Welcome to our fourth annual roundup of Designers to Watch in 2014. It is never easy to come up with this list, and I think these 10 represent our most visually diverse group yet. What they all share, however, is the ability to hone their distinctive viewpoints into very special product ranges that manage to make large groups of consumers feel as if the product was made just for them, and is in fact speaking directly and only to them. Read on to see how our annual tensome approaches this difficult task with seamless flair.
Emily McDowell | Emily McDowell, www.emilymcdowell.com
Aesthetic of the Line: My work is inspired by universal, relatable human truths and my love of beautifully imperfect hand-lettering, color and pattern.
Current Bestseller: The Celebrate Your Existence With Cake birthday card goes into almost every order.
Personal Favorite: The “Look At My Phone” Valentine because it's just so true. I just reprinted it without the Valentine's Day line too, so it can become an evergreen love card.
Surprise Hit: The “Be Nice To Yourself” card has done very well, which makes me happy to know that message is out there in the world.
Iconic Selection: I originally designed the “Awkward Dating” card as a Valentine card — and it was the card that inspired my entire line! — but it sells like crazy year-round. So many people relate to it.
Favorite Color: Turquoise.
Current Design Obsession: I've been studying beautiful and smart package design lately as we get ready to launch our brand-new collection of tea towels and temporary tattoos at NYNOW in February.
Favorite Flower: Ranunculus all the way.
Favorite Indulgence: How to pick one? Buying (and not reading) self-help books. Fancy coffee. Way too many striped shirts.
Ashley Austin | Fine Day Press, www.finedaypress.com
Aesthetic of the Line: “Modern optimism” — cheerful with a sophisticated design sense. I love creating designs by hand, whether it's watercolor or (my current obsession) hand-done typography. It's important to me that the final design retains a touch of the hand — nothing is overly perfect. All of our products are made in the U.S. with eco-friendly materials.
Current Bestseller: For Your Shower, a multipurpose card that works for baby or bridal occasions, in a unique color combo of bright purple and mint green.
Personal Favorite: Seriously Fun Birthday. I would send this card to my BFF.
Surprise Hit: Happy Birthday Hot Stuff. The yummy letterpress fluorescent ink combined with a zingy orange envelope is a powerful combination.
Iconic Selection: Twelve new art prints go into our yearly Watercolor Art Print Calendar so it really pushes me to grow creatively, and I generate a lot of new work that filters into the rest of our line. I have fun with it.
Favorite Color: I tend to go for shades that are slightly off from the primary colors. Right now, (they’re) citron (PMS 394), bright cobalt (PMS 2935) and a melon-y coral (PMS 171).
Current Design Obsession: Hand lettering. The process of drawing letterforms is almost meditative, and it's such an expressive way of communicating.
Favorite Flower: Dahlias are the most wildly exuberant flowers. I recently came across a field of them while on a weekend trip in Long Island — beautiful! It was a rare moment without a camera phone so I could only capture the moment with my memory.
Favorite Indulgence: In order of preference, a delicious glass of wine with my hubby, vegging out with bad TV and a long hot bath.
Meg Gleason | Moglea, www.moglea.com
Aesthetic of the Line: We make bright, colorful, intensely illustrated letterpress stationery. We specialize in hand-processes like watercolor, edge-painting and collage that make each cardsfeel one-of-a-kind.
Current Bestseller: Our “You Are So Freaking Awesome” cards have been a hit from the beginning.
Personal Favorite: Our collage cards. They are a joy to print, as each one is significantly different from the other when the vintage papers are applied.
Surprise Hit: Our “Cray Cray” cards. I say this phrase all the time to my husband, but I wasn't sure if anyone else would use the same sentiment.
Iconic Selection: Our Mini-Letterquettes exemplify what we love so much about making stationery: They have bright pops of color with detailed patterns and hand-lettering — all hand-bound neatly in a nice package.
Favorite Color: Mint or Navy Blue.
Current Design Obsession: We are building a studio right now, so I'm on the hunt for modern office furniture and décor.
Favorite Flower: Lilacs. They smell amazing and grow in our backyard.
Favorite Indulgence: Lemon butter sugar crepes served with espresso and shared with Chad Gleason.
Molly Ryan | Kramer Drive, kramerdrive.com
Aesthetic of the Line: Kramer Drive is simple, fresh and bold. We add a twist on traditional while using a creative recipe of colors, fonts, patterns and graphics to express individual taste and style.
Current Bestseller: Dress on a Hanger.
Personal Favorite: Tulip Bat Mitzvah.
Surprise Hit: “Fireworks” is one of our very first designs and continues to sell every single day.
