Jessica Bellamy – Adobe Creative Residency Recipient Tells Her Story

Winning an Adobe Creative Residency is no small feat. This year, Adobe increased the program to six residents, including two from Germany, but it is still highly competitive. Because the perks are pretty incredible: The software company provides a salary with health benefits, full access to its Creative Suite, relevant hardware, travel to Adobe MAX and other conferences and mentorship from established creatives in your field. You get to stay where you already live, you get creative freedom … it’s kind of like having a Medici on your side for a year.

So what does it take to earn one of these coveted spots? As the 2017 group of residents have settled into their year, I asked three of them, Aundre Larrow, Jessica Bellamy and Natalie Lew, to describe their work, how the residency has enabled them to lengthen their creative reach and what advice they have for future residency applicants.

Here is the interview with Jessica Bellamy who will be speaking on June 15 at the VMA Design Conference in San Francisco as part of San Francisco Design Week.

Jessica Bellamy, Graphic Designer

Courtesy of Adobe

Adobe’s Description: Graphic designer Jessica Bellamyof Louisville, Kentucky, is a translator of ideas. Her work tackles the challenge of communicating complex service and policy information from non-profits, to the general public. During her residency, Bellamy plans to work towards design-focused social change. Her plan is to create a toolkit for non-profits to tell their stories and help designers learn how to work with the non-profits in new ways.

1) What was the first thing you did when you heard you got the residency?

I was with my friend Angela when it happened. We were on our way to Zanzibar to play pinball to peel some of the stress off of the day. My phone rang. I was very professionally excited on the phone and then promptly screamed once the call was over. I felt like I was in a movie. The sun was setting, the air was warm, and a playful 90s hip-hop song was in the background. We weren’t allowed to talk publicly about being selected for the residency until the official announcement, so this instantly became the most thrilling secret I’ve ever had.

2) Tell me about some projects that you plan to work on this year?

One of my focuses is hackathons, and I’ve been leading Graphic Ally Hackathons across the country this year. The hackathons are a collaboration among creatives, a nonprofit/community group that needs an infographic, and myself. As a professional infographic designer for social change initiatives, I’ve been teaching designers how to make hand-drawn infographics, as well as how to embed principles of conscious and responsible design and data equity into design work. 

Already, I’ve completed three Graphic Ally Hackathons. I’ve done one in Detroit, MI, at the Allied Media Conference; one in Louisville, KY, for AIGA Louisville’s Design Week; and one in San Francisco, CA, at Chronicle Books. I’ll be facilitating more sessions in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Los Angeles before the end of my residency, and I may schedule two more in 2018.

In regards to motion graphics, I’m also making a shareable social media video series that teaches people how to replicate successful social change projects. These videos feature “Bubble,” a living and breathing infographic that morphs into maps, icons, charts and more. I’ve worked within communities for years now as a community organizer and as an equity-focused designer. It has been my dream to consolidate suggestions for policy change and addressing local problems into short, digestible tutorials. This Creative Residency is me living my dream.

3) How much of that plan was made possible (or at least a lot easier) because of this residency?

All of it. If it wasn’t for this residency, I would never have had the opportunity to create the motion graphics series nor share my skills on such a national level. Adobe gives me a generous amount of financial support as I work on my project, and connects me to software experts and esteemed designers when I have questions, need feedback or if there is an opportunity for collaboration. I also have an array of advisors and mentors with a variety of different skill sets that check in with me regularly. This has been an amazing experience and a huge opportunity for creative growth and development.

4) Thinking from the perspective of your own work, or any other inspiration, what does being “creative” mean to you?

Being creative means being ingenuitive and brave. Creatives are resourceful and inventive people who see possibilities in their failures. 

5) Why do you think Adobe does this program? What’s in it for them?

Adobe created this program because it fosters informal feedback cycles and shares skills between creatives internationally. The Creative Residency also creates a personalized method of showcasing new ways to use their design software. 

6) If you were to give advice to creators who are going to apply for next year’s residency, what would you say?

Your proposal should be and do four things. It should 1) be ambitious but realistic, 2) build off of your unique skills and point of view, 3) challenge your creative process, and 4) be about something that you’re passionate. If you get the outstanding opportunity to be a Creative Resident, be excited to work your butt off. 

