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We just finished designing and printing letterpress business cards for a wonderfully talented new arrival to the Mendocino Coast. Karen McGrath brings many years of knowledge and experience in planning outdoor spaces in Redding, California, where her client base included residential and commercial property owners, contractors, architects, interior designers, and fans of every stripe. Her intelligent use of space and luxurious landscaping instincts will be put to good use in our cool, moist climate. She’s excited to work with our coastal cornucopia of cool weather loving plants.

And she loves her new Studio Z Mendocino letterpress cards like crazy:

MGC side view

We printed them on 600 gsm Lettra in a very deep, forest-y green ink, then foiled the word GARDEN in some kind of indescribable pale green metallic foil. You can see the gleam in the rather moody photo above.

The backs are printed in ink except one little botanical dingbat is done in foil:

back bc

The frosting on this delicious cake was a green edge, which perfectly matches the foil.

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MGC front photo

Deep, deep impression, super-thick paper, chic-but-slightly-whimsical typography, a bit of bling, a certain spirit in it: the cards describe Karen’s outgoing personality and gorgeous work. We aim for this effect, this matching what we do to graphically signal what you do with subtlety and verve, and are always gratified when we nail it for our clients. We feel lucky that Karen has chosen to move to the coast, too.

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Bella Viva Business CardDeanne England, the incredibly talented interior designer and owner of Bella Viva Interior Design, called me one day out of the blue. She was surprised to learn that my studio is only an hour-and-a-half drive from her northern California office. She was looking for someone to design her new logo, business cards, stationery, etc., and had found my website and blog, liked what she’d discovered there, and suddenly we were chatting excitedly away like two old friends making plans.

As with all interior designers I have worked with, she had many, many ideas and concerns, and at the same time she was wonderfully open to my input. After establishing a mutual recognition and rapport, we hung up on a note of simply infinite possibilities as I zoomed into my favorite space: the trance of design. Where does that thing come from? How does it work? Honestly, it’s the biggest mystery, and I love it.

Bella Viva Business Card BackOne of my favorite parts of the work I get to do is designing monograms. It just knocks me out. For Deanne, I drew a lot of little doodles all over everything I saw for the next few days. I had envisioned something very crisp and modern, yet classical — but I did NOT envision what eventually emerged out of my doodles, not at all: A playful little “flower,” a nestled b and v, very hand-drawn looking. To tell you the truth, I was a little scared even to show it to Deanne because it was so far away from what we had talked about! But I got up my nerve and pushed the button anyway, because I really loved it. The worst that could happen was I would go back to the drawing board, right? So there it was, traveling to her via a brave little .pdf attachment. Fingers crossed, I awaited her response…

close up

And guess what: SHE loved it too. LOVED!

The next step was designing the typography, which came together so naturally. And then deciding on colors: Deanne was definite — seafoam green and gold foil. That too was surprising…and perfect. These incremental decisions have so much importance when you are in the designing mode, patiently moving toward a final product. Each tweak, each gradation of color, each space between each letter…all come to mean so much to how a logo lands on paper and in how it is perceived by prospective clients. Everything has to ‘speak’ of attention to detail, to beauty, to rhythm and proportion, and mood, and a million unnameable things that play into what finally happens. This is the beauty of design and the beauty of collaboration.

In the end, we printed up an entire Stationery Suite for Deanne, all by letterpress and all just so beautiful. It included the amazing business cards you see here, letterhead and #10 business envelopes, thank you notes and envelopes for those,

Folding Thank You Note mailing labels, great big black envelopes with personalized mailing labels for sending out samples and unfolded sheets of paper, and the amazing press kits, which required a LOT of very special techniques to make them work.

