There’s something so incredible about seeing a small business started by one designer turn into a team of 20 employees over the course of 10 years! We’ve admired the work of Cheree from Cheree Berry Paper for every single one of those 10 years, and we’re beyond thrilled to welcome her to our newest installment of Behind the Stationery! Balancing her signature custom work with the retail stationery side of her business, Cheree shares about her team’s design process for both kinds of work and how they maintain that Cheree Berry touch. Take it away, Cheree! –Megan Soh
From Cheree: My love of all things paper started as a child. Visiting the Hallmark store was a treasured outing –there was just never enough time to open all of those cards. Fast forward to college, I chose graphic design as my major. With a BFA in hand from Washington University, I moved to NYC for my first design job at the graphic design powerhouse, Pentagram. Shortly after, I landed a position at the fashion company Kate Spade. It was at KS that I really fostered my love for paper, helping to create the company’s wedding stationery line with Crane & Co. In 2006, I returned to the Midwest for a beau (turned husband) and upon my arrival, I quickly started Cheree Berry Paper in my apartment.
Work started coming in from across the country, and one employee has since turned into over twenty! And now that we are in our tenth year, you could say that we have two businesses camouflaged as one – the custom invitations and graphic design side that our business was built on and now the retail stationery side. Our love is the clever and unexpected. For our custom designs, our challenge is bringing stories to life on paper. For our retail stationery line, it’s creating something that is engaging and supportive of our visual voice.
Custom: Our business was started on creating custom solutions for our clients, and this is where our passion still remains today. During the custom process, our first task at hand is to listen to the client’s story and vision. We love leaving a meeting or ending a call with lots of material, but not the exact design solution. After our client interaction, we sketch, research, and refine until we come up with two to three different design solutions to present. From there, with feedback from our clients, we work through revisions and ultimately get to the end result – it’s our job to ensure that our clients are as happy with the design as we are.
Retail: We are our very own test market. Our first mini line of stationery, produced about eight years ago, was created out of necessity in order to keep our own stationery drawers fully stocked. How do we create a line from scratch? We open our treasure chest of snail mail keeps and think about how these particular pieces made an impact. You’d be hard pressed to find a card in our retail stationery offering that is simply a rectangular card with a pretty design on the front. What you can find in our line? Unexpected formats, clever copywriting, hidden details, fun envelope touches that create anticipation, interactive moments and items that feel personalized without much DIY commitment.
The design process typically starts with a client meeting or call including a project manager and a designer. We listen and ask questions to be able to achieve our ultimate goal – telling a personal story on paper with great design. Often the next step is mood boards or sketches to narrow a design direction. Timelines and budgets are set and then the design phase begins!
A few design options are presented to the client, then we get feedback and move to revisions before settling on a final design. Most of our designs mix lots of processes – letterpress, foil stamping, painted edges; really, whatever it takes to make the piece a stand-out while maintaining the budget we’ve been given. The final stop? Our production departments applies the finishing touches. We may be tying a booklet, lining an envelope, or placing the stamp just so. We delight in all the details.
No one day is like another, but after coffee, I’m ready to check my email and see what happened after midnight. I make my to-do list for the day and the brainstorming, sketching and meetings begin. Lunch is usually at my desk, and when I need to fully focus, you might find me at a nearby coffee shop or bookstore. Four o’clock becomes six o’clock and then I’m rushing home to relieve my nanny. After dinner and a lengthy bedtime routine with my kids (that usually starts with a short dance party and ends with a Mo Willems book), I plug back into work once lights are out.
Our team consists of designers, project managers, and a full production staff. Every department touches each job throughout the design and printing processes – without one department, our job could not get done! Our design team has a range of talents, so projects are assigned according to the project style and content. For example, we match the designer to the project based on whether the client’s vision includes a custom hand-drawn illustration, more focus on typography, hand lettering, etc.
Our project managers work very closely with our clients to ensure great communication throughout the process. Once a job has gone to print, it moves through a very thorough production process. There is no piece of stationery that leaves Cheree Berry Paper without being quality checked. Our jobs must finish as strong as they started.
The evolution for me is to focus on the big picture. I have a staff of fabulous designers and art directors so their talents allow me to think about vision, voice and concepts. I love connecting with them daily to see the brilliance brewing. Marketing is my big push right now. I am driven to get my Instagram message out there – a place where I showcase our work and occasionally my values.
I’m hands-on when I need to be but really rely on my personal projects – holiday cards, kids birthday invites, etc. – to get me back to my love for design. And I don’t forget what 10 years ago looked like when I was designing invoices to look pretty and taking too long to send them out and working for what seemed like every minute of every day.
Here’s a very special sneak peek at a brand new line of all-occasion cards by Cheree Berry Paper, produced and distributed by Galison Gifts. The designs will debut at the National Stationery Show this month!
Write-On Cards offer stickers and spaces to handwrite, so each card can be personalized.
Expanding Cards unfold and expand to reveal the message.
All photos courtesy of Cheree Berry Paper