Iconic Selection: Simple Ampersand in Granite & Grass: simple, sleek, and functional, with a touch of happiness!
Favorite Color: PMS 376 and every shade surrounding it; always has and always will be.
Current Design Obsession: Life is crazy busy, and that has greatly directed me in my current design obsession both personally and professionally. I am constantly striving for simple, sleek, minimal and functional, with a pop of happiness — from colors and fonts to closets and furniture.
Favorite Flower: Peonies. Love them to bits.
Favorite Indulgence: Dark chocolate salted caramel pretzels from Nancy’s Candy Corner at the Lancaster Farmer’s Market (Pa.).
Arley-Rose Torsone | Ladyfingers Letterpress, ladyfingersletterpress.com
Aesthetic of the Line: Ladyfingers Letterpress originally began as a custom one-of-a-kind wedding stationery company, but has grown into a full-service stationer offering social stationery for every occasion. The edgy collection conveys a sense of humor while incorporating the hand-lettered style they've become widely known for.
Current Bestseller: So Psyched For You Guys!
Personal Favorite: What's Up Hombre?
Surprise Hit: It's a split between Cat Love (shown) and Hippie Bath Day. Both were just sketches that we almost ditched at the last moment. I mean, I knew people loved cats, but hippies?
Iconic Selection: The Seven Arrows Flat Panel Card. It's a super thick, 200-lb. Crane's Lettra blank notecard that's letterpressed and edge painted. Not only does it convey the luxury of our wedding line, but the arrow design was part of our wedding invitation; my wedding (to Project Manager and Letterpress Operator Morgan Calderini) took place at Seven Arrows Farm.
Favorite Color: PMS 805, Fluorescent Red.
Current Design Obsession: Oh geez, this is a hard one — we're not really trendy people. Does building a hot air balloon count? Morgan is a pilot and is finishing her training so she can fly the 54,000 cu. ft. balloon she built. It’s currently sitting in our driveway in its own little balloon trailer.
Favorite Flower: King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose.
Favorite Indulgence: There's really nothing quite like a stiff Manhattan at the end of a lunch break. I mean, day.
Erin Smith | Erin Smith Art, www.erinsmithart.com
Aesthetic of the Line: Erin Smith Art is all about telling it how it is … realistically, in a completely unapologetic manner. I always say that I don’t make it up, I just write it down. I’m fairly certain it’s everything my Grandmother WISHES she could have said, but refrained.
Current Bestseller: Flames is the very first image I ever created and is still our number one top seller after seven years.
Personal Favorite: Forest.
Surprise Hit: We absolutely cannot ship this Boredom card out fast enough. The black box is only for this publication.
Iconic Selection: Boots.
Favorite Color: Sea glass ANYTHING. I’m obsessed.
Current Design Obsession: I have a new line debuting in January called Glinda. The designs are a result of my art journal, which has been like crack. I can’t stop. The artwork is mixed media, and the prose is a collection of what I would consider my personal mantra for a life well lived.
Favorite Flower: I absolutely love Magnolia Tulips. They are so short lived and make such a mess of the streets. They’re wonderful.
Favorite Indulgence: Time by myself at the beach. I’ve learned I need to be alone by myself once and awhile … my family agrees it’s in all of our best interests!
Catherine Polacek | Printerette, www.printerettepress.com
Aesthetic of the Line: Printerette Press is bold and quirky, nostalgic and sweet, always light-hearted and a little rough around the edges in the very best way possible.
Current Bestseller: You're a Hottie. It seems everyone and their mothers (us included!) are fans of the hot stuff.
Personal Favorite: My Hand is Yours to Hold, which seems to be a perfect card for many occasions — sympathy, love or friendship.
Surprise Hit: Our new foil letter writing sheets, particularly the What-Up style.
Iconic Selection: I Want to Squeeze You So Hard, which seems a perfect card for nearly any occasion. The great color combo may contribute to its popularity as well.
Favorite Color: Hot, poppy red.
Current Design Obsession: I have a long-standing obsession with combining watercolor with letterpress. Find me a more perfect combo.
Favorite Flower: Poppies (see above).
Favorite Indulgence: Closing down the shop after a long day with a good beer and some good tunes.
Ramon Gomez | Envelopments, www.envelopments.com
Aesthetic of the Line: We’re always conscious of building a well-round aesthetic that speaks to a spectrum of tastes. While a wedding unites two people, the invitation ensemble marries two unique styles. We’ve built our aesthetic on unexpected style juxtapositions.
Current Bestseller: Inspired by this year’s “Great Gatsby,” we designed an ensemble for Daniel, a former Envelopments designer, and his fiancée, Ashleigh, using classic Art Deco colors and graphics.