Bella Viva Press Kit FolderEverything but the folders was printed on our venerable Heidelberg Windmill presses, as always, by Rhea Rynearson, the best letterpress printer I have ever known (and you should know her too), using age-old knowledge, intuition, and deep reverence for this 500-year-old craft we keep alive every day at Studio Z Mendocino! We are so grateful to have clients like Deanne England, who understand the power that resides in great creative design and beautiful printing.Inside pocket of press kit folder

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Kingsbury Garden Designs Digital Business Card with AkuaFoil

Dorrit Kingsbury (adore her name) of Kingsbury Garden Designs emailed me one night a few months ago with the most arresting message: she had been studying my blog and website. She said she knew every single thing on them. And she just knew I was the one who was supposed to design her new logo and make letterpress business cards. It was another one of those things: I could tell, just from talking to her that first day, that we were destined to do something really wonderful together.

The process was one of discovery at first. Thinking about what she loved, what she did not, what she wanted her logo to express. Ideas she had about her name, avoiding a stuffy effect because of that rather formal name, Kingsbury Garden Designs, things like that. We talked a lot and then of course, after a while, it was time.

I went into my trusty creative trance and something started “coming through.” I don’t really understand or know about how this thing happens, but suddenly, there was this mark, which I dubbed “The Leafy K.” It was green, it was leafy, and I was trying not to get too attached to how much I loved it because it was NOTHING like what we had talked about and I was not sure Dorrit would feel equally crazy about it. Here it is:

Kingsbury Garden Designs Letterpress Card

But guess what: she was. There was a good deal of fiddling around with colors, shape and size of the cards, typeface (the marvelous and lively Koch Antiqua, in the end) and then Dorrit had this iconoclastic idea to make The Leafy K pink. But of course! I did it, and it was perfect. We decided on a leafy green for the edge painting on the letterpress ones. That is what you see above: Pink Leafy K with gold foil outlining and gold foil lettering.

The digital version has a pink foil effect on The Leafy K, with a sort of blackberry-deep-purple lettering and of course no edge painting, and it’s on glossy paper. The two, shown side by side below, are the same, but very, very different.

Kingsbury Letterpress and Digital Cards, side by side

Each has its uses and Dorrit says, “WeeHoo! My beautiful letterpress cards … are lovely, elegant, delicate and regal!!! …

“The letterpress ones are more subtle than the digital cards.— Here’s a surprise… I love the gold!!  It is what makes the design delicate and regal at the same time. It really Works!

“And… It’s interesting that, now, I really love the foil in the digital cards (call me crazy) and miss the richness of it in the letterpress leafy K.  WHO KNEW?” Yes, Dorrit is really happy with them — both of them — and says people comment on her logo and cards all the time. (Are we very surprised?)

So, we will have to work on getting everything into one card when we reprint them after she runs out… much of this work is hunt-and-peck, guessing and hoping, because you can’t always tell exactly how a certain technique will work on the paper, or whatever, and sometimes you have to treat it as a very exciting experiment.It will be beautiful to try the pink foil on The Leafy K next time we do the letterpress ones, and see if it’s possible to love it even more than we do now.

It was such a treat to work with Dorrit on this brand design and business cards. We got to know each other through this process, as happens so often. I feel I have a very talented, wonderful new friend.

She has new lawn signs and a new sign for her truck, too. If you go to her website you will see how her work is so lush and textured, and how it relates to this leafy K two-dimensional symbol of it: http://kingsburygardendesigns.com.

Kingsbury Leafy K Business Cards

Her website describes her work as: “Modernist Design with classical sculptural influences for garden and outdoor living spaces. Serving Atherton, Palo Alto and the Peninsula.” It is really Dorrit’s incredibly gorgeous personal vision, her own art form, and it is a wonder. This job was a true collaboration and a true pleasure…with a truly amazing result.

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Design: Zida Borcich; Letterpress Printing and Foil Stamping: Rhea Rynearson.

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Bella Viva Business Card

Bella Viva Business Card — Seafoam green ink with gold foil stamping

Interior designer Deanne England recently contacted Studio Z Mendocino because she wanted a new look for her branding of her business, Bella Viva Interior Design, and a new business card. She found us online, and we were both surprised that we live and work only an hour-and-a-half from each other. From the first minute we talked, we knew there was a special spark in the quality of our communications. We “got” each other in the special way that makes you know things are going to be really exciting if you get to work together.

