My Path

I think many of us have moments in time where we feel a sense of ease & even realize life has been leading us to this moment (or profession) all along. a. favorite design, inc. is one of those organic transitions for me. I grew up loving stationery. It started with visits to the local drug store where I would stand in front of the Hello Kitty display. I would lovingly pick up each individual pencil, eraser, stationery set, ruler, sticker, basically anything & everything on the display. When I was fortunate enough to purchase a piece or two I would actually display it in my room & save it until I had the most perfect occasion for it. Not just any occasion but a special one worthy of great stationery. That was my first stationery love, followed by Mrs. Grossman, then Lisa Frank.

All through grade school I played with paper. Creating greeting cards for every occasion. Writing notes. Decorating envelopes with stickers. Saving wrapping paper to repurpose. Any paper I came in contact with became a precious relic. My grandma encouraged this every Christmas by giving me my annual gift of construction paper & markers. I would retire to a corner for hours to draw, fold, cut & glue to my heart’s content.

In high school, I was fortunate enough to enroll in a graphic arts program at our local trade school. That’s where I ran my first press, an AB Dick duplicator. I remember walking in the room the first day & standing in awe, gazing at the presses, light tables, stacks of paper & being engulfed by the scent of ink. It was magical. I still love the smell of ink.

In college I studied graphic design. I had the most amazing typography teacher. He was the first to introduce me to letterpress printing. I had seen it in my art history classes; however, I had never experienced the craft until then. For our final project we had to handset a paragraph of type & print it on specialty paper with a platen press. The very first moment I held the composing stick, I was hooked. Touching each piece of metal filled me with romance; who had touched these letters? What had been printed with them? The history of the fonts, composing sticks and press further sparked my interest & I began collecting random wood type blocks, books on printing, design & typography.

Upon graduation from college I worked at an agency. Then for a fortune 500 paper company who had retail stores specializing in selling printing supplies & paper to small print shops. This is where I gained an amazing knowledge of ink and paper, as well as printing methods. Not to mention an ongoing prepress education for multiple printing processes. Eventually I decided that the corporate world was not for me. In 2004 I began freelancing & picked up a retail job at a stationery store I frequented. The owner, Ted Frankel of Uncle Fun fame, was very supportive of artists & his employees. He encouraged us to sell our handmade goods in the shop & let us keep the profits to supplement our income, this was the humble beginnings of a. favorite design. I had always made my own cards, jewelry, books & ornaments so I naturally started creating for the store every spare moment I had. I created cards using my antique typewriter, then my Print Gocco & eventually letterpress printing.

While working at this stationery shop I gained invaluable knowledge of both the buying process as well as the wholesale process. I’m certain my first trade show wouldn’t have been nearly as successful had I not previously attended the National Stationery Show with Ted as a buyer.

In 2005 I discovered Columbia College Book & Paper Center at the time they offered community letterpress printing classes. It was there I took my first letterpress class… and my second… and third… and volunteered on my days off. I embraced letterpress printing & surrounded myself with it. Unlike my earlier experience with letterpress printing, I learned a more modern way to printing using photopolymer plates instead of type & blocks. This opened a whole new world of opportunity for me. Instead of designing with existing fonts & images, I could create any design I wanted on the computer, then letterpress print it.

In 2007, two years after creating a. favorite design, I purchased my very first printing press, a 1913 new style Chandler and Price platen press. Shortly after, I decided I would take a leap of faith and design, letterpress print & wholesale my greeting cards. This was the turning point for a. favorite design. My part time hobby suddenly became my full-time passion. It was then all the knowledge of my design background combined with my printing supply & paper knowledge combined with wholesale selling knowledge combined with my retail knowledge combined with my letterpress printing knowledge created a perfect path for me. It was very organic & all that knowledge led me to follow my passion.

It’s exciting to think about the future… This year we're celebrating 10 years in business. TEN YEARS! That is amazing to me. As of this year I've run a. favorite design, inc. longer then I was a graphic designer in the professional world, making afd my longest career thus far. That's something to be proud of & I am. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for a. favorite design, inc. and what knowledge is around the corner.

4th Annual Cardch Madness!

If you don't follow us on social media you really should. Right now, we're in the midst of our 4th Annual Cardch Madness. And it's awesome! We're down to our exclusive eight letterpress cards and will be having match ups daily until we have a. fan favorite. I wish I could take credit for this brilliant promotion but I cannot. Before I get into the details of this amazing annual promotion you should follow us on facebook & play along. It's fun! and you may win some snail mail love.

So here's a little history of my most favorite promotion. Three years ago, I had the pleasure of working with my best friend, designer, social media guru & now business owner, Jaime. She's a rock star at everything she does & when she left her corporate gig to pursue her dream of opening a store, I asked if she'd like to earn a little cash & help promote a. favorite design's social media. She graciously agreed (& took on much, much more). One of the very first ideas she had was to launch our own version of the college basketball madness (you know the one, it happens in March... but we can't use the proper name due to trademark). Brilliant, right!?! I mean who would expect letterpress greeting cards to be matched up in a challenge? To be decided on by a. favorite design fans? And really, who doesn't love a bracket? To encourage voting those same fans would be entered to win some snail mail. Again, brilliant!