Writing about the creators and data behind digital entertainment. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors, where this article originally appeared, are their own.
Jessica Bellamy who will be speaking on June 15 at the VMA Design Conference in San Francisco as part of San Francisco Design Week.

VMA’s Design Conference – The Story

By Barbara Silverman

It just seems to get better each year! The VMA Design Conference was held on June 14, as part of the opening day of AIGA’s SF Design Week. This year the conference was moved to Bespoke, an amazing new hi-tech venue conveniently located in the center of town, in the Westfield Shopping Center.

The event began as our high energy hostess-with-the-mostest, Lauren Elliot of Wicked Good Print Partners (WGPP) kicked off the sessions, introducing the “Large Man” and creative visionary Aaron Draplin of The Draplin Design Co., who shocked the audience with his unconventional delivery along with creative approaches to earning a living in design.

Dava Guthmiller from Noise 13 facilitated the recovery, discussing a sane yet creative approach to achieving meaning in a new brand identity. It was a perfect segue to Brian Dougherty who filled us in with stories of his quests for environmental and social impact design. Who would have through that packaging light bulbs could be both fun and environmentally sound?

David Hogue from Google presented some thought provoking ponderings as he asked us to consider what’s next? Where is all this going? And what should we really expect from our connected world in the future?

Corey Lewis of Black Flag Creative set his pirate ship afloat as he reviewed his methods of smooth sailing when dealing with design that would span many different channels.

Among the many highlights was IDEO’s Neil Stevenson. Stevenson’s mission is to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage creativity in others. He shared some of his own stories, about stories to help us learn to apply storytelling in the service of creativity.

The founder of Social Media Trackers, Mark Schwartz opened the eyes of many of us as he shared real life experiences of how amazing Facebook can be for not only personal (how he met his wife) but business success. And he has the data to prove it.

When Neal Haussel followed, he shared what he believes to be the future of packaging, considering the rise of e-commerce. His Unboxing videos were both amusing and convincing.

Barbara Stephenson from 300FEETOUT offered us a lighthearted look into the workings of a functioning design studio and how to keep the creativity flowing. It was the perfect segue for Michael Osborne of Michael Osborne and one of our regulars, who challenged us to find our creativity and keep it flowing. Perhaps that is easy for Michael but it’s not always that easy for many of us and we certainly appreciated his insights.

We had a fascinating discussion about AR and print by Erica Aiken of Rods and Cones and Cindy Walas of Walas Younger, LTD. They proved that amazing possibilities are now within reach with their own magazine “Out of Chaos” where attendees got to experience AR first hand.

Zooka Creative’s Director of Strategy, Santiago Sinisterra provided an overview of what a brand really is and then went on to share a fascinating case study of the rebranding of Union City. He was swamped with questions in the panel discussion that followed.

Peleg Top closed the day by enrapturing us all with his own story. We were almost there with him as he shared his history that led to a 2-year sabbatical from our overly connected world and then the wisdom he acquired from it. He focused on how we can get more out of life by having less.

Among the bonuses of this conference were the breaks! Along with visits to the wonderful exhibitors, attendees had ample opportunity to mingle and learn from each other.

It was quite a day. Word on the street is that this event was clearly one of great inspiration and education and a perfect kick-off to SF Design Week!

See ya next year!



Barbara Silverman is the Director of Education at VMA (


GET GONE – Building a Brand that Inspires Adventure

There are endless possibilities at your fingertips when you travel, and if you’re like us you want to go past the touristy surface and delve into the culture of the place you’re visiting. Think of Get Gone as the “Airbnb” of food travel — connecting travelers with hosts who want to share their love of food and local tradition. Hosts can list their tours on the site, similar to someone listing their home on Airbnb.

Noise 13 was excited to take on a project that is so close to our hearts, developing a full brand identity for Get Gone including a logo, color palette, photography style and website.


The client wanted to provide an authentic and local experience for both hosts and visitors alike. This is reflected in the branding, imagery and overall style of the website. The spoon-compass logo, accompanied by rustic type, conveys an organic feeling and personifies the brand. The muted color palette brings sophistication and was inspired by vintage travel maps, further solidifying the theme. Vibrant, romantic photography was selected to excite the eye and make mouths water. The images you find throughout the site reflect real experiences that are captured while traveling.

