September Design Challenge: Create a Stationery Line – life+running

September Design Challenge: Create a Stationery Line

Or that time I designed 5,124* things in a month.

*this is the number I calculated using Google Sheets. I didn’t pull this out of my ass, I swear! 

So, I’ve been unemployed since May.

(Or as my mother-in-law rephrased for me, “Seeking New Employment!”)

At first unemployment Seeking New Employment was a much-welcomed break from grad school and wedding planning, but August brought angst.

Although I had reinstituted my reading habit, trained my dog (as well as a 10-year-old dachshund can be trained), wrote 20K+ words of a novel, finally learned some songs on my bass, and tried out loads of new recipes and crafts from Pinterest …  I hadn’t found my sweet spot.

I began to realize that I feel best when I’m useful. Don’t get me wrong — I’m appreciative that I’m fortunate enough to have this time to myself to spend how I want. But I needed to find a way to fill it that works best for me.

Enter: Design challenges.

I decided to stretch my creative self with design challenges. I have ongoing design goals (a.k.a. professional development goals). These goals are ongoing because the industry is forever changing, so I can’t just say “Okay, I did that. Cross it off.” I don’t let these goals consume me, but I figure out small ways to integrate them into my life.

Some of my goals include:
  • Design for good
  • Increase productivity  — so I can free up time for creative thinking / planning.
  • Produce work in different media code, video, sound, etc.
  • Make real things i.e. don’t just design a book, write it, and publish it too.
  • Try (and master) new (to me) typefaces
  • Work in different color schemes
  • Stay informed on trendsbut don’t necessarily design for them
  • Continue to build handcraft skills and integrate into work

September challenge: Design a new line of stationery in one month.

This idea popped into my head when cruising my blog stats one day. I was getting tons of traffic on invitation designs I created in 2011. I considered relisting these items on my old Etsy shop, but I was embarrassed to list them as they were originally designed. I’m job hunting. I don’t want people to see things not representative of my best work. So, instead, I decided to rework some of the old designs into things I was okay with relisting.

I dusted off the old files and started the process of relisting. During this process, I noticed at least three wedding invitations hanging on the fridge next to me. Normal people open mail and either keep it or toss it. As a designer, I open mail and a redesign pops into my mind. I can’t help it!

Gears turning, I decided to go beyond relisting old items and give my Etsy stationery store a legitimate run. I half-assed it in 2011 due to lack of interest after low sales. This time instead of framing the Etsy shop as potential income, I re-framed it as a design challenge. I gave myself permission to not sell anything and be okay with it.

I began by designing invitations, and it quickly exploded.

Each design began with an invitation. Who wants just invitations? Nobody, that’s who. People want matching stuff.

I researched and  listed out all the potential formats and went with the most popular options. I stayed away from items that are too time-intensive to customize, which are also usually some of the last-minute things people order for weddings (programs, seating charts, etc.). I want to keep this endeavor low-stress.

Designing a new stationery line allowed me to work on many of my design goals:

  • Try new (to me) typefaces
    • I threw out design rules (don’t use “handwriting” fonts or typefaces with only one weight) and played with some trendy new faces. I even found a couple of brush script* faces that don’t totally suck!
  • Work in different color schemes
    • I opted to create seasonal lines of stationery so I could use the same color palette for the whole line, thus speeding up production and keeping me up to date on color trends.
  • Increase productivity
    • I learned new tricks to save time and that make my work look hella good.
  • Stay informed on trends (and in this case, design for them)
    • These pieces are low commitment. Play with things and decide if I like them or not. If not, oh well, I tried something new and there’s a thing out there that people who might like it can purchase if they want.
  • Integrate handcraft skills into work
    • I integrated some of my watercolor artwork.

*Brush calligraphy is HUGE, but I am not about to commit to handwriting every person’s custom order. 

Anyway, I’m dying to share my work with you. So here you go.

I designed everything you see here in September. You’re only seeing one version of many of the available options. I designed each of these versions now, while I’ve got time, so that I can quickly customize them for people later (and also keep the price down since an hour of my design time is $100 these days).

Here’s a taste of some of the new suites.

I’m planning to roll these out individually (on Wedding Wednesday of course) with more details and a free download PDF template of one of the pieces from each suite. Giving work away for free hits my “design for good” goal. 

Here is an example that shows all the available matching items.

Jordan Invitation Suite //

Jordan Invitation Suite //

Jordan Invitation Suite //

Amber Invitation Suite //

Claire Invitation Suite //

Grace Invitation Suite //

Angie invitation suite //

Here’s one of the old designs I reworked and the color options that go with it.

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //

Tory Wedding / Engagement / Elopement / Rehearsal Dinner Invite //


Phew! I finished listing these two days early (!!!). I’m taking the weekend off to think of my next challenge.






3 Comment

  1. Wow, good work! These are all beautiful. I scrolled through your Etsy shop, and I Especially love the Olivia floral monogram invitation.

    1. Calee says: Reply

      Thank you! I found that typeface (it’s photoshop image form) and thought of you. If I didn’t have a Stephanie already, it’d be the Stephanie! (The other Stephanie was designed for another Stephanie forever ago).

      It’s been super fun coming up with names for these. If I continue adding stuff, I’m going to try to be more ballsy about having LGBT couples featured. The Jordan is Ms. Jordan and Ms. Taylor (if you look closely). This will be more apparent if I add photo save the dates to the mix. I’ve gotten permission from a local photographer to use his work with links to his site.

    2. Calee says: Reply

      Also I’m supre glad I reworked the old ones. That Tory one that I posted had … like … 45 fonts on it. Dafuq, chimes?

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