynamic effect. If the type is not super tiny, this technique can work and be this beautiful, though we will always approach this sort of caper with caution.

We also love the photos Mark took of his new (sort of) illegal letterpress business cards.

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This photo by Pablo Abuliak and the rest by me, which is why they are not as good.

Branding experts tell us that is is engraved in marble that every real estate agent and broker MUST HAVE HIS OR HER PHOTOGRAPH on every single business card and all printed materials or suffer bad consequences. We understand the motive here: Prospective client interviews a bunch of firms and agents, takes all their cards home and ponders whom to choose. A photo helps client remember who was who. But is that the ONLY way a business card can actually distinguish its owner? Well, of course, you are here, at the letterpress capital of the world, so you have an inkling of what my opinion of this is going to be. But I won’t let that stop me from going ahead and opining away on this breathless topic.

To pursue our scenario further: If, in the handful of cards the client takes home to peruse, there is a certain thick, gorgeous, unusually-shaped card with a beautiful logo, well printed with deep impression, and the logo is interesting, compelling, and the client has never seen anything like it in his life, whose card, may I ask, is standing out? Whose card is speaking loudest and most eloquently about its owner? Well, yes. The big question is always, what is your business card saying about you and how hard is it working for your business?

So I have done digital cards with photos on them, and they are beautiful, too, because they are well designed and have interesting color and typography, so they work. But I have also done letterpress cards like Mark Strub‘s above, that have no photo, and just look at it. Mark loves the way people respond to it every time, and we love it too, just because.

I made these cards for Iain Reilly recently, a real estate broker in the Napa Valley: Black/white duplex paper, apple green foil stamping on the black side, with this sort of “internal monogram”logo I made for him, no photo. He tells me he never hands a card to anyone who doesn’t say something about how amazing they are. BTW, he also got a complete stationery wardrobe. Letterhead and #10 envelopes, a 9 x 12 envelope for sending things flat, folding black/white duplex paper note cards and envelopes for them because he writes an inordinate number of thank you notes.  That is an incredibly rare thing these days. Whenever I get a hand addressed envelope in the mail, you can be sure that is the first one I want to open. Here are Iain’s note cards and envelopes:

The front of his envelope makes you want to know what’s inside

I’m sure there are arguments on both sides of this issue that will hold up in court, I just wanted to put out my two bits. Photo or no photo, what is YOUR opinion?

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Photos by Pablo Abuliak

Monica Wellington, owner of the most fashion-forward boutique on the Mendocino Coast, came to me for a new logo a while back. The name SPLENDIFEROUS! has so much juice in it anyway that it was very fun to play around with the way it lay on the page. It’s printed in brown ink, along with the blast of dandelion fluff, then reiterated in teal green foil (with an exclamation point where the “i” usually goes. We did them on the heaviest chipboard we could get our hands on. We love, love, LOVE how they came out!

They express the exuberance and style and earth-friendliness that Monica puts into the mix in her store, which, by the way, you HAVE to go to when you come to Fort Bragg. Everybody always finds something they can’t live without.

You really can’t print on this thickness of paper in any other way than by letterpress (except perhaps silk-screening — not too practical for business cards, though). With such heavy weight paper, we can get a nice deep “bite” that shows off the signature third dimension, the beautiful texture of letterpress that sets it apart from every other form of printing.

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