It was important to keep the visuals consistent, so we developed a booklet that would guide the hosts through the best practices for success — including what makes a good profile image and photo styles for tour postings. This booklet ensures the host is well equipped to navigate the site on their own and provides them with the tools to create a profile that maintains brand integrity.


The ultimate goal of the website was to build an intuitive, user-friendly experience for both hosts and guests. The Get Gone brand is personable and down to Earth, so it was important that the website not be too flashy or tech-centric like some of its competitors. We also needed to consider audiences in countries where the Internet may not be easily accessible, therefore the user experience needed to be seamless and pain free.

Keeping all of this in mind, we thought out the functionality in great detail, and began by crafting an in-depth user flow chart before diving into front and back end development. We designed an account page for hosts to easily create their own profile, list tours and keep their information up to date. A robust search system allows visitors to easily filter through a myriad of tour categories to find one that best suits their appetite.


It’s always satisfying to see a project come to life and Get Gone is no exception. Our team stakes a lot of interest in preserving local food traditions and so it is a pleasure to work with innovators who are making a difference. We look forward to watching Get Gone continue to grow and keep tradition alive!

Dava Guthmiller of Noise 13  will be presenting at the VMA Design Conference in June 14.

So You Think You Can’t Write: 8 Writing Resources for Non-Writers

By Dara Fontein

Can you draw? When asked this question, most people scoff and answer a definitive “no.” However, take a pencil, connect it to paper, and leave a mark. You have drawn. Writing is a skill much like drawing in this sense. Many believe that they simply cannot write, or that they aren’t a “writer,” when the truth is that they really just believe they are not a good writer.

For content marketers, writing is obviously an integral component to most, if not all, aspects of the job. Everything from drafting blog posts to crafting the perfect video script requires the ability to write. While of course the act of stringing words together to form sentences can satisfy the basic requirements, writing is a skill that with time, dedication, and a desire to improve, can be mastered to an exceptional level. Just like the perfect set of graphite pencils helps with  drawing, there are numerous tools available to help you improve your chances of writing success. The following resources will help those of you who don’t consider yourselves writers (yet!) create enviable content that just begs to be shared.

Book it

An integral part of the writing process is inspiration, and the top source of inspiration for any writer is reading. As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Just as you schedule yourself time for other career development and education purposes, make room in your calendar for the time to read. As content strategist Mike Hanski shares in his Huffington Post article, reading can help you become a better writer. When you read you:

  • Find inspiration
  • Gain new knowledge
  • Learn your genre better
  • Expand your vocabulary for your own works
  • Understand language better
  • Learn from real gurus of writing
  • Reveal the secrets of this job in practice

Two books that I have personally found not only to help the technical aspects of my writing, but which have breathed new life into my passion for the craft, are:

Everybody Writes

If you are in content marketing, Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes is a must-read. With every sentence in this writing guide worthy of repetition and consideration, Handley provides a thorough and approachable guide that proves that yes, everybody can write. She nails it on the head for content marketers who insist they can’t write with the following passage:

“Good writing can be learned—the way trigonometry or algebra or balancing a balance sheet is a skill most of us can master. In an essay at the Neiman Journalism Lab, ‘How I Faced My Fears and Learned to Be Good at Math,’ Matt Waite writes: ‘The difference between good at math and bad at math is hard work. It’s trying. It’s trying hard. It’s trying harder than you’ve ever tried before. That’s it.’”

Bird by Bird

Whether writing a blog post on social media strategy, or the great american novel, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird provides a narrative on the writing process from beginning to end. One of the biggest assets of any content marketer is creativity, and Lamott offers insight into ways anybody, natural born writer or not, can foster this into their writing. Lamott declares that “writing is nothing more nor less than a sensemaking mechanism for life,” which most likely relates to the core principles of your content marketing strategy. You aim for clear, easily digestible, but memorable writing, and Bird by Bird will help guide you along this path.

Blog busters

It’s safe to say that one of the key parts of your content marketing strategy is most likely a blog. As Social Media Examiner declares, “Blogs are your home base; they are the center of your content marketing system. Whether you’re a small business or a Fortune 100 company, blogs should be at the heart of your content marketing because blogs fuel social media, search optimization, and the sales process.”