Personal Favorite: Anyone who knows me knows I’m a type junkie. You can see it in the vintage marquee lights in my apartment, my tattoos, my graphic tees and most prominently in my designs. The Penelope & Sheldon suite combines Western typefaces with a pattern created from vintage letterpress ornaments. Warping text and laying it out on a slant hits current trends while adding movement.
Surprise Hit: Whites and ivories are wedding staples, so I was surprised to see how many couples gravitated to the Beverly & Anderson ensemble.
Iconic Selection: Chalkboards have hit the wedding market by storm. It’s a sweet memory of something old, transformed into something new. This layout makes for a cool, on-trend ensemble.
Favorite Color: We developed the Pout card stock for our collection. The reddish-orange hue lends itself to every season depending on the colors you pair it with. I love its gender-neutral quality, and I think it sings paired with any gray. Its embossed texture feels like a luxurious fabric in your invitation set.
Current Design Obsession: I’ve stayed up late pinning on Pinterest but never took a stab at a DIY project. I was always intimidated that I’d botch it up and it would be added to the list of “Pinterest Fails.” It all changed when I decided to attempt making gold-painted animal magnets. Ultimately, I’ve dressed up my fridge with gold kitchen jewelry in fun shapes for just a few bucks, and I made them with my own two hands.
Favorite Flower: I know succulents are plants, not flowers, but they offer a masculine solution to softening up a room. Their geometric quality complements the modern industrial style of my space and they’re easy to maintain, a huge bonus for someone with a black thumb.
Favorite Indulgence: I’ve got two, old and new. First, the old: frequenting flea markets in search of treasures. I use rustic letterpress trays to display smaller knickknacks. Old wooden soda crates bring typographic character while adding height to side tables. Upcycled C-clamps make perfect bookends. My ever-growing collection of vintage Ball mason jars organizes random oddities. My design philosophy of opposing different styles isn’t limited to just paper, but I justify this indulgence as proactively shopping for my future wedding décor. And new: You make your list and walk into Target with every intention of staying within budget. But then you start weaving through the aisles. “Gotta have these gold objets d’art from the Nate Berkus collection.” “This Dana Tanamachi chalkboard artwork would look perfect over the console table.” And all self-discipline is gone. I’ve surrendered to the notion that I’ll always come home with an unexpected piece or two … and they have a gift registry.
Amy Pastre | Sideshow Press, www.sideshowpress.com
Aesthetic of the Line: A daring little letterpress factory begun by three women in ink-stained aprons, we craft projects on in-house, vintage presses and we have a penchant for inking out-of-the-ordinary materials. Reeling in memories of canoe trips and crackling campfires, the starry night sky and adventures in woods and water inspire our 50-piece 2013 collection.
Current Bestseller: Hooray Birthday.
Personal Favorite: Canoe Pencil Case.
Surprise Hit: Hello Friend Message Booklet.
Iconic Selection: Silent Stars Wood Veneer Postcard.
Favorite Color: Emerald Green.
Current Design Obsession: Searching and using unexpected materials to design and develop our products.
Favorite Flower: Craspedia Billy Buttons.
Favorite Indulgence: Cupcakes from Sugar Bakeshop in Charleston, S.C.!
Mattia Rossi | Rossi 1931, www.rossi1931.com
Aesthetic of the Line: Rooted in the tradition of Florentine Renaissance but open to new trends and technical innovations, Rossi 1931 has evolved from a small typographer to a modern factory producing, in addition to stationery, decorative papers, greeting cards, notebooks and journals, paper gift items and more. Traditional designs from the 15th and 16th centuries coexist with contemporary patterns.
Current Bestseller: Letterpress decorative papers introduced at the Paperworld Fair in Germany two years ago have since evolved into a full collection of papers, boxed stationery, monograms, journals, notepads and gifts. The success has been overwhelming and unexpected when we decided to try something different on our vintage letterpress machines, which hadn’t been used for many years.
Personal Favorite: Decorative papers, especially those with gold finish (see too the sample in this magazine).
Surprise Hit: Boxed soaps, not really part of our world of paper, were received incredibly well.
Iconic Selection: Fiorenza ,the traditional Florentine Stationery, is where it all started; the first collection was produced by my grandfather Antonio in the thirties.
Favorite Color: Blue in all its shades.
Current Design Obsession: Quality time, not simply time but time to dedicate to creativity without interruptions and intrusions and above all, without having to compromise between ideas and market needs.
Favorite Flower: Wisteria, it’s the flower of the villas on the hills that surround Florence and has such a vintage aura.
Favorite Indulgence: A Negroni drink at the seaside at sunset.