2012 our very first bracket - World's Greatest Mom was the champion

Jaime & I talked through all the logistics and she created the rules. Every March when the college basketball madness starts we would launch our own bracket. Annually we chose eight classic a. favorite design cards and eight newbies in the same category to face off. We then post each match up on facebook for our fans to vote on. Voting lasts approximately 24 hours then we tally them & the winner moves on to the next round, similar to that famous March college basketball craziness. 

2013 bracket - Baby Flash Card was the Champion

Have I mentioned this is my most favorite promotion? It is. And it keeps evolving. In 2014 Tom, my partner in life & business, took over social media. That year he termed the bracket challenge Cardch Madness... More brilliance! (I apparently surround myself with geniuses)

You may notice fan favorites from previous years keep showing up to face off with newbies. We've had some fans that voted for the same card, four brackets in a row. This makes me happy. It's fun to see what our fans love & helps me gauge what design styles I should continue developing.

2014 Cardch Madness bracket - Thank You Type was the Champion

Don't forget, if you'd like to participate head over to facebook. Every vote is entered in a chance to will a letterpress card! If you want to share the madness on social media please use #CardchMadness. Let me know what your favorite promotion has been with us. Or better yet, if you have a brilliant idea & want to share. We love hearing from you!

Vintage Paper Inspiration

If you spend any amount of time on my website or in my studio you will notice, I'm a vintage paper junkie. Seriously. I have collections of paper, especially vintage. Vintage gift wrap? Check. Vintage notebooks? Check. Vintage prescriptions? Check. Vintage labels? Check. Vintage checks? Check! You get the idea. The list goes on and on. I especially enjoy vintage office papers. I often find the desk or office area of estate sales to seek out new finds. I have over-sized freezer bags filled with random office papers I've scored from church rummage sales. Many of them I use for correspondence with a very dear, long distance friend. I also have visions of using them in collages or art projects. But most recently I was thumbing through some of my papers for the background of my website product shots. I found myself sorting them. First it was just a special pile for letterpress printed papers (yes, that is a thing — ledger, legal, index cards, etc. all beautifully letterpress printed). And Finally by style: Legal, ledger, notebook, loose leaf, grid, etc. The variety within each style was amazing. Printing, paper color, line colors, margin width and so many more variations. While I was sorting them I kept thinking how paper is such a universal thing. Most human beings have used it and if not, certainly the majority have seen it. It’s a common thread we have. I love that thought. It sparked another… I should create vintage paper inspired cards. And letterpress print them like the oldest papers I have.

Voila! Here is one variety of a new series I worked on this winter. You can see the complete line in the goods section.


Be sure to look closely at the two papers in the middle of the first photo & one below. They happen to be letterpress printed. And not just letterpress printed but THREE colors. That means each of the thousands (possibly millions) of printed paper ran through the press three times. With cleaning the press & registering the print each time. That's impressive. And fuels my love for all things vintage paper.

Treasure Hunting

I'm a treasure hunter. And I come by it honestly, from both sides of the family. My grandma on my dad's side loved garage sales. Grandpa on my mom's side enjoyed visiting auctions and couldn't resist a bargain whether he needed it or not. I take after both. Treasure hunting at garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets & visiting stores is a favorite pastime of mine. During the summer most weekends you can find me treasure hunting. I'm also a romantic, which feeds my desire to purchase items with a past instead of new. I like the idea of owning something that has a great story. A history. I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite scores. I'll start with the highlight of my hunting this summer....

This is what I saw as I walked up to a gigantic rummage sale in Evanston this past July. I was immediately smitten with the piece in back! It had the look of a Sheldon Rose (another story for another time...), which I have been hunting for, for several years now. This may sound dramatic but the moment I saw it my heart raced. I'm not kidding. I was so ecstatic. All I could think is “I need this.” The only issue... it was in a box of purchased items, sitting next to the owner outside. I stopped a few feet away and told my mom “I have to have that. Should I offer him some money for it?” It had a $10 price tag on it, so I knew what he paid. She encouraged me to go with my gut. Without even seeing what kind of shape it was in I counted my cash and threw out an offer of everything in my wallet. No joke, I really wanted it. The guy was very kind but I could tell a little leery. He told me his wife picked it out so I would have to ask her & she was getting the car, wouldn't be back for awhile. I gave him my card and walked inside nervously.

I was so distracted while inside shopping. I couldn’t focus on anything except the amazing letterpress block wall hanging outside. My poor mom & shopping partner kept talking to me but I was not very responsive. She decided we should leave after not finding anything. As we walked out we saw the wife hopping out of her car & coming up to talk to her husband. Again, my heart started to race. I was so anxious but really wanted them to know how much I loved the piece & how perfect it was for a letterpress printer like myself. I approached again, after the husband explained my offer. I think they were both a little baffled by my excitement. I might have come on a little strong but it was just so perfect. I'm very happy to say after considering it, the wife agreed. HOORAY! I am still so grateful. It's absolutely beautiful and every time I look at it I smile and even say a little thank you to Rebecca (the wife). I did have a moment of “did I overpay?” which thankfully, my mr. (Tom) quickly dismissed. 

Here I am with my treasure immediately after money changed hands! And below is a not-so-great image of the piece on our living room wall. The lighting was a little dark but you get the idea.

Also I'd like to mention the very kind Rebecca is a collage artist and jewelry maker. She has a great etsy shop called Shop Industrial Grace & can be found on facebook.