However, blogging obviously requires a certain level of writing prowess, so if you consider yourself a non-writer you might feel like you need some help in creating quality content. Thankfully, the following resources are available to guide you through the blog writing process painlessly.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator

The first step in writing a blog post is, of course, coming up with a topic to write about. While reading, brainstorms, and other organization’s content can act as great inspiration for your ideas, if you feel that your genius well has temporarily dried up, Portent’s Content Idea Generator can be a saviour. Simply enter the subject you want to write about (such as “social media”) and click the arrow submit button. This will generate ideas for blog topics, and even if none of the suggestions are exactly what you are looking for, they will offer a solid jumping off point for your writing.


Called “the bible of content marketing” by VentureBeat, Copyblogger is a high-quality site that all content marketers should have bookmarked. The Copyblogger blog provides advice and guidance from top experts in the field of content marketing, which has helped them gain the title as “the most popular content marketing and writing blog on the planet.” The editors lay it out by sharing what their readers can expect from Copyblogger by understanding that:

  • It’s not (just) about SEO.
  • It’s not (just) about social media.
  • It’s not (just) about blogging or email marketing or conversion.

“Today, it’s always a bigger picture. You need to understand all the facets of effective content marketing, and we cover the gamut, daily… for free.”

Some of our favourite posts from Copyblogger, which will help non-writers master the craft, include:

Content Marketing Institute

The Content Marketing Institute is a comprehensive resource for all social media specialists and content marketers. The site offers tons of resources such as: career advice, research areas, event listings, training resources, a magazine, podcast, and consulting services. Looking under the “content creation” tag, you’ll find numerous articles and posts from content marketing experts offering guides on writing and general content creation. Here are a few of our favorite posts from this section of the site, but you’ll easily find countless other resources by exploring the site yourself:


Crew matches creatives, designers, and developers with high quality companies that require their services. As a destination for so many within the realm of content marketing, the Crew blog offers a wealth of information for such professionals. The post that solidified Crew’s position on this list is one of their most famous, entitled Write ugly: How to write 20 posts in 2 days.

This post is especially groundbreaking for those who don’t consider themselves writers, as it emphasizes the practice of writing fast, and with mistakes. Author Jory Mackay focuses on the free-writing approach as a way for writers and “non-writers” to crack through whatever is holding them back from getting words down on paper. As Mackay explains, the key principles here are:

  • Just start working (and don’t stop)
  • Set out a block of time to work
  • Write how you think
  • Follow your thoughts

In addition to this key post, Crew has a number of posts in their repertoire that will undoubtedly contribute to your writing success:

Hemingway App

Hemingway App is one that I’ve discussed before, but which deserves another mention. This free tool allows you to copy and paste in a block of text, which will be evaluated in its readability. As explained on the site, “Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It’s like a spellchecker, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” As all content marketers definitely aim for the focus to be on the message rather than the construction of said message, the Hemingway App is an invaluable tool.

Hemingway App

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

One of the most significant components of any piece of writing is the title or headline. Unfortunately, it can also one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. While eight out of 10 people will read a headline, only two out of those 10 will continue reading the actual article. Due to this, you want to ensure your headline is working for you, rather than against you, and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer can help you do just that. To find out if your headline makes the cut, you just need to enter it in the submission box and the Headline Analyzer will give you a score based on quality, SEO, social shareability, and increased traffic potential.

Headline Writing

Now that you have all of these resources at your fingertips, it’s time to confidently put these fingers to keyboard and write on!

Call for Exhibitors

Call for Exhibitors

VMA Design Conference - Call for Exhibitors

Come and meet creatives and showcase your products/services at the VMA Design Conference 2017: Storyboard – Stories of Design Across All Media.

Contact Jim Frey at or 415.489.7615 for details on exhibiting or view the Exhibitor Sales Sheet here.

This year’s conference is held at Bespoke in the heart of Downtown San Francisco on June 14, 2017 during SF Design Week.

Willoughby Gets ‘Fresh’ with Type Lovers

Ask any creative and they’ll tell you that designers are among the pickiest audiences to impress. So imagine the challenge involved with not only impressing designers but inspiring them? That was the task faced by Willoughby Design when they were approached by Neenah Paper about creating a campaign that would entice designers to create their projects using Neenah’s signature line. What they came up with was “Fresh Takes on CLASSIC Type,” a promotion that uses contemporary typography to demonstrate the versatility of Neenah’s CLASSIC paper.

