Our next Behind the Stationery feature is a bi-coastal duo! Anne & Kate have been dedicated to growing their business full-time for almost a year now, but their friendship began years before they started their business. I’m so excited to have them here to share about their workflow from upstate New York to LA that includes many Facetimes and a unique design process. Take it away, ladies! — Megan Soh
Kate: Before working on anne and kate in a full time capacity, I worked as a freelance graphic designer for small studios and in-house marketing groups.
Anne: I am a fine artist and when I am not working on anne and kate, I make paintings and large scale installations. I rely heavily on screen printing to make my artwork so the studio constantly has some printing happening in it. Before I gave anne and kate more of a full time focus I was an adjunct professor of fine art at a number of universities in Philadelphia — teaching painting and screen printing.
We began by collaborating on custom design projects for friends’ weddings. We love designing for clients but wanted to create a cohesive line that was all our own. We were interested in products that helped friends stay in touch beyond coming together for big life events. Throughout our friendship we’ve kept in touch through snail mail, letters, postcards and notes. This inspired us to launch a line of cards at the National Stationery Show in 2016.
Because we live in two different cities, we have two separate work spaces. Our studio for production and fulfillment is in upstate New York in a tiny town called Valatie, where Anne lives. There is a barn on her property that we use as our studio. Kate lives in LA and works out of her home.
All of our stationery is screen printed. We make greeting cards, thank you notes, postcards, and gift tags. Additionally, we make wrapping paper and other party supplies. Our products are bold — we are both drawn to intense color and we think our color is what helps set us apart from other lines. We make cards that feel fresh and communicate positivity and a sense of exuberance. Screen printing suits our design aesthetic because it is great for crisp graphic imagery and produces a unique flat, juicy, color. Our neon colors wouldn’t be possible with the same density and impact in any other print medium.
We have a long distance bestie business! We met in college and haven’t lived in the same city since. Because of our personal relationship with stationery and the role it has played helping us keep in touch, celebrate birthdays, life achievements, and provide comfort when things have been hard, our designs tend to gravitate toward cards that celebrate love and friendship. While we have styles for all occasions we always come back to sentiments that are super positive, encouraging, or celebratory. We believe in celebrating life’s important moments – big and small. Showing someone you care by sending them a note or taking the time to wrapping their gift with super special wrapping paper is an amazing gesture. We all need to be shown a little love and care, and we think that should take the form of a neon yellow WOO HOO!
We each maintain independent schedules because we work long distance. We schedule weekly calls to talk about the big stuff and but are in contact daily; our text thread is full of pictures of doodles of new design ideas, screen captures of the designs we are working on on the computer, and notes about the status of orders – all interspersed with random personal messages. Our friendship naturally interjects itself in to our work and vice versa.
We have strategically scheduled in-person meetings where we travel to stay with each other. When a work session requires printing, sampling new designs and testing colors, Kate comes to NY. For design sessions and planning, Anne travels to LA.
Anne: I manage all the production (in-house and what we outsource) and fulfillment. My days vary based on the volume of orders, design deadlines, and our inventory needs. I try and devote a few hours every morning to packaging inventory to make order fulfillment easier and more efficient. I devote at least two days to printing to keep up on the inventory of the styles we print in-house. I work with our vendors to manage the production of the styles we outsource and manage our part-time studio assistant who helps with packaging and inventory management.
Working in a barn adjacent to my house provides for an very easy commute, but I am careful to set office hours to keep me from popping over in the middle of the night to do some work. It’s a real bonus to walk across the lawn to the barn – I just have to been on the look out for bunnies and deer if I do go late at night!
Kate: I manage the wholesale accounts and custom clients, marketing, and accounting. In the morning I respond to inquiries from wholesale accounts, vendors, sales reps, and clients. The rest of my time is divided between accounting, designing, planning, web and social media. We’ve only been at this full-time for about a year so we are just starting to get into a real groove with our calendar. And I’m in the middle of moving from Chicago to LA which is throwing my usual schedule out the window! I have 3 little kids, so I usually finish the day early to pick them up from school. If there’s time-sensitive work to be done I get back to it after they are all asleep.
We design collaboratively. We start by brainstorming ideas over the phone, making a master list of styles we need (like new birthday or graduation cards) and then work on sketches individually. We both often start with very loose doodle and sketches on paper, then we then refine them in Illustrator. There is often a lot of overlap in the way we’ve approached the design concept or illustration so it becomes easy to fuse our work into a finished piece. We feel that our work is stronger because we design collaboratively; it brings together our different strengths in color, typography, pattern, and composition.
Once we have a design layout nearly resolved, we tackle the color separations. We design with layers and overlap in mind; we use the last stage of the design process to carefully refine how parts of the design interact. We sample the designs by screen printing them at the studio to see what will make the cut to move into production. Once design, color and styles are finalized we prep files for outsourcing or for Anne who puts it into our in-house production schedule.
We are always trying to be more efficient in how we work, both in our own spaces and in how we work together. It’s always a struggle to protect the design process – it’s the most fun part of what we do, and the most important – but we manage nearly all of the aspects the business ourselves and it involves so much more than design. There are endless business-related tasks that no one likes to think about!
All images courtesy of anne & kate.
Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.