July design showcase: back-to-school edition

It's been a minute since my school days, but this time of year still makes me want new books and shoes. There's just something magical – something like New Year's Eve – about the feeling in the air, like promise and potential are everywhere.

And after all, let's face it: It's been a long, hot summer, and maybe a little back-to-school spirit is all we need to get us through the tail end of this heat wave. Who else is ready for some stylish fall boots, back-to-school sales and university stationery? This month's design showcase will at least help on the university stationery front.

University of Notre Dame

Client: University of Notre Dame
Emma designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design level: Stationery Suite

Colleges are great candidates for Design Suite, our custom design package that includes three stationery designs based on one concept. Since university messages must appeal to a wide variety of audiences (prospective and current students, donors and alumni, faculty and staff, high school guidance counselors, parents and so on), the Suite is the perfect way to have something special for each distinctive group – while, of course, retaining brand consistency.

This design is the first of what will become a Design Suite for the University of Notre Dame. The original request included the school's brand guidelines, which immediately determined the colors and fonts for the stationery. The shape, however, came from website-prowling on Elizabeth's part. The curved frame appears frequently on the Notre Dame homepage, so Elizabeth mimicked the shape and added shadows and highlights to enhance it, creating a truly three-dimensional feel.

Metropolitan Community

Client: Metropolitan Community College
Emma designer: Jimmy Thorn
Design level: Concierge Design

Our friends at the Metropolitan Community College wanted a fresh look for their stationery, so Jimmy was free to play with design concepts that strayed from the look of the website. Still, he knew it was important to communicate the school's particular personality and style.

They provided their logo as an EPS file, meaning that Jimmy could blow it up as big as he wanted without losing image quality. And that's exactly what he did: If you look closely, you can see that the background texture behind the logo is actually an extremely enlarged copy of the logo itself. He added color and shadow to give it a metallic sheen and then reversed out the actual logo to white, making the contrast much more dramatic. Their tagline gets its own focus here, but the red slanted bar continually draws the eye right back to the logo.

Stanford University Press

Client: Stanford University Press
Emma designer: Kelly McClain
Design level: Concierge Design

This was the second stationery design for the Stanford University Press. They needed a new, less traditional design for certain kinds of mailings — they weren't exactly sure what they wanted for their new design, but they did know they wanted their brand shade of red. With that in mind, Kelly perused the SUP website and found that they typically use a lot of white space to give the red accents more power. She also discovered that they have a terrific online presence, and not just with their own website and Emma campaigns. They're active users of Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, podcasts and a blog, all of which work together to engage a diverse community of fans and followers.

How brilliant, then, for an established American institution of print publishing to be so active on the web. And how brilliant of Kelly to put a similar ironic twist on their "less traditional" email stationery by making it look like a traditional printed letterhead, complete with typewriter font! She further aged the look by bending the page corners just a bit, scratching up the header type and fading the red bar under the title. The "paper" comes to a clean mid-section, though, so that the header and footer images could easily give way to clean, HTML-based design in the middle. That way, the stationery can stretch vertically to accommodate content of any length.

Michigan State

Client: Michigan State University
Emma designer: Jimmy Thorn
Design level: Concierge Design

Stephanie from Michigan State University wanted a fairly simple design but requested a variety of colors to represent her international audience. She provided a photo of flags from the around the world, with a busy street market blurred in the background. Jimmy cropped the image so the focus would be entirely on the flags in all their colorful glory, and he took the accent shade of green from the department's own website. He also borrowed the idea of rounded corners from their existing branding and used that shape to frame the individual design elements as well as the stationery itself.

Stephanie can use the editable text box just below the header for the date, issue number or any other text that she'd like to change out from time to time. It's completely separate from the text box(es) that form the layout template, so she can still use any of the existing layouts without losing that upper text box.

Until next time … hugs and autumn leaves from the entire Emma Design Team!

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