I’m thrilled to introduce our next stationery designer, Tricia Kim of Fourteen-Forty! Based here in New York, Tricia works with couples on custom wedding stationery and has grown her business focused in the wedding industry for many years now. She’s here to share about how learning about production processes informed her design process and how her growing team approaches the design process with each client. —Megan Soh
From Tricia: I started Fourteen-Forty about six years ago, after years of designing in the magazine industry. Funny enough, my first job was actually for a wedding publication! While what I learned at these companies was invaluable, working for large brands made me realize that I really wanted to take ownership of something that I could put my heart into. I’ve always loved making things with my hands, so letterpress printing with its mix of art and mechanics came naturally to me, which is where this obsession with stationery all began.
I was living in New York City when letterpress printing was really starting to emerge again as a craft, and I was able to find a lot of resources to start honing my skills as a printer. By no means did I ever completely master the art of printing, but it became a wonderful outlet for creativity and I loved the problem solving that it required. Looking back, I am so glad that I was able to learn the production side since understanding it from first hand experience has truly made me better equipped as a designer. Knowing the limitations, technical aspects, and possibilities helps me make good design decisions for my clients. As I gained experience at the press and became more embedded in the stationery community, the idea of Fourteen-Forty came to life (the name is an homage to the year moveable type was invented) and I slowly started building the company from the ground up.
Fast forward six years, and today Fourteen-Forty is primarily focused on designing custom wedding invitations. Located in the downtown area of Manhattan, we are a hardworking group of creatives dedicated to dreaming up unique keepsakes. We offer custom illustration, watercolor, typographical designs, all kinds of specialty printing, calligraphy, wax sealing, and more. We love working with paper along with other materials, like leather, fabric, acrylic, and wood. And if we haven’t done it before, we’re always willing to try something new!
As the owner of the studio, I handle most of the client-facing and business duties, which pretty much means I am constantly on email. One of the most important things to us is customer service. I love connecting with clients on this level and helping them navigate the whole process, which is usually a completely foreign experience to them. On the business side, I am constantly brainstorming to expand the brand and refine our processes, enhance our client experience, and just meet the day to day challenges of running a small business—fielding emails, meetings, and calls, connecting with planners and vendors, strategizing on marketing initiatives and and checking in to see how different projects are going.
We all work together in an open plan studio, which I love because it promotes an incredible amount of collaboration, which is so key to this process. I find that this set up promotes efficiency as well as keeps everyone aware of the tasks at hand and the goals we need to meet.
One of the more difficult things to manage in a busy studio is prioritizing tasks and keeping the wheels moving for all our clients at the same time. There are days when the to-do list is overwhelming, and it’s so important to see clearly what needs to be done first, second, and so on down the line. That’s why timelines are so important to us—we set a timeline for each client and make sure we do everything we can to stick with the dates and prioritize appropriately.
Our process typically starts with a call and/or client meeting, during which we really start drilling down into the client’s vision, and start sharing with them all of the possibilities. Once a plan is formulated, we begin the design process, during which we’re brainstorming and sketching out ideas, and presenting them in a series of proofs. There is a period of back and forth when we integrate changes, really listening to our client’s feedback, and hone everything to perfection.
Then we are signing off on the designs and sending them to print. Depending on the project, the next phase can actually be the most intense for us. This is when production begins, and we are spending on average one to five weeks (sometimes more!) actually producing the designs. With more elaborate projects, we may be getting supplies and finishing techniques done by 5-10 different artisans during this phase, which takes time and a lot of coordination to get right.
In addition, some of the assembly that we do (liners, vintage stamps, calligraphy, wax seal ties, and even simply collating the right items into a particular guest’s envelope) take an enormous amount of time and precision to achieve.
In the end, it’s all worth it to reach our goal—a design that is new, special, and specific to each client. There is no better moment then when we present the finished suite after months of hard work, and see our client look at their dream invitation for the first time!
All photos by Sasithon Photography except where noted.
Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.