A New Year’s Day chat with Oscar+Emma

We rang up Karly Depew of Oscar+Emma to ask her about her great success in the Minted community during 2009. She has racked up award after award and currently has a whopping 82 designs for sale on the site.  We eagerly await all that she will come up with in 2010!

How did you get your start?
I loved drawing and coloring when I was little. I loved Martha Stewart magazine when I was way too young to even understand them – my mom was a huge magazine person. I think a lot of my bringing up was just very visual.

Did you study graphic design in school?
I took art classes my whole life, but for some reason when I went to college (Ohio Wesleyan University) I decided that art was not the way I was going to go. I picked zoology, but half-way through college I realized I didn’t enjoy chemistry, so I started studying photography and ended up majoring in fine arts with a concentration in photography.

Is your photography background helpful in graphic design?
It helps most with composition and in knowing how to move things around to balance out the design.

When did you start designing stationery?
As soon as I was getting married, which is a common story, I know. I was living in Boston at the time and I wanted letter pressed invites, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it done. I went into Paper Source and talked with a designer to see if I could really do all of the design work and have them just print them for me. They agreed and when I showed them the work I had done, they basically said this new position was opening up they wanted me to interview for it. At the time I did everything in Microsoft Word and had no idea how to work in InDesign. I had a few interviews, put a portfolio together overnight, and ended up getting the job.

That’s one way to interview for a job!
The only issue was this was two weeks before our wedding. I went to meet my husband for lunch to tell him I got the job and he had this weird look on his face—it turns out he was getting transferred to Ohio,  near where I grew up, the day I had accepted a job in Boston. So, we lived apart for the first 10 months of our marriage and tried to see each other whenever we could, but eventually the monetary cost of traveling back and forth added up and I decided it was time for me to move back to be with my husband. I didn’t want to work for anyone else and I felt I had learned enough at Paper Source to start my own business so I decided to launch Oscar & Emma.

What did your wedding invitation end up looking like?
I wanted it to be something that I had never seen before and like everything I design I wanted it to be whimsical. I did a wood veneer backing on all of the invitations and rsvp cards and then to personalize it as much as possible we got rid of the inner envelope concept and instead did a linen wrap around the entire thing. I printed each person’s name on a tag which we tied around the linen. It was pretty complex with lots of textural elements. I didn’t want the invite to look exactly like the rsvp so we carried different graphic elements throughout the piece.

A lot of the rsvp cards entered in our Love at First Serif Wedding Invitation Challenge departed from the main invitation–we all thought that was really great.

Karly and Judd's invitation

Karly and Judd's invitation

Karly's program

Karly's program

How did you come up with the name Oscar + Emma?
I usually try to avoid this question because I’m scared people are going to think I’m obsessed with my cats… but I obviously love my cats, so I decided their names were a good combination of elegant and sweet together. I didn’t want it to be obvious and I wanted it to be unique enough that it would come up right away if someone Googled it.

What designers do you look up to?
I look at Eric Kass all the time.  His stuff is awesome—a great modern/vintage combination.

What blogs do you read regularly?
100 layer cake, design sponge, oh joy, Lab Partners–I like their illustrations. I’m a very eclectic person, so I’m all over the place!

What’s your workspace like?

I have a very open space that is kind of my office / living room, that moves into my dining room, where I often hold meetings with clients.  I have all these windows around me and I have the windows or shutters open so I can be outside but be working inside at the same time.

Karly's dining room

Karly's dining room

Karly's office

Karly's office

Do you have a favorite pen?
I have a pen that I absolutely love – it’s an A G Spalding and Brothers with a walnut wood barrel. It’s my favorite pen ever.

I use moleskin notebooks a lot.

Are you noticing any font trends right now?
Burgess is still the script of choice, but another script I’m seeing a lot more of is Compendium. It’s really on the rise.

What colors can we expect to see more of in 2010?
Locally I have had a lot of requests for green and florals always have a lot of green in them. Gold is making a comeback. Warm colors, like plums, are definitely popular right now. Speaking of purple, I’m also seeing lots of lavender.

How has living in Ohio influenced your work?
The Farmer’s Daughter from the most recent wedding challenge is the design that has probably most stemmed from Ohio. It actually came from the idea that had my husband and I not gotten married in South Carolina, we would have gotten married here on my parent’s farm – or if I ever renewed my vows it would be there. I wanted to come up with a sophisticated take on my childhood growing up on a farm.

The Farmers Daughter

The Farmer's Daughter

Winter Berries was also very regionally inspired because in winter here the only color you see are either berries or birds.

Winter Berries

Winter Berries

Finally, what advice would you give a new designer?
One of the most important things is to really understand printing methods because how you design is a lot about how you’re printing. It’s important to be open to inspiration from anything and everything. I would advise trying to stay away from the trends. And learn how to really work with typography – I think it is always the single factor that makes or breaks a design.

Any suggestions on where to look for typography help?
I always look through Communication Arts books and a lot of vintage stuff to see how things work together. The labels on old bottles, for example, can really teach you a lot about typography.

Karly, thank you so much for your time and great contributions to Minted this year! And a very happy New Year to everyone in the Minted community! xoxoxo

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Amy E.

    I love your work Karly. Your dining room & work space are gorgeous. Tell me you cleaned up before the photo. I’m feeling a little ashamed. hahaha I thought creativity and clutter went hand in hand. =)

  2. Sandra Pons

    Wonderful feature on a wonderful designer. Love to see more of these. I can see that her great taste reaches into her interior design as well. Thank you!

  3. Katherine

    Karly’s living room leaves me in despair that my ceilings aren’t similarly high and lofty. Beautiful home!

  4. Amy and Sandra, thank you so much for reading the interview and for your very sweet comments. They put a huge smile on my face. You both are amazing designers and I always love to see the new work you submit.

    Amy, I wish I could say my home looked like this all the time, but the truth is that it doesn’t! The house photos were originally from a Design*Sponge Sneak Peek post, so I spent 2 days cleaning and organizing my home before I shot the photos 🙂

    Happy New Year to all!

  5. Thank you so much, Katherine!

  6. Maria Estigoy

    Karly, you’re work is such an inspiration. Loved reading your interview and learning more about you as a designer.

  7. Maria Estigoy

    Oops meant “your”. But you’re also an inspiration.

  8. Erin

    Thanks Karly for sharing your amazing design insight with the rest of us… Love you work it is always amazing and spot on. Your home is lovely and warm, just as you come across in your interview and all your lovely comments you leave to fellow designers. Thanks again for your work and what an inspiration you are!

  9. Meghan Roach

    Karly you have always amazed me! Congrats on all the success you have had this past year. I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!

  10. Kristenne Robison

    Karly, I love your farmer’s daughter design! Congratulations with all of your past, current, and future success at Minted. You are an inspiration.

  11. Thank you so much for all your very sweet comments ladies. It really means a lot to me 🙂

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