“Instead of going over the classic typefaces that everyone knows, we wanted to talk about the new classics and show their paper line in a new, fresh way,” says Zack Shubkagel, creative director and partner at Willoughby. In the process, they proved that the right paper and type have the power to be a designer’s dream.

An Ode to Paper
The Neenah campaign had a cross-media appeal, consisting of a book, paper promotions and video to spread the word. One of the first steps was determining which typefaces to include in the project.

“Typographers are doing some real cool things whether they’re doing open source to share their typography around the world or using algorithms to design more complicated typefaces,” he explains.

In collaboration with writer Alyson Kuhn, Willoughby designed six spreads that capture how the digital and analog worlds are united in an unlimited possibility of expression.

“What you see in this book are a selection of new examples of typography that have been influenced by the digital era,” Shubkagel says. “These typefaces demonstrate how designers are blurring the lines between pixels and print.”

Various typefaces were selected to represent the “new classics,” including those created by Jessica Hische, Matthew Carter, Erik Spiekermann, Luke Lisi, Nicole and Petra Kapitza and Mika Mischler.

They also wanted designers to imagine all of the possibilities when it came to the various paper promotions they could create.

“If you look at a lot of paper promotions, almost every trick has been done at some point,” Shubkagel says. “We wanted each of these to be something interactive, tactile and something you can play with.” For example, a coffee cup sleeve with the words “Dotting My Eyes and Croissant My Teas” showcases the type on paper while providing a tangible use for a caffeine-ready audience.


For the Love of Video
Since Neenah only printed 15,000 books, they needed a way to share the concept with an even broader audience.

“Video is great because you don’t have to have a book in hand to see how it works. Still photos only do so much. So we worked with a videographer in Kansas City to help animate our story,” Shubkagel says.

When producing the video, “we needed to make a fun visual story that made you smile and made you see, for example, how giftwrap wraps around the box and how things move around. In the end, we said, ‘let’s just show off the book and the fun things you can do with it.’ ”

Shubkagel’s favorite part of the campaign was “just thinking through who we were going to put into the book,” he says. “We started off with a list of 50 different typefaces and designers and typographers, and we wanted to hone it into a story where we were representing typography today.”

The finished product has more than lived up to expectations. “We’re getting great feedback from Neenah. They’re very happy with the promotion and how it’s showcasing their paper,” he says.

And the response from that pickiest crowd hasn’t been so bad either, he adds. “We’re getting great compliments from designers.”

Now that’s something to type home about.


Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

Rock & Brews: Suds, Sandwiches & Consistency

Few things go together like great food and rock ’n roll, so it’s little surprise that the restaurant chain Rock & Brews has made the mark that it has in the restaurant industry. It’s a family-style restaurant with a rotating menu of 52 craft beers and a real rock ’n’ roll pedigree: it was foundered by KISS’ Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, legendary concert promoters Dave and Dell Furano, and restaurateur and hotelier Michael Zislis.

“When you go into a Rock & Brews, it is a tribute to classic rock. There are live concert videos playing on multiple screens throughout the restaurant,” explains Laura Missioreck, chief creative officer of The Graphic Element, a branding and design firm in Manhattan Beach, Calif. When Rock & Brews was ready to open its fourth restaurant, the owners wanted to make sure the branding reflected the chain’s unique proposition. Luckily, The Graphic Element knew how to play up the restaurant’s legendary appeal and has been their outsourced creative agency for more than two years now.

The Value of Consistency
The first thing The Graphic Element did was create a brand style guide. “There were several instances where the logo was inconsistent across the different restaurant locations,” says Missioreck. As the chain opened new locations, it became even more imperative to take a consistent approach.

“You don’t want to cause confusion in the marketplace by the logo appearing in a different font, color or different style,” she says. “Because it is now a franchise operation, it’s very important for the public to understand what the brand is about and for it to be consistent so people start to recognize what Rock & Brews stands for.”


To provide that consistency, the creative agency worked with Rock & Brews on standardizing the color palette, the fonts and logo usage. That meant determining such details as the minimum size for the logo and its relationship to the tagline. They reworked the original, “Proud to Serve,” to “Serving Those Who Rock,” which better reflected the restaurant’s positioning.

