Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

Inspirations: Studio Visits in New Orleans

Escaping my desk is a great way to hit the refresh button on motivation and inspiration.  Visiting studios and seeing how others are doing what they do best never fails to impress—in particular, seeing designers who still work by hand, while so much of our own day-to-day work has become digital, is always a treat.  At the AIGA annual conference this fall in New Orleans, we were lucky enough to visit and enjoy three local woman-owned shops working in traditional mediums: sign painting, letterpress, and bookbinding.

The unique character of New Orleans and a stroll down its vibrant streets is influenced in large part by the beautiful artisan signage hanging on nearly every building.  There is an appreciation among the business, local, and tourist populations alike for this oft-forgotten artform—something we are lucky to see support for in Santa Fe’s historic downtown as well.
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Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs

Hand lettering is still a prized artform at Mystic Blue Signs.

Mystic Blue Signs works exclusively in hand lettered signage with no digital components.  Customers are offered a limited selection of the most successful handprinted typefaces by way of a large painted board of samples on the wall, as well as a host of colorful iconography and artwork styles to complement their choice of lettering with a handpainted logo. Upon entering the shop, dozens of bold signs greet the eye from walls and ceiling, and a case of implements and tools of the trade give a glimpse behind the scenes.  Artists are trained at the shop to master lettering, and the open studio format lets customers watch as they paint.  Clients’ templates are created in pencil on trace paper to ensure text is aligned, perforated with a handheld tool outlining the sketch, and pounced (a centuries-old technique for image transferring, in this case pushing chalk dust through little holes in the trace paper onto the prepared sign board).  Signs are shaped and cut in-house as well, including elaborate cutouts such as filagrees, water, and steam.  Mystic Blue does work with graphic designers’ projects, too; mockups acquire an authentic handmade look and the finished products are truly one-of-a-kind.
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Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura

Scriptura’s design tips for letterpress: rules have never looked so good.

As a former student of intaglio and woodblock, I love any work focused on printmaking. Those of us who obsess over high-quality paper and tactile presence have likely been thrilled to see the resurgence of letterpress printing in recent years. Behind a storefront of stationery offerings, Scriptura on bustling Magazine Street has a fully operational shop accepting custom work.  With four antique presses in action, the shop is pleasantly busy, including a foil press for applying metallic detail in gold, copper, and silver. Listening to the rhythmic zip of the wheel and plunk of the plate, we watched a job come off the press on gorgeous thick paper with lots of fine detail.  There is a labor of love involved in maintaining these huge machines, mostly done in-house by the artists as the heavy presses are so difficult to move and chance at tipping off the dolly.  The community is relatively tight knit and there to reach out to for chastisement and eventually advice when a part breaks or a problem happens, a lot like the digital forums we reference for programming snags or Photoshop questions…but somehow more secret and more exciting.  There is something about a well-thought one color design on amazing paper that is simple, beautiful, and bewitching.  There is also something about a printing studio with wooden floors, a wooden staircase, wide windows, and a couple of dogs waiting at your feet in the Big Easy that feels truly magical.
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

The Southern Press offers beautiful co-work space for designers.

Across town in the Bywater, a co-op space at The Southern Press runs handcrafted woodblock printing, small exhibitions, letterpress, and bookbinding. Binding techniques are fascinating, and this small cheery space with three artists at work was a treat to visit. We got to try our hand at arranging wood type elements in the tray and rolling paper through the press; looked at how a rainbow of ink can be applied to the plate for a pleasantly unpredictable result; checked out the flat files of thousands of letters and punctuation marks waiting to be placed on the presses; and merely watched a bit in awe as tiny artbooks were being hand-threaded and bound in several traditional Japanese styles.  We were even able to try the child size hobby press to print our own cards with sage inspiration advice: To summon lost creativity, pour water from the Mississippi River into the palm of your hand.

Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

Howdy from Kristin and Jackie in the Big Easy!

-Kristin
This post was originally published on The Design Corps of Santa Fe blog.

Green / Springtime in Romania

The aspens will soon be changing to gold in New Mexico, and I’m already missing the short season of green we had here.  With lush landscapes on the brain, I thought I’d share a few pictures from a trip I took to Romania this spring with my husband. The leafy mountainsides, leggy evergreens, and winding country roads gave us one of the greenest journeys I’ve ever seen.  This was my first time in Eastern Europe and it was such an experience; culturally, I loved the rural areas in the northern region, which felt like stepping back (way back) in time.

Here we have:

A man shepherding his sheep in a beautiful field backed by rich jade hills (above).

The most adorable grandmothers ever, selling farm cheese and sheep’s yogurt at the market.  This was my mainstay snack on our hair-raising drives through unbelievable traffic and twisting highways.

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Typical walking trail through the woods, ferns, and wildflowers in Transylvania (!).

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The Merry Cemetery, with hand painted art and unique folk poems honoring each life, decorating hand-carved wooden headstones.

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Corner construction on the primitive wooden churches common throughout the countryside.

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Europe’s oldest running narrow gauge steam train.

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A Maramureş wooden church, typical of the high timber constructions we saw all over stunning meadows like this one.

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Just one example of the incredible hand-painted vernacular artwork covering the walls, floors, and ceilings of the churches.

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View from Bran Castle, one of the original inspirations for Dracula!

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Streetside in Transylvania; more amazing murals.

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One of the lovely bedrooms in the charming old hotels where we stayed—which always featured old-Euro style separate duvets.

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Leadlight windows in diamond patterns of red, white, and blue.

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Sun hitting a rainbow of pastel homes on a cobblestone street.

