RDA 2009: Dauphine Design’s envelopes for Crane & Co

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For this year’s Regional Design Annual, Print asked each designer a fewquestions about their work that appeared in the magazine. Petaluma, California-based designer Trish Kinsella, art director at Dauphine Design, talks about the promotional envelope guide the studio made for stationery company Crane & Co., and what it’s like to be a designer in northern California.

Promotional envelope guide for Crane & Co. stationery. DESIGN FIRM: Dauphine Design, Petaluma; ART DIRECTORS: Trish Kinsella, Erin Shetterly; DESIGNER: Katrina McHugh; ASSISTANT DESIGNER: Matthew Meikle; WRITER: Alyson Kuhn.

What’s your favorite thing about being a designer in Petaluma?

What I love most about working here is the laid-back atmosphere and vibrant community. Petaluma is located about 40 miles north of San Francisco in the Sonoma County wine country. Our studio is situated on the edge of a wetlands park and has a panoramic view of rolling green hills, water, and sky. I love watching the view change throughout the seasons. Being close to nature has always fueled my creativity, and I feel lucky to have found such an inspiring place to work.

What’s the most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of working outside of San Francisco is that there are fewer “inspirational resources”—whether it’s the lack of a big art supply store or a major museum or AIGA lectures nearby.

Fortunately, it’s a beautiful drive to San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge.

What was the single greatest challenge or obstacle in making this piece?

The greatest challenge was aligning the airmail stripes to meet on the side and back of the die-cut folder. I overcame it with careful math and a mountain of mock-ups.

What’s the story behind the concept for the design?The folder features three Cinderella stamps printed on dry-gummed paper and pinhole-perforated by hand. The Crane & Co. Cinderella depicts a cotton plant, referencing the fact that Crane makes 100% cotton papers. The National Postal Museum’s Cinderella has a global airmail motif, referencing the world of stamps. Dauphine Design’s Cinderella depicts a Savannah Sparrow, a motif we frequently use. The Dauphine and Crane “denominations” combine to make up the year (2008), and the Smithsonian’s stamp is valued at 15 NPMs referring to the Museum’s 15th anniversary.

What was the process like for this piece? Crane & Co. allowed for a great deal of leeway because Alyson Kuhn and Dauphine Press had a strong working relationship with Crane prior to this project. We were able to co-develop the creative brief to align with Crane’s designer audience. The content is a lively guide to Crane & Co.’s many envelope sizes and their potential uses, and Crane was delighted with the way we chose to convey this. The piece was created for the opening reception of the “Alphabetilately” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. at which Crane & Co. hosted a correspondence salon inside the Museum’s Post Office.

What sorts of clients do you normally work for?

Dauphine Press designs and prints letterpress stationery primarily for social occasions. Our custom invitations and stationery are sold through specialty retailers. We work with individuals and small businesses on special events, product launches, packaging and corporate identity, including logos. On the printing side, we collaborate with designers, agencies, and marketing and branding experts.

Do you think your part of Northern California has a regional style?

We do think there is a Northern California style for letterpress,which is now being noticed and emulated across the country. There arequite a few letterpress printers in Northern California who have turnedtheir passion for craft into respected combination design-and-printingenterprises—in the venerable San Francisco tradition, which dates allthe way back to the 19th century.

Has the economic downturn changed your design business?

Our clients continue to come to us with the same quantity of projects, enthusiasm, and creative ideas, but many of them are now working within smaller budgets. It’s a great opportunity for us to push our creative limits and reframe our approach to work with less but still create memorable results.