After completing the brand guide, The Graphic Element went to work re-designing the 12-page menu, which included art directing the food photography and developing the layout. The finished product elevated the look and feel from a “bar” menu to something better representative of the restaurant’s high-quality American comfort food, which includes burgers, BBQ, sandwiches, wings and pizza.


Creating a ‘Rocking’ Experience
Next they focused on the website. Not only did they want it to be interactive and informative but it was important that it matched the visual style of the restaurants as well. For example, brick is an element in almost every restaurant, so they incorporated brick into the website interface. They also chose to create a blog-style website “similar to what you might see on a rock band fan website,” Missioreck says. The home page features nine boxes or sections for content where corporate can feature promotions, as well as what’s happening in the world of rock ’n’ roll, Missioreck adds.

Other elements of the campaign included Rock & Brews’ major promotions, and food packaging elements such as the to-go pizza boxes and wax paper that sandwiches and burgers are wrapped in.


“We designed really large text-based graphics that highlight the different aspects of the particular item and also relate to the brand,” Missioreck says. “For example, we emphasized the word ‘pizza’ and adjectives that relate to it like ‘delicious’ and ‘hot,’ but it’s written in the kind of font that’s specific to Rock & Brews.”

One of the main goals of the campaign was to ensure that every graphical element conveyed an accurate representation of the iconic brand. “It was more about taking what was already existing and making things consistent along with coming up with standards for the future,” she says.

That future looks bright as the brand is enjoying tremendous success. Rock & Brews was named one of the top 10 fastest growing small chains in America by Restaurant Business in July of 2015. They just opened their 19th location and they have no intention of slowing down, Missioreck says. “We are super excited to be along for the ride!”


Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

Come together

Newly invented media do not replace old ones, but simply converge with them so the traditional forms become used in different ways. Although traditional forms may no longer be dominant means of mass communication, they co-exist with the new technologies.

So said Wolfgang Riepl, the editor-in-chief of the Nürnberger Zeitung in Germany. In 1913, radio, cinema and recorded music were starting to make a mark on consumers. Reipl developed this hypothesis in his dissertation on how news was delivered in ancient communities. To date, “Reipl’s law” is unrefuted.

I think I would have liked Herr Riepl.

In our publication, Print &, Sappi provided insight from a number of research studies on media convergence by exploring consumer behavior, push/pull marketing, augmented reality and the importance of tactile materials in the ongoing effort to engage an audience. What the research shows is that rather than “cannibalize” each other’s audience, print and digital work most effectively when they join forces to deliver the message across platforms. Greater success is achieved when traditional and new media work together.

As Reipl knew, it’s all about convergence. Media convergence should be viewed as a collaboration between the touchpoints of your chosen audience—it’s a kind of cooperation that, I believe, can result in more effective outcomes.

To find out more about the value of media convergence, be inspired by great examples of integrated campaigns and read recent research that continues to support the 1913 Riepl’s Law, visit us here at

Does that make sense?



Print/Creative Manager

As an educator, designer, humanist, and lover of all things graphic art-related, Daniel has been an evangelist for the power of paper and print throughout his 40-year career. As the face of the ETC (education-training-consulting) Group at Sappi Fine Paper North America, he is always ready to share his know-how with designers, printers, paper merchants, and the like.

Daniel has been a popular speaker at ours’ and many other designer events. He’s got a fascinating new story to share about the importance of the sense of touch in our communication efforts. Join us June 9th at the re:think design conference for the full story, and so much more.











– See more at:

Loving the Love Stamp

Who doesn’t love the Love stamp series published by the USPS?

Since Michael Orborne will be speaking at the re:think design conference on June 9 we thought it would be fun to share some of his remarkable accomplishments. In our research we discovered we were not alone in our admiration. Lara McCormick tells the story so well:

I Heart Michael Osborne: Meet The Designer Who Created The LOVE Stamp


Since 1981, Michael’s firm Michael Osborne Design has been creating some of the most memorable packaging, corporate identity, and retail design solutions for clients that include Kettle, Target, Sam’s Club, Williams-Sonoma, Brown-Forman, numerous wineries, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Michael has been a featured speaker at numerous conferences and design schools, and was the recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellow Award in the summer of 2006. His work is included in the permanent collections of the San Francisco MOMA, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. Michael has also designed the 2002 and 2004 Love stamps, the 2006 and 2013 Wedding stamp set, the 2006 Madonna & Child stamp, the 2007 Patriotic Banner stamp, and the 2012 presorted Spectrum Eagle stamps for the USPS. Michael received his undergraduate degree at Art Center College of Design, and his MFA at the Academy of Art University, where he has taught Package Design since 1991.

