Letterpress Goodness: Dingbat PressLetterpress Goodness: Dingbat Press

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Letterpress Goodness: Dingbat Press

Letterpress fans, welcome to the first post in our Letterpress Goodness series. Each day, we will spotlight a letterpress studio that is creating amazing letterpress fabulousness.

Today's spotlight in on Dingbat Press and Dingbat Press Etsy shop. I love this "one-man show (or one-woman show)" and the fact that she uses a manual press! Impressive. Enjoy her interview and her beautiful designs. Thanks, Adrienne! You can contact Adrienne via the links above.

What is the name of your business?
I'm DBA Dingbat Press. Sometimes I get funny reactions and snickers from people when they hear my business name as they think I'm the dingbat (which in some cases I can be), however the historical reference behind the name is related to a printer's dingbat, often used as ornamentation in typeset letterpress printing.

How long have you been in business?
Three years officially, however I've been printing for about 5, and designing invitations here and there since 2000.

What is your name, title, and role in the business?
My name is Adrienne Berry. I am owner and sole-proprietor. My friends call me suzy homemaker, or the one-man-band because at this stage in my business I do it all: design, print, represent myself, take care of the house, love my kids and my hubby, be an accountant and gardener (when the spare moment arises).

What made you want to start your own business?
I always wanted to be a graphic designer and/or illustrator due to an inspiring and mentoring neighbor who sparked my interest at a young age. So school was a matter of finding the right BFA program. However, I found a husband first, so I made the best out of school that I could. Luckily, the university I received my BFA from had an excellent design program with amazing professors. Due to my husband's line of work (fly-fishing outfitter) I knew we'd be living rural and that I could work for someone else (slim pickings) or work for myself. I did the agency thing for a few years and then decided to take the plunge as our family expanded. The business evolved out of my ADD obsession to create new designs whenever I felt like it, which led me to stationery. Letterpress was already an obsession and so the two naturally melded nicely.

What makes you do what you do?
I do what I do because I love it. There's just something so breathtaking in seeing a design go from the drawing board, to digital proofs, to press and then into the client's hands. That final printed piece is what keeps me coming back to do more. And I can have a studio in my home, letting me be there for my family too.

What paper products do you offer? What is your price range?
I think of all these things I would like to offer and then I have to tighten the reigns and tell myself to focus on a specific line. This year I'm putting out all new designs for the 2009-2010 buying year and am excited to have new offerings out into the market. The line consists of a few collections (each a specific design theme because I can't decide on just one theme to follow and like to have some unique offerings for everyone). Each collection will have single notes, boxed notes, enclosures (mini-notes and mini-lopes), and then depending on the theme there will be additives. Some will have recipe cards, some will have imprintables (baby shower, bridal shower), and some will have hand-bound journals with letterpressed covers that correlate with their specific collection. I'll also continue with wedding stationery, and baby announcements as they were what got me started in the first place. Price range is around $4 - $35 for notes, and social/correspondence stationery. Invitations/Announcements start at $325 and go up from there depending on complexity of the stationery and printed colors, customization, quantity etc.

What is your typical work day like?
My work day is centered around the needs of my family. I have my iPhone that keeps me in contact with email and clients 24/7, however there are still kids to feed and play with. For the most part, it works well. I check my email and do estimates, etsy orders, and accounting in the mornings while kids play. During nap-time I usually get a few jobs printed and then when lunch time rolls around we head out to ship orders and do something fun (weather permitting, work permitting). Obviously if there's a big deadline, a babysitter or Daddy is there to help out so 100% focus goes into product and a full workday ensues. I try to schedule out how the day or week will go depending on the amount of jobs I have going through the studio during that time, but the schedule can change due to RUSH jobs or cuts and scrapes! Once kids are in bed, I'm back on my computer generating designs, sending proofs to clients, making follow-up phone calls if they haven't been made during the day (and because some people can't discuss wedding details at work:) and occasionally printing as well. My hubby works late hours some evenings so I can get a lot done in the 4 hours after bedtime. I almost always pull an 8 hour workday, it's just not typical 9-5 style!