Deanne wanted something elegant that also showed her slightly quirky side too. We talked about the myriad possibilities, the infinity of choices doing any design project … and then I set to work over the weekend.

Right off the bat, I drew this little conundrum of a mark…a flower, maybe?…but if you look closely, you will see the initials “bV” for Bella Viva hidden in the leaves. She loved the mark, even before she saw the initials; then she loved the game of having to look and find the little mystery. She also was very clear that a “seafoam green” be included somehow. The card you see above is the result of our very flowing, mutual creativity.

If you have ever worked with interior designers, you know that there is no detail too small to suffer over until it’s perfect, and that is how we are about printing too. We got along like peas in a pod. Her meticulous attention to keeping things clear guided the project to its happy conclusion.

Ms. England works with clients in both northern & southern California on full scale remodeling & building projects, as well as design consultations in property investment evaluation, home staging analysis, professional organizing solutions, and even event design. Deanne is available by appointment only and welcomes all inquiries regarding her work, design philosophy, and design process. She can be contacted at 626 722 7809.

Deanne was immediately in love with the feel and look of Cranes 600 gram, super-thick Lettra, which takes the “bite” of letterpress techniques like nothing else, and feels wonderfully substantial in the hand.

Bella Viva Business Card Back

The backs of the cards had to be as pretty as the fronts, and they are.

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“We Just Got a Makeover” post card

Shortly after I opened my first shop, in November of 1984, Carol Hall moved her little restaurant in next door, in the north end of the old Coast Hotel. That was the first time I met her and it was plain love, right from the start. Those were lively days on Franklin Street, with the irresistible aroma of roux wafting out of her doors and into mine, driving us all mad with desire.

I had never even heard of pepper jelly before, and when i asked Carol what you are supposed to do with pepper jelly, she said, with her sparkly Louisiana accent, “Why I put it on my red beans and rice!” — like it was perfectly normal. Needless to say, I was a convert instantaneously. Sometimes we would just have a red-bean-and-rice attack around three o’clock, close the doors to my shop, and go over and beg.

Carol’s spicy New Orleans home cookin’ perfumed the street for blocks. Gumbo, jambalaya, andoille sausages…it was hard to pick one thing off the menu, once you had tried it all. Every single thing made you want to die from pleasure.

Lucky me…Carol asked me to make her logo when she started putting up pepper jellies to sell to the NOLA-starved throngs. I used a lead typeface i had bought from an old hobby printer, called Chic. I was just starting out on my own and everything was so exciting and fabulous. Sorry I don’t have any photos of that long-ago logo to post here.

Eventually, Carol moved over to a little shop on Main Street and called it by the same name, Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company. Her line of preserves grew and grew. And grew. By that time, she wanted the labels to reflect a more handmade character, so she had her husband Albert draw the label art that would last for years and years, with a darling, naive rendering of red and green peppers and vines.

Freshly jarred

She sold all kinds of jams and jellies there, mustards, chutneys, vinegars, and she brought in other products too, locally made wine jellies and salsas, interesting, food-related stuff, pottery, but the Red and Jalapeno Pepper Jellies, now joined by Ginger, Peach, Mango and Roasted Garlic Pepper Jellies, held their own, and still do to this day.

Fast forward: business was good, the name well-established, and many honors and awards had been bestowed on her scrumptious products.  Carol decided she wanted to slow down a bit. She had been working her tail off for a couple of decades. That’s when she passed most of the business to her daughter Leslie Hall.

The labels changed again when the Halls all sat down and together hammered out a really different look for their products that was a little more upscale. All the labels were on cream colored paper, with burgundy type, small gray drawings, accented with gold foil, and die cut in a distinctive shape. They were all the same color and the product name was a bit small to read from the aisle, but they lasted a long time too.

The storefront, too, was passed to a long-time employee, and now Leslie was just doing the wholesale end of things, with part-time help from Carol on bookkeeping and consulting. “Just” is the wrong word to use…Leslie figures she has made over a half-million jars of jam, jelly and preserves in the years she has womanned the stove.