Here, we talked to him about designing the LOVE stamps, his legacy — and his own Valentine’s Day tradition.

LM  You’ve designed the LOVE stamps for the US Postal Service, what was that experience like?

MO  When I got back from lunch one day my receptionist told me that I had gotten a call from “this lady” at the post office– which I totally ignored and went to my desk. The next day, Kim rings me and says that it’s that lady from the post office again and she told me to tell you that you really need to take this call. I thought maybe we hadn’t been paying our meter or someone sent drugs somewhere in my name and I was going to jail. It was Ethel Kessler from the U.S. Postal Service, not the post office.

She introduced herself, told me she was an Art Director for USPS and said, “I think I’m about to make your day.” I really had no idea what was happening so I said, ok let me have it.

“How would you like to design the next Love stamp?”

What? I thought it was a joke or something, but of course after I got up off of the floor I said YES! emphatically. The design brief sat on my desk for a couple of weeks starring me in the face– I was just too scared or dumbfounded to even start. This was in the middle of August 2001, then 9/11 happened. Remember when no one went to work, no airplanes flying, everyone in a daze? After the second day I went into the office, by myself, and started designing. The next day everyone came back to work. One of my designers came over to my desk which was covered tissue paper sketches…”Michael, I think you can stop now.”

It was very therapeutic drawing the word LOVE over and over and over all day long. I put a book together of 14 design directions including my sketches, 400% and 100% print-outs of the final designs, and a cut out version placed in the upper lefthand corner of a letterpress printed envelope, and sent it to Ethel. Two stamps were selected from the book to produce– one for 2002, and one for 2004. I have since designed 9 or 10 stamps for Ethel who is a very good friend now.

LM You send out beautiful letterpress valentines! Having sent out so many cards the last fifteen years, do you have a favorite?

MO  I never really have a good answer for that question. They all have something to do with whatever was going on at the time. If you started water-boarding me, I’d have to say the one featuring the “heart people.” My youngest daughter Alice was about 7 or 8 and was drawing these heart people all the time. I snuck out this drawing while she wasn’t looking.

LM  What kind of feedback to you get from the valentine recipients?

MO  For years we sent out holiday cards. We’d spend all this time and money and my hair would catch on fire trying to get these things in the mail on time. Then, we’d come back to work in the new year and I’d ask clients if they received and liked our card? Usually the answer was something like, huhhh…I think so…we got so many this year. So I started sending Valentine’s instead. EVERYONE loved them–especially designers. They were always letterpress printed at a time when there weren’t that many shops around. If we accidentally left someone off the mailing list I’d hear about it. By the way, more than one of the cards have completely vanished, all gone.

LM What does the valentine for 2015 look like?

MO  Ummm…I haven’t even thought about it. Plus, since I closed One Heart Press in 2012, it’s been very hard for me to consider having someone else print it. I didn’t do one for 2013 or 2014. However, when I sold some of the equipment, I bartered for some printing privileges and will do a card this year.

LM Among designers your name is synonymous with hearts – what’s the story behind this?

heart stamps USPS

MO  I dunno. Just is. It just happens– they show up, people send rocks to me, I get projects having to do with hearts, I have a tattoo of a heart…and a young designers sent me a picture of my 2002 Love stamp tattooed in full color HUGE on her forearm! Get this…in 7th grade shop class, I made my parents a hammered-tin ashtray in the shape of a heart! How ironic.



Come hear Michael in dialogue with Jared Erondu as they discuss what’s changed and what’s remained the same in the world of design. at re:think design conference in San Francisco June 9, in conjunction with SF Design Week.












Go Out and Do Nothing

by Jared Enrondu

A few weeks ago, I wrote on a lesson I had learned from designing Evomail. Today I’m going to expand on another.