Do you do custom work? Tell me a little about your custom design process?
I LOVE custom work, it's what really drives me. The one thing I thought I'd miss about agency and more corporate design was the fulfilling need to be challenged by someone else's parameters and ideas. Custom jobs give me that challenge and it's always more fun to work with someone who is ordering stationery for a life event. I like to really try to get to know the person I'm working with as well as what sort of event they are going for (wedding) or what sort of lifestyle they live (announcements, personal stationery). I try to take elements they'd like to incorporate into their stationery and then graphically convey who they are through illustration, type, and style. Custom jobs are fun because everyone is so different. One day I may be working on a refined rustic invitation suite, and another a whimsical baby announcement. It keeps me up on my style education and art history!

How long do custom orders usually take to complete?
I recommend 4-8 weeks due to the nature of proofing, revising and printing (which takes some time too as everything is hand printed by yours truly)!

What advice would you give to brides who want letterpressed invitations?
1). Give yourself PLENTY of time. They take awhile to produce, especially custom orders. You don't want the job rushed if you can avoid it.

2). Plan a reasonable budget for it. I'm not saying spend thousands of dollars but as much as I'd love to work for you for free and do a sweet design, I've got to make a living too. I try to price my invitations reasonably for a letterpress project and like to work with my clients if they've got a set budget. I don't know about other stationers, but I like it when a bride can give me a budget up front. Then I can better guide her as to what will fit within the budget without her feeling like she has to forgo the whole letterpress idea. Some of my favorite designs were done as a one color, tight budget job. They really require one to stretch and make the design work!

3). If you HAVE to have letterpress, and NEED it to fit into a tight budget, be prepared to compromise. I won't ever force you to go with something you don't want to, but part of my job is to consult you as to how I can HELP you make it work. You can save cost by electing not to have the envelope printed, going with a one color suite, and choosing less insert pieces. Or if you really want the 2 color invitation, do a 1 color insert to save costs on the smaller piece. Don't worry, I'll make it all look nice for you! I'm really not trying to be mean in suggesting budget alternatives or eliminating pieces, I'm just trying to help. If budget is not a concern, then more power to you!

What makes products created by letterpress so special?
It's tactile. It's a touch and feel experience. Letterpress is an antique form of printing too! I use an OLD press, and thus print everything by hand. Each sheet is fed through the press one at a time, called an impression. I step on a pedal, set the paper in, roll the crank across the press bed where it's printed, pull the sheet, and start over. So a 3 color job for a quantity of 100 invitations and printed envelopes will get roughly 475 impressions (350 for the invitation, and 125 for the envelopes). That's not even including inserts. Some printers have fancy Heidelberg presses, which maybe someday I may acquire, but for now I'm considered a small printer. It takes a lot of love to hand print everything!

If you could design wedding invitations for anyone in the world, who would it be?

I don't think I'd jump on the royalty or celebrity bandwagon, as those jobs would seem to have too strict of a design parameter (BORING!). My ideal person to design for is someone not afraid to have their invitations a little different. Not to steer away the traditionalists, but it's more mind-expanding to do something I haven't tried before.

Where do you go for inspiration?
My clients serve as inspiration. The rest is trade secret ;)

What trends do you see emerging in letterpress/invitation design in 2009?
CONFESSION: I try to keep up on the trends, but sometimes I find them more inhibiting than inspiring. Lately I haven't been watching design trends too much because it stints my own creativity as I'm finishing my own line. Thinking about everyone else's work out there can slow me down in my own process so I try to do market research as to what's too saturated in the designs and styles, what could be done a little more, and how can I fill that void then I keep to myself until I'm done with designing the current year's designs. The only thing I've been keeping up on is color predictions these last few months. Rose, super yellow, grey, dust, slate blue and 80s subdued colors are joining the ranks again. Say goodbye to the brown/teal combos and brown/light green combos. I think whimsical/bohemian will continue to play a significant role and wouldn't be surprised to see a little more art deco with the 80s continuing to make a comeback.

What is your favorite typeface and pantone color?

I LOVE copper, people don't use it enough. Typeface is a little harder. Probably Bembo for a traditional serif face, Archer for a slab-serif (HFJones), and either Univers by Frutiger or Gill Sans for a sans-serif.