When a foreign canvas bag manufacturer sought to enter the American marketplace in 2011, they knew they needed more than just quality manufacturing to make inroads. But they weren’t sure how to move forward. The solution was a brand.
Habit was conceived as a comprehensive identity, from the logo on the tags to the grommets on the bags. Every detail we offered supports the idea that these bags are useful, fun, and well made.
Contemporary labels in a bright color speak to the utility of these products with style. We saw to every detail of the Habit product line, ensuring that the weight of the canvas, stitching on the seams, folds in the construction, and added details like metal grommets and leather handles, all told the same story: style and quality.
The product line included multiple patterns and colors, which together presented a bold and cheerful story.
We also offered a roadmap for line extensions that were a natural progression of their existing manufacturing capabilities: Canvas hampers, storage bins, dopp kits, placemats, aprons, and more.
Design for Mass Markets
In a crowded marketplace, there is little time to lose in gaining the attention of your consumer. Strong brands, bright colors, character driven licensees can all be useful ways to catch the eye of your target audience. But being bright and bold doesn’t mean your product shouldn’t have style, be well designed, balanced, and fun. Conscientious design is important whether one is targeting a mass audience or the selective few.
A scrapbook for tween girls featuring Disney Princesses. The characters bring the audience, but the cover and interiors are balanced and interesting.
Another tween scrapbook lacks the power of the princesses, but makes up for it with bright, contrasting colors, dynamic use of scale, and some sass to boot.
Two sound books that play with color stories in addition to featuring well known character brands.
Various iterations of a die-cut keepsake book. These designs show the range of styles that can be achieved and will connect with different target markets: One cover features well known Disney characters and is well suited to bright and busy retailers like Target. One features a throwback Disney style in soft, gender neutral colors. This works well for the baby section of a larger retailer, but will not feel out of place if given as a gift at an intimate event, like a baby shower; Another version features the art of a lesser know license, taking advantage of the quirky art style. This design is fun for trendier markets, like bookstores and upscale boutiques.
A recipe keeper that is bold enough to stand out at Costco or Barnes & Noble, but will still look at home when it gets home.
A journal and notecard set with touches of metallic gold is understated enough to appeal to a broad range of consumers.
Publishing Gift Books
There are many aspects to publishing: understanding the market, recognizing timely content, and knowing how to put together a great cover are a few. Finding the right imagery to pair with the right words is also key to developing an interesting book.
Once you have a great concept, you set your mind to designing a cover. A successful book cover must convey in a second what the book is about, making sure that each book has the look and feel most suited to its consumer, whether its a beloved friend, a sister, or a recent grad. Adding a glimmer of foil, embossing titles, and applying spot varnish all elevate a simple book to a memorable gift.
A gift book for sisters needs to convey love, but still remind us all of the fun we had growing up with our siblings.
A gift book for grads must take a decidedly different tact. Fun typography and retro photos keep this book from feeling too cheesy for a younger audience.
A guided journal for Mothers with intricately rendered artwork symbolizes the love and care of a mother/child relationship.
For a tween, the fun is in self-discovery.
What Grandmother doesn’t want to show off the cuteness of her progeny?
Design Management & Art Direction
As a Creative Director I have worked with designers across the spectrum of experience and talent. I’ve guided the development of exciting new product lines and directed work on product lines that inspire no new energy. Lack of inspiration is a real wet blanket when it comes to consistently creating good design, no matter the background of the designer. So how does a creative lead inspire a team?
Sometimes finding the fun in a project, no matter how tough or boring it may seem, is a must. Encouraging creatives to play when low energy is sapping their spirit–even when a deadline is bearing down and the “fun” design won’t win in the end. Allowing people to take ownership of their success stories is essential. And helping designers get past design roadblocks when they can’t see their way around them. Energy begets energy, so as counterintuitive at it may appear, just generating momentum (even if it feels off-task), may jumpstart creativity and get a designer moving forward again.
I believe that exploring the broader world of art and design, playing with new and exciting trends, and supporting an environment where ideas–both technical and creative– can flow freely brings out the best work from everyone, the Creative Director included.
Shown here, new takes on old ideas: If you and your team has designed so many of the same item that everyone can design it in their sleep, then it is probably time to mix it up. Putting a new spin on old standbys will surprise and engage you and your audience. We refreshed a well worn tween scrapbook format by selecting an illustration style that was quirky and fun and centering the book’s theme on Doodling.
On another format, instead of going all girl, we introduced the dead. Just in time for the zombie apocalypse.
Throughout my tenure as a Creative Director, I developed new paper based products. Touchpoints for gauging success include strong sales and distinction from other existing products. If both of these parameters are met, there is opportunity to build onto that foothold and expand the product line. Adding licensed brands to the core product is one way. Another is reformatting the product to price up or down into additional sales channels.
Many products I developed did just that. Of note is a modern take on a paper doll kit. We used clings for the clothing. Added real material, beads, rhinestones, and ribbons. We made embossed pages, stencils, sticker sheets, and a fold-out play scene with storage pockets in back. Then we die cut the cover so a consumer could easily understand what was included, and attached an easy carry handle. The initial generic product was launched into big box stores. Its success paved the way for licensing opportunities and spin-offs, which included lower price point options as well as a “book” version for the trade. I couldn’t list all the brands and characters that have been applied to the product since its inception. Some are shown here.
Proposals & Ideation
How do you sell an idea? In my experience, even the most visual people often need to see it to understand it. With that in mind, the ability to turn a thought into a picture is the most direct path in moving through the creative process.
Over the years I have learned how to communicate my inspirations into many forms, whether they are a book, a box design, a plate or wallpaper.
Shown here are examples of tear sheets that show a general concept followed by some products that made it into the marketplace:
Lola Ombré glass set: The initial concept made its way to reality quickly, with additional skus launched along the way, including coordinating mugs and tidbit bowls.
Fables Holiday gift items: Ideas for the season of giving are always in high demand. So a concept for folksy Christmas artwork inspired immediate interest and ultimately, an entire line of gifts and decor.
Wildwood: After some time bouncing around, the rabbit from my Wildwood fabric collection found its way onto kitchen textiles.
Born Wild: Not all concepts follow a straight line from idea to product. In the case of my Born Wild art, the imagery I thought would end up on tabletop and decor items instead found a home on gift bags, gift wrap, and fabrics.
Flashback: With a trend as vibrant as rainbows, these concepts went from paintbrush to product line in a flash.
Never say never: Some studio favorites, like wallpaper, are still seeking a maker.
Planning & Execution
Some projects happen easily–they pass from idea to reality with little effort. Most projects take time plus planning. But there are some projects that require even more–time plus planning plus the ability to execute a project that overlaps multiple areas of expertise over a long period of time.
Shown here are the steps and skills that went into the production of my namesake sewing patterns. From the initial sketch for the print design, to testing the instructions and shooting the imagery for the pattern covers.
Each print begins with an initial sketch. From here, the artwork needs to be digitized and layed out into a repeat for production. After the pattern is set and cropped to repeat, it is sized, colors are specified, trim information is added, and logos for the selvage edge are applied.
I like to develop logos for each of my fabric collections. They can be used on marketing materials, to identify the makers of the fabrics, in catalogs, on social media, and more.
Multiple color stories are produced for each fabric collection. The colorways include variations in scale, color, value, and content.
When the initial cuts of fabrics arrive from the manufacturer, there is a photo shoot to provide imagery for websites, catalogs, and promotional material.
For this fabric collection, I conceived of sewing patterns for apparel and home decor. The instructions include an overview page, directions for cutting, detailed sewing instructions, and graphics for the steps that require a visual aid.
After the pattern has been edited and proofread, it goes to testers. They complete the pattern and fill out a survey to offer feedback. The samples they create are inspected, and then used in photo shoots. The resulting photos become the backgrounds for the pattern covers.
In all, I developed eleven sewing patterns for the Pippa fabric collection. It tooks months of writing, sewing, and designing. A team a freelance pattern makers, an editor, a photographer, and six testers contributed to the creation of the patterns. The fabric was produced by Blend Fabrics for the high end quilt and craft market.
Digitized Artwork in Repeat
Directions for Cutting
If it’s in a store, it’s got some kind of package design to it. Even a bag of spinach has some sort of stickering. So if you’re a designer, you’ve got to understand point of purchase packaging. The most basic elements include barcodes. The most extensive practically become the product itself.
There are boxes, bags, belly bands, tags, labels, blister packs, clamshells, and more. Make-up packaging is a great example of how packaging can stand in for a product when it is hidden. Packaging is a key tool for taking one product and making it appropriate for different sales channels.
A simple product, a notepad set, is elevated by the a clever use of a blister pack and distinctive artwork.
The content of a scrapbook takes on multiple forms when it is repackaged:
Here are a Doodle Book, the doodle book repurposed as a set of four mini books, and again remade into a hanging box.
A girly scrapbook is added to and made into a sticker book, bound together and die-cut with a handle, and repurposed as a set of four mini books.
A baby keepsake book is reformatted into a smaller book and sold with a plush, or sold along with a larger storage box.
Blister Pack Notepad Set
Blister Pack Notepad Set
Blister Pack Notepad Set
Initial Scrapbook Design
Four Mini Books
Initial Scrapbook Design
Die-cut with Handle
Four Mini Books
Initial Keepsake Book
Mini Keepsake Book & Plush Boxed Set
Divided Keepsake Box
Illustration & Art Licensing
I have been playing with different styles of illustration throughout my career. I studied fine art in college, but that was bronze casting and abstract painting. Commercial art is very different. My introduction to licensed art was in the making of children’s books for mass markets.
Later I was introduced to the broader world of art licensing, where there is so much breadth. The world of art licensing covers every style you can think of: country, kitchy, quirky, realistic, fantastic, vintage, retro, and more. But in my bookmaking days, much of the art I worked with was character driven, and often, the artists we worked with were affiliated with the studio for the brand.
These projects were generally produced on tight deadlines. That meant there were times when I couldn’t ask the artist for a change, and I had to make a quick addition to an illustration myself. Sometimes that was adding bleed to a spread. Sometimes it was shifting an eye or an arm to fit on a cover. Later, when I was working with the broader range of styles, it was creating patterns, borders or making new pieces entirely. I simply learned along the way how to make my pieces look like the style produced by the original artist.
This process reminds me of going to the Art Institute of Chicago as a child and seeing the student painters in the galleries with their easels set up, practicing their skills by copying the masters. I just practiced until I had a pretty good understanding about how lots of different art styles were made. All that practice has given me some freedom to make my own art however I want it to look. If I have a clear vision, I can generally paint from point A to point B.
Of course, it is not always that easy. The creative process is often messy and unexpected things happen. Working together with manufacturers, a sales team, and buyers means that concepts evolve on their way from point A to point B. But every now and then a project glides through the process, and then, there it is. My art on a thingamabob. And that is one of the very best things about licensing my artwork: the thrilling moment when an idea becomes a reality.
Work in Progress, a studio shot of my Fables collection.
The original sketch of a horse painting.
The final horse painting.
An inspiration sheet showing the Fables collection on ceramic tabletop items.
Productsfeaturing my Fables artwork: Garden items, ceramic and tabletop pieces, mug, coasters, and tea towel.