Lesson #2: Go out and do nothing

Late September 2012, I had began designing a certain interaction for Evomail. I did my raw sketches on the Paper app for iPad, then finalized with pen and paper in my Moleskine. The look and feel wasn’t ideal, but it was a decent start. I waited a day (always good to flush out areas), then hopped in Photoshop with high hopes of conquering the design within a few hours.

Didn’t happen that way

I ended up spending day after day shifting, scrapping, and re-sketching. It became a cycle. “It just isn’t happening for me,” I thought. Had I seriously been conquered by 2-squared inches of an intangible interface? Jon and Dave (co-founders) were scratching their heads at the delay. After all, turnaround time was pretty quick everywhere else. What was going on here? I imagined that was what they thought.

But it wasn’t that simple. My “design juices” had been maxed out, burnt out. I needed some rest. And the day after day routine wasn’t helping at all.

On design and exercise

Ruth Clark, 95, goes through her daily aerobic exercise routine in Pompano Beach, Florida, on April 24, 2012. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1122368

Ruth Clark, 95, goes through her daily aerobic exercise routine in Pompano Beach, Florida, on April 24, 2012. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1122368

You see, designing is like exercising. We use a mental muscle when we create.

In exercise, there’s what’s referred to as the “3 Rs.” They are Recover, Rebuild, and Replenish (may vary from source to source). We’re really good at the last two. Rebuilding is the workout phase. Where we tone our design muscle by the constant reps, or code deployment and pixel pushing. We build the muscle when we challenge ourselves to widen our design capabilities through learning. For example, when graphic designers learn front-end languages (HTML/CSS/JS) to build out their own designs. And we replenish when we seek design inspiration and learn from others with tools like Twitter, Behance, Forrst, Dribbble, books and magazines.

However, we often neglect the first and most important one, recover. That’s when the muscle actually grows. In exercise, that’s when you rest and sleep. And in design, that’s when you simply breakaway. Ditch the computer, the desk, the office, the building. It’s when you get out, and do nothing.

I skipped that. And I suffered the consequences. I wasn’t going anywhere with the interface except backwards, and that wasn’t only detrimental to my productivity, but also the company’s and our goal of shipping Evomail.

So go outside



Mid-October, I went to Brooklyn Beta with my friend Josh Long from Treehouse. We stayed in my hometown for a solid week. And during that time, I kept my work at Evomail to a bare minimum. And I began to feel the mental tension gradually dissipate. My eyes were opened to more elements of design. I noticed the nice balance of typography and kerning at a local diner. The whitespace on billboards. The famous graffiti. The “artsyness” of Etsy’s office (top-left photo). The intricate nature of Aymie Spitzer’s Neighborwood carvings. Even the geometry of Manhattan. I noticed physical product design. And as a digital product designer, this was a welcomed change.

Unbeknown to me, this “break” gave my brain time to actually formulate answers to questions I had not been thinking about at the moment. That seemingly senseless act of wandering the streets of NY was actually the inspiration I needed most.

On night three of our Brooklyn visit, I opened Photoshop just for the heck of it. I deleted the folder group that held the design elements for this “trouble section” of the interface. Instantly, all the design cues I had noticed from earlier in the week began to muster together and amalgamate themselves into something sensible. Within minutes, the design was finished.



In excitement, I quickly took a before (always have a backup .psd file just in case you do crap) and after screenshot of the section. I then dropped them in Campfire for the team to see. The response was great. I was happy. I signed off. Fact: that section of the interface hasn’t been touched since.

And do nothing

The key to the breakaway is to not look at work. But in today’s society, it’s often encouraged to do just that even while on vacation. I just came back from mine this past Monday, and during my break, I made sure to not even open Photoshop. Why? Because rest isn’t only a physical thing, it’s equally mental. You have to give your brain a break once in a while. That means to not look at anything remotely associated with work.

While in New York, Josh and I ate enough good food to have us longing for another visit, for months. We rode the trains, visited the startups (some work exposure, but hey, we chatted with staff about where to eat next), and simply lived. We didn’t let our work dictate us.

And in the end, that break even helped me get work done. Essentially, no time was lost. I had been recharged, I had recovered. And all it took was a close of the Mac lid.

So when was the last time you got away?


I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and Dribbble a lot.

Jared will also be at the re:think design conference on June 8th. It’s gong to be awesome! Why not join us?