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My favorite, perfect wildflower meadow.

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Clock tower in a historic village, with moving medieval figures who appear upon the chime of the hour.

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Rural cemetery in the forest.

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More wooden churches, with original frescoes and antique pennants (my husband is an architect so these ancient buildings were big on our sight-seeing list).

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Horses and carts, the preferred mode of transportation in the north country, including for families taking children to school—so much fun to see.

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Red poppy field.

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More extraordinary paintings.

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Lighting positive intention candles in the cave below a convent.

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A visit to writer, activist, and Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel’s home in Sighet, Transylvania.

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A quiet street at night, from the window of our hotel.

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The town plaza, with pigeons.

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An arched yellow arcade, peeking out onto the town square.

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Happy travels,

Kristin

Akumal Weddings Logo Design + Website Design

We are delighted to share one of our recent branding projects—from stem to stern—for Akumal Weddings, an event planning service located on the gorgeous coastline of North Akumal, Mexico, in the Mayan Riviera. We go into more detail about the project in our portfolio, so we thought it would be fun to share a few behind-the-scenes glimpses here that ultimately led to our final logo design and website design for this slice of tropical paradise.

When we begin a new branding project, we first put together an inspiration packet filled with images, mood boards, sketches, and typefaces that we believe embody our concepts for the new aesthetic. This is a really important stage in the logo design process in particular, as it ensures that we (the designers) are on the same page as our clients—and creates an essential roadmap for the next stage of development of our designs (after all, what we are hired to do!).  It’s always a pleasure to work with an amazing client who has beautiful professional photos already on hand, and of course if your business takes place on the Caribbean ocean, even better!

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Step one in this kind of project is for us to comb through our ever-growing inspiration library of beautiful patterns, fonts, and logos to create the mood board aspect of our initial concept package. This will include bits of branding from companies and designers that we admire, a variety of color swatches to compose a palette, and sample graphics that we find compelling. The point of this collection is to share with the client several different design directions we feel we can take their branding. We stress that we will not duplicate any of these elements, and that they are used strictly as inspirations, like a photo collage to get the ball rolling. Honoring other designers’ work is really important to us; we understand how many hours went behind each logo and design discovery and give credit where credit is due for any found inspirations.  We love sharing ideas and seeing other great work on dribbble!

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Credit clockwise from top: Diane Faye Zerr, Christian Antolin, Edgar Vargas, Laura Coggins.

We gather fonts, and present different options to get an idea of what feeling our client is looking for: hand-written, serif, sans-serif, cursive, playful, clean, caps, and more.

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Once we receive feedback from our client, we put together the next packet, developing custom design elements, narrowing down font choices, and building several variations of logo concept drafts. Here are a few of the alternate logo designs we created for Akumal Weddings, but didn’t end up using:

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After reviewing the initial logo concept sketches, we push things just a few steps further, and voila! the final logo design comes to fruition. After that, focusing on the beautiful photography provided by our client, our Akumal Weddings website design came together using our final logo package as a guide, sprinkling custom graphic embellishments throughout the site layout, and taking cues from the branding decisions we arrived at with our client.

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Read more about Akumal Weddings on our portfolio, and visit Akumal Weddings online to see some of the beautiful weddings they’ve been part of celebrating.  A huge thank you to Heidi and her team for working with us on the branding, logo design, and website design. Booking a trip to the sandy shores of Akumal is definitely at the top of our wish list!

Jackie & Kristin

AIGA Open House

Last fall (oh my! where does the time go?) we were invited to host a design Open House for the American Institute of Graphic Artists‘ New Mexico chapter. It was a lovely evening to gather with friends and clients, new and old, at Kristin’s sweet home in Santa Fe. As fall is around the corner again, we are reminded to take time to stop and enjoy all of the people we have met in the last year and to thank our clients for being, well, the best. It was such a fun night; we’ve been talking about hosting another one later this year – we’ll keep you posted!

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The only (blurry of course) photo of Jackie and Kristin – we are the worst at getting these!

The snow outside made for a cozy night by the fire and let our spiced apple cider be the perfect companion. Martha Stewart (and Jackie’s mom, the true hostess with the most-est) guided us toward delicious platters of appetizers (because we’ll take a table of apps over a full dinner anytime) and growlers of Santa Fe Brewing Co‘s finest ales aided in sparking conversation between new friends.

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Thank you to AIGA for tapping us to host, and a big thank you for all the continued support and love from our friends and clients. We admire you all! Only wish we could have more parties to celebrate.

Jackie & Kristin

 

Succulent Symmetry: Caught My Eye

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Oh beautiful succulents. You don’t seem to like winter in Washington, and at this point, I’m not too sure about it either. Gray, gray, and more gray. So I’m living in a Texas fantasy today and hoping your green will seep through my screen and into my body chemistry because no matter how many mushrooms I eat (someone said they are a good vitamin D supplement, and no not the medicinal kind), I still have the winter blues.

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Atelier Stella London

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Atelier Stella London

I’ve been really into filling the office with lots and lots of plants, perhaps it has something to do with everything outside being dead and gray (did I mention gray?). But I’m always on the lookout for sweet planters and pots to house new greenery, and what gets more charming than a little face and a baby succulent? Love these guys from the sweet Etsy shop Atelier Stella London (plus, anything called Atelier makes me feel fancy).

Reminiscing about a warm day spent visiting a succulent farm in west Austin last summer with my dear friend Christine. Lots of symmetry, lots of Texas cacti, appropriately. It was kind of magical. Hoping a little magic finds its way to you during these winter days.

– Jackie