Design Design is a stationery and gift manufacturer and distributor founded in 1987 by Don Kallil, and based in Michigan. The company, whose mission it is to connect people to people, works with artists based in the US and beyond to create an exciting range of products, including a series of gorgeous card lines (their letterpress cards and stylish journals are my personal faves), tableware, packaging and gifts. I had the chance to interview members of the creative team and to learn more about trend forecasting, the design process, and to talk snail mail.
How do you forecast stationery trends from season to season?
Kate, Trend & Design Director: Forecasting trends can be gathered from all sorts of angles. Understanding what people bought and liked from current and past seasons is key to forecasting what people will want next. Combining lifestyle, and fashion trends with seasonal are important in our industry because consumers want what they buy to reflect their style and taste. To keep our trends forward we take all these aspects but also research patterns and trend evolution to determine where we think the wants and needs will be for the future seasons.
Colin, Product Director: Our creative team travels the world studying trends and determining which will offer the most relevance to our customers. We find inspiration in fashion, media, as well as our own friends and family. We continue to find balance as a leader in trend- being ahead of our competition while also staying in tune with current market needs.
You work with a number of artists nationally and internationally on the creation of card designs. How do you move from idea, and design collaboration to printed product?
Tom, Senior Director of Creative: Our research starts with attending design shows in Europe, and trend shopping in Paris, London, and Germany. With the inspiration we gain, we create a trend specific design direction book. This is where we begin our product development process.
When we start working with an artist it is because we appreciate their designs and feel that their work would be a great addition to our product line. Once we connect with the artist, I give them our Artist Guidelines, which explain our products categories, seasons we’re looking for art for, and process of development. We look for trend driven or related designs that we feel would work with our design direction and diverse product categories. I personally like working with artists that are diversified in their design styles and understand the specific needs for the creation of greeting cards and product development. We discuss what I’m looking for design-wise for specific products. Once a design is chosen, we discuss our licensing and royalty program, a contract is used with all of the artists we work with. We request artwork files, the contract is written for each individual product we license and are going to publish. Once that is all done, with the help of our in-house design team, the licensed artwork is applied to a variety of templates to create the perfect card, tableware collection, etc.
What is the role of a Creative Director in the design development process?
Tom: The roll of Creative Director in the design development process is to choose the correct art for from hundreds of submissions for specific product development, and to balance the product line by selecting artwork that compliments the product category per product release.
What is the appeal of stationery and snail mail in an increasingly digital world?
Tom: Yes, digital greeting cards are out there, but how exciting is it to go to the mailbox and receive a brightly colored, hand-addressed envelope? And, then, to open the envelope and discover a greeting card that a friend went out of their busy way to select to personally send to you, write a message or greeting in, address and stamp the envelope for, and then drop in the mailbox. How thoughtful and personal that is!
Elyse, Associate Creative Director: In an increasingly digital world, I think stationery, and greeting cards especially, have more relevance than ever. Putting pen to paper forces you to slow down and express yourself in ways that are lost through e-mail and Facebook. Handwritten notes, cards with beautiful artwork and a nice paper stock show you took the time to pick this little gift out for someone else. We may be a little biased but I can’t think of much sweeter than a card is my mailbox at the end of the day!
Colin, Product Director: We know that in our current environment of instant digital communication, physical mail and the true written word gain even more appeal and relevance. Juxtaposed with a quick text or post, a real greeting card or note, sent or hand-delivered with care, creates a special connection between the giver and receiver.
The company logo features a butterfly-please share the reasons for this.
Colin: Our butterfly is the visual essence of our brand. The figurative and literal attributes of a butterfly embody who we are and who we strive to be everyday. Their beauty represents our drive to achieve superior artistry in our work and practices. Their variation represents the range of our product line and the solutions we provide. Their movement and migration represent how our products connect people to people, while their transformation reminds us of the power of enhancing relationships and lifting moods.
What are you currently working on?
Elyse: We’re almost constantly working on our core line for both cards and product. We strive to keep up with the latest trends and relevant products for our customers and sales team. In addition, we have different seasonal releases sprinkled throughout the year that cause an additional challenge but a little fun to the day to day. We work almost an entire year in advance and sometimes that means developing Christmas ideas in August! We are always trying to push ourselves with new processes, new partnerships with artists whose work we really hold in high regard. The cards we’re releasing in May, right before the National Stationery Show in NY, are such a fun, eclectic mix. In addition to those, we have some amazing things in store for our biggest core release in November!
Design Design was founded in 1987 by Don Kallil, a stockbroker turned entrepreneur. What about the greeting card industry appeals to the team at Design Design?
Elyse: I think what we are all drawn to in this company is that we create products that connect people to people. We live and breathe this concept in all areas of our company and I think this is a huge part of why Don started Design Design in the first place. We think about the people who are receiving our cards from their loved ones on their birthday or when they need a pick-me-up. We envision the families that host parties with our paper tableware or the gifts a grandmother might be wrapping for all her grandkids with our gift packaging products. It’s a really unique challenge and wonderful opportunity we have as a social expressions company to spend our days helping to foster these connections between individuals.
Design Design will be at the National Stationery Show in New York this May, at booth number 2420. You can follow along on Instagram. And, you can enter a Mother’s Day contest for a chance to win $50 of Design Design merchandise, by clicking here.