Leslie is a dervish in the kitchen. She is so organized and fast that nobody can keep up with her. Four or five pots of various jams are bubbling away on the stove, she is sterilizing jars, cleaning up constantly, putting the labels on by hand, answering the phone incessantly, making plans for trade shows, and taking care of her granddaughter, all at the same time. I could go on but…

Well, finally we come to the actual point of this blog post: A few months ago, Carol and Leslie called me up and said they wanted me to redesign their branding, to spark it up with a more modern look. WoW! Was i ever happy to revisit this with them.

They had had a family meeting, without my being there, and talked about all the things they liked about past labels as well as what was not working. They knew they wanted an updated look, but it needed to keep that trademark handmade quality as well. With a lot of experience in redesigning labels (and a certain amount of dread — it’s really an upheaval, you know), they leafed through lots of clip art books, culling for that special wood engraving look they loved, thinking about typefaces, whether to use foil or ink, and etc., etc., and so on.

When I went over to the kitchen to meet with them, Leslie was all ready with a carefully drawn label on a jar to show me. She was pretty happy with it and wanted me to do something to adapt it a little bit — but she also said she wanted me to use my own imagination too… OK. I said, “You know, Leslie, this looks nice, but it has this wood engraving from what looks like the 1600s, of a woman wearing a snood, stirring a black pot over a fireplace. Umm…do you think it’s modern enough?”

I took the drawing away and lots of notes and ideas and went to work. Honestly, I don’t know how this happens, how i get these notions for designs. Really, I can’t even begin to figure it out. Something starts coming through, I play with type, colors, layouts…really I don’t know. The first thing that happened was, I made a square out of the long name, Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company. I tried a bunch of faces out. I got a little feeling about this. Something started to jell, as surely as a pot of bubbling plums and sugar starts to set up…

I took the idea over to Carol and Leslie to see how I was doing. At first, they were in shock. They didn’t know what to say. It was so different from their idea that they could hardly absorb it. They kind of had to push back against it. Then they started to look at it and think about it, warm up to it. Then they said a lot of stuff that I had not known about originally.

Number one thing: the word HOT is NOT a good selling point. People are often scared of HOT (I am not one of them). After thirty years of doing this business, they had a firm grasp of what did and did not work. HOT had always been problematic, and HOT was in the name of the company. In my first rendering, HOT was the biggest thing on the label.

OK, back to the drawing board with more notes and admonitions. As I said, this was jelling. The process, however it works, is always a back-and-forth, a conversation and a communication. I am a medium between what the clients want and what the logo wants to be. That is such a fun position to be in. Witchy!

After more messing around, I called them again, and went to meet with them, this time with a bigger concept. Each label would be a different color. All of them would have the product name in white letters on a black rectangle, with “HANDMADE” floating in a separate rectangle underneath. The “Hot Pepper Jelly Company” part of the name would only appear on the back of the label. The name Carol Hall was all that would be on the front. Each label would have the name of the contents in big enough letters to be read from an aisle. The colors would be vibrant and coordinated so they would look beautiful all together, or by themselves, or in a gift basket. Oh la la! They liked the idea more and more, warmed to it, and finally embraced it. It was thrilling, as exciting as the first time we worked together when I was brand new to having my own business and so was Carol.

Carol and Leslie went to work picking the color palette. I loaned them my Pantone ink books and they went on an exploration of colors, trying various hues on the various products to make sure the label looked good with the jam or mustard color, leafing through William Morris books in search of saturated, sophisticated combos, making sure that everything harmonized and popped.

At last, we put the whole thing together. Like this:

Cherry-Amaretto Jam label

Cherry-Amaretto Jam label

Carol Hall's Hot Pepper Jelly Company's products are Yumminess in a Jar

Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company’s products are Yumminess in a Jar

(The painting in the photo above is a portrait my friend Bob Ross did of me in the ’80s.)

So that is a kind of (not really “kind of”) lengthy synopsis of my relationship with Carol and Leslie Hall. A big, long love affair of mutual admiration and respect, with a happy ending. They love the twenty-six labels we have finished so far and they are getting rave reviews from most of their clients (some people can’t stand change, of course, but overall, it’s a home run), and orders are rolling in like crazy. We already had to order a reprint of some of the most popular items. This is the best news to me. That the labels are beautiful, exciting, popular…and, truly the acid test, effective.

If you are looking for really great presents for the holidays (with good looking packaging — wink, wink), I cannot give you better advice than to find Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company and buy a bunch for all your friends and yourself. As the seal I designed for the labels says “Still cookin’ — Small Batches — Family Owned — since 1985.” It’s an amazing product line that comes from an amazing family. Yummy in every way. I am so honored to have been given this assignment.jam group

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Alkemi Business Card front

Chef Lisa Bower has been busy creating the most spectacular flavored Kombucha recipes ever, which will be available to the public soon. (Lucky me — she let me have some raspberry from a recent batch, and it was so delicious, I must have more, asap!) Her meticulous branding strategy included business cards that made people’s mouths water as much as the Kombucha does, and we just delivered these.

We are in love with these black, two-ply (very thick) cards that bear the logo (a foxy fox or her Shiba Inu foxy dog?), stamped in black gloss foil, and whose tail encircles the alchemical symbol for gold, in gold foil (of course), along with the business name, also in gold foil. These visual puns show up in many places in her concept, and all add up to rich, rich, rich beauty, and something magical too.

Alkemi Business Card Back

Alkemi Business Card Back

The backs have all her contact information in gold foil, but in the subtle black gloss foil, black-on-black, the slogan, “Time reveals truth,” leaves another mystery to ponder. Or at least drops a little tidbit of wisdom as the final fillip. With alchemy, there’s no end to the surprises.

We are eager to find Lisa’s amazing product on the shelves of local bars and restaurants, aren’t you? And we are proud that she chose Studio Z Mendocino to complete the business cards of her dreams. Here’s what she wrote me after receiving the prototypes: “THANK YOU  THANK YOU  THANK YOU!!!!  You rocked my world with the cards today…they are exactly how I envisioned the graphic representation of my product and the energy I wish to convey with my business concept…  Happy smiles!”

Oh, did I mention that Lisa and I “got each other” the minute we met? Yes, it was a great pleasure to work with such a creative and positive client. One of the great perks of my work! That seems magical, too.

 

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Carsten Mol Photography Business Cards

Carsten Mol Photography Business Cards

Danish photographer Carsten Mol found Studio Z Mendocino online and contacted me about a year ago. He wanted to have some really special business cards, and, of course, that is what we do here. We instantly felt a rapport, even though separated by many miles and much water and emailed enthusiastically about what he had in mind, ideas I had for the design and materials, colors, possibilities and his dreams. It was sort of like meeting an old friend I didn’t know yet. Carsten was rebranding and got back to me after several months when his website was completed, as he promised he would.

Edge painting put the icing on the cake

Edge painting put the icing on the cake

His website was the inspiration for the design we finally landed on. go see: Carsten’s website

The backs are equally yummy

The backs are equally yummy

When the cards arrived to Denmark, this is how Carsten started his blog post about them: “Today I got my brand new Business card! And what can I say more than, I just love them!!!! They are small pieces of art.” The nice things he said about working with me almost made me cry! He immediately sent me these wonderful shots he took of them and I feel proud to post them here today.

The first cards we have done for someone in Denmark!

The first cards we have done for someone in Denmark!

I often say, “I love the modern world!” and, really, I mean it. Never before have we been able to do business in this way, to connect with like-minded people in any corner of the world and relate to each other, feel into others’ lives in this marvelous way, affect each other and even affect each others’ friends and colleagues and, of course, clients, most importantly. It really seems like some sort of miracle, a miracle we take for granted every day, that allows unprecedented communication and relationship to occur regardless of geographical location.

Thank you, Carsten, for reaching across the ocean from Scandinavia to the USA, to California, to Mendocino County, to my little office at Studio Z Mendocino, and to my heart. It’s a beautiful miracle to know you.

 

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