Growing Businesses, One Card at a Time

You know how sometimes you have to move thousands of pounds of antique machinery from one edge of the country to another, and then get it all set up properly so you can keep your business running? Wait, you don't? Ah ... count yourself lucky. Parklife Press moved from lovely North Carolina to beautiful Portland, Oregon this summer, and setting up the new studio was a f… a fun opportunity for greatness! And truly, it turned out great. But it was a challenge. And you know who you need in your corner when facing challenging situations? (Especially ones which involve basic elemental needs like heat, power, and protection from the elements?) Talented professionals. You know it ... here begins a good old-fashioned business card round-up!

We did these cards as thank yous for the electrician and contractor who renovated the new studio. They were great to work with. They kept us dry, and (seasonally) warm or cool.

Each card has tiny graphic representations on blind deboss (ink-free) impressions — hammers for the contractor and electric bolts for the electrician. It was fun to get to work with these fellow craftsmen and small-business owners.

Speaking of growing a business: cards we did for Grow. These involved three custom letterpress inks on the front, offset flood and one letterpress ink on the back. They were hand-duplexed (two different paper stocks glued together) and edge-painted in a corresponding brick-colored ink. That sounds like a lot of press runs, right? Three runs just to make one side of this card! Oh, and, we did cards for 28 employees. Nothing says "we're glad you work here" than the boss handing an employee a box of beautiful, hand-crafted letterpress business cards.

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Some detail shots are below. Check out Grow's subtle plant motif in black-on-black.

Listen, we're a bit late on giving thanks on this blog, but we figure gratitude shouldn't be limited to one month of the year. So to our new neighbors, fellow business owners, new clients and old: we are thankful for you. Thank you for your business, and for helping us (directly or indirectly) fix the roof over our heads and the electrical outlets for our presses. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Branding is Key

While business cards are a great vehicle for letterpress printing, we can't forget everyday business stationery. We had worked with Van Fletcher on a few projects, so we were happy to be able to help build his brand further with some new pieces. This time it was a flexible stationery set — a two-ink 120g "mini letterhead" (also known as note paper size; it's smaller than a full size sheet and folds in half to fit in envelope); a more stripped-down 300g note card; and a two-color envelope to house either piece.

This set is quite flexible — the more formal sheet bearing the full logo and listing multiple modes of contact, and a less formal card. The card is still "branded" with the key motif, but name and contact details are left off; it's perfect for notes to existing clients and associates. Note that the more minimalist note card is not without contact information: Van Fletcher's website is imprinted, subtly and without ink, at the card's base.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Shades of Blush

David and Allyson's invitation set was based on Petal, which features an original illustration by Parklife Press. The text, set in all-caps Gill Sans, is set off by the lightly-flourished script of their names. The asymmetry of the single, flowering branch — printed in tungsten and blush inks — provides a fresh and cheerful balance to the clean and modern design.

The branch design from the invitation was carried through on the RSVP card.

Letterpress is typically created with solid areas of ink impressions using individual, premixed colors. But here, by using halftone screens (read our post about letterpress and the halftone process here), three shades of pink were achieved using only one ink. This branch of blooming buds would still be pretty with solid, 100%-strength blush ink, but the design would lack depth; it wouldn't be as delicate, or as interesting.

Pastoral Elegance

Alan and Keith were getting married on their farm in Virginia and wanted to balance the solemnity of the event with the rustic quality of the setting. The grooms-to-be had created an online video save-the-date for their guests, but for the invitations, they decided that letterpress would help underscore the formality of the occasion.

The invitation, according to Alan, had to convey several things at once to set the tone: a sense of formality (despite the fact that the reception was to be held in a barn, it was not going to be a casual event); the fact that the ceremony itself was going to be quite traditional; and the occasion's overall blend of elegance and rusticity. In his words, "we needed an invitation that tempered the formal and traditional with some sort of country element."

They felt the Californian design was almost  there, but wanted to use a different oak tree image. The oak was their chosen motif, partly for symbolic reasons — the mighty, strong, sheltering, beautiful oak is an apt metaphor for a lifelong commitment — but it held literal meaning, as well. The couple planted a pair of young oaks on their farm, and are planning to watch them grow old together. As Alan said, "we hope we can look back on them one day and say, 'those were planted the year we got married.' "

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Formal, with Flourishes

Alexandra and Michael were planning a black-tie, traditional Catholic wedding, and wanted their invitation to reflect that style. Alex was drawn to the Fountain design — seeing how the layout's simplicity put the elaborate font on display, she was, as she put it, "hooked."

Deceptively simple in design, the typeface features intricate and playful ligatures and flourishes. The extra thick invitation cards were edged in gold, and that subtle sparkle was echoed by the envelopes' antique gold liners.

Alex found Parklife Press on the Martha Stewart Weddings website. As with any wedding, there were many decisions to be made — but when it came to the invitations, whether to use letterpress was never really a question. "My Mom is a calligrapher and has instilled a reverence to paper products in me that I was sure to embrace in our wedding planning process." The effect was everything she and Michael were looking for: formal and traditional, with impact.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Drawing Inspiration: Art, Cultural Traditions, Local Pride

From a creative professional's perspective, Sneha and Dylan were dream clients. The did research, they "shopped local," and they visited the studio — both to talk with Travis, and to see (and feel) letterpress samples in person. Most importantly, they had a solid design vision and provided concrete inspiration and references.

Parklife Press did custom designs for both the save the date card and the invitation set. For the former, Sneha and Dylan said they wanted "whimsical ... like the opening scenes of a Wes Anderson film." (For a graphic designer and film buff to hear this? He knows it's the start of a fun job.)

The list of inspirations for the invitation set was longer, but no less interesting to fit together. To start with, it was to be "a bit more formal" than the save the date cards.

For the couple, it was tiny details that made this set distinctive and personal. They wanted to incorporate "flower garlands from traditional Indian weddings." To do this, Travis used a blind deboss impression — thereby lending texture to the background and creating a subtle, striped effect which was in keeping with the design's formal tone. Sneha and Dylan chose the green and gold colors they "often see in the beautiful forests here," colors which they used in the wedding and reception. (The heavy-weight cards were edged in gold, setting off the deep green of the text.) And finally, they wanted to "give a nod to our new home in Durham by featuring a romanticized bull." That bull, extending a single rose, appears on both the save the date card and on the invitation's envelope flap return address.

Commissioning custom designs, especially when the turnaround time is short, can be nerve-wracking for clients. But it was a positive experience for Sneha, who said, "Travis was so easy to work with and incredibly quick to respond to our edits." And the resulting product really set the tone for their big day: "We have received more compliments on the invites than we could have ever imagined," she said. "He helped two very time-constrained and design-naive individuals make absolutely beautiful invitations we will treasure forever."

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Old World Charm in New York City

The beauty of a classic, calligraphic invitation puts the emphasis on the writing. Here, in a invitation based on Quill, with custom calligraphy by Monica Rachel Lima, the swirls and flourishes of the text sets the tone for an elegant and festive occasion. The black ink on thick, pearl white paper stock is set off by a metallic silver envelope liner.

The simplicity of the dingbat rule pairs well with dramatic flair of the calligraphic flourishes, and all the rounded corners of all the pieces ties the set together.

Accompanying reception and RSVP cards are done in a understated serif font with a vintage feel. The two styles coordinate to set the tone for a formal wedding in New York City.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson