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

Grass and Stone

Addie had always been drawn to letterpress. Having few letterpress options in Greensboro, they found Parklife Press when searching for studios in the Durham area. Working under a tight deadline and having little time to spare, they were pleased when Parklife's website showed a "clear design aesthetic as well as up front design details and pricing options," and felt that the format prepared them for a seamless consultation with Travis. They were immediately drawn to the Parker design because it was clean and simple, and they loved its use of typography.

They used grass and stone inks throughout. The green, used sparingly — for their names, the RSVP postcard-style return address, and for the invitation's edge painting — was a nice touch for their not-quite-spring wedding in March. "It felt really fresh and added just enough pop," Addie says. They ended up using the colors and color names as a thematic springboard — "grass and stone" became a motif at their wedding, with centerpieces of planters of grass, and stone-colored bridesmaids dresses.

The RSVP and welcome cards provided another showcase for the dramatic pop of typographic embellishment. This particular script font comes with an extensive set of alternative characters and ligatures, providing lots of options for the designer. Choosing which to use and where is key. Addie noted, "Travis gave great suggestions on how and where to add flourish to our names without it being over the top. We trusted him completely!"

Grand Tetons

Laura and Graham love skiing and love the mountains. Both their families were very connected to Jackson Hole — a beautiful spot in Wyoming nestled in the valley of the Teton Range — and so they knew they wanted to have their wedding there. They also wanted to incorporate the famous landscape in their invitations. They loved the tea-length card because it's unusual and distinctive, and also because they knew the proportion would highlight the mountain range illustration.

Travis worked with Laura to create the custom Teton art, and it was used on the invitation and on the program cover. Espresso and sherbet inks worked beautifully with the extra thick ecru paper, and corresponded with the wedding colors (brown was a featured color in the wedding, and the floral centerpieces had a pop of orange). The edges of the invitation card and the program cover were painted to tie together the sherbet accent ink used throughout.

The set included a card inviting guests to the other events (a Friday night dinner and a Sunday brunch), and the RSVP card covered replies to these events as well as the wedding itself. It also had space to request a vegetarian menu and note lodging plans.

Laura became familiar with Travis' studio while she was at business school in nearby Chapel Hill. She was amazed by his work, and said that "selecting who to do my invitations was the easiest part of planning."  "Everyone loved the invitations," she said. "I got many compliments."

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

New England Coast

This was a set we printed for a couple in Maine who designed their own invitation. It was printed on Pearl White paper and featured bermuda edge paint. Helkin and Jamie both work in the online world so they planned to provide most of the details on the Web — but they still wanted a "classic, yet unique print piece." The invitation directed guests to RSVP by email and to visit a website for all other wedding-related information.

A final detail: Thai Unryu tissue envelope liners to match the set's midnight ink. The soft, natural look of the tissue evoked wind-rumpled water. Paired with the hand-drawn look of the font, the invitation captured the casual elegance of a seaside wedding.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

A Handful of New Letterpress Business Cards

We've added some great new cards to our business gallery. Take a look...

These double-sided cards for Cedarly, a media and web branding company in North Carolina, feature their logo printed with a tinted white ink. We could have just as easily blind-pressed the logo (no ink at all), but the tinted white helps it pop a bit more. This technique works beautifully with the logo's leaves and with its clean typeface, highlighting the deep impression of the thick 600g paper. On the other side of the card, the information is perked up with tiny icons in blue, which help distinguish at a glance the different methods of contact. We finished the card with painted edges, picking up the accent color.

John, the creative principle at Lake House Design Group, designed these rustic but modern cards. The logo style, the palette of the ink and paper colors, and the distressed typeface work together to evoke the familiarity and nostalgia present in the firm's name.

Matt Graif, a graphic designer in Missouri, submitted this excellent design for his business card that we printed for him on 600g fluorescent white Lettra.

This dramatic card for Eli Powell, a photographer in Boulder, Colorado, uses white space to its advantage. With the card's less-common vertical orientation and the artwork bleeding off the bottom, the design focuses squarely on the photographer's name but hints at sweeping landscapes and large, open skies. In blue ink on crisp, fluorescent white card stock, the snow-capped mountains are brought to life with just a few abstract shapes, connecting Powell to his region and to his clientele.

And finally, a card for Jean Woods Madge, a realtor at Distinctive Properties in Durham. Travis worked with her to create a new logo and a new look for her business cards, which were printed on 300g ecru white cardstock. The logo itself is distinctive and interesting, and the card layout was complete with a nice combination of script and serif typefaces.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson