Meet a Mintie: Coco Paperie

I know everyone is probably either exhausted from the holiday challenge or needs a break from voting for all of the amazing designs, but luckily we have Deb from Coco Paperie to take you back from December to June! Read on for amazing Pinterest boards, straight-forward advice on how to design, a suitcase inspired by a holiday card, and “incredibly sexy” typefaces!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
Ever since I was kid I gravitated toward art: watercolors, clay, macrame, painting, you name it. I didn’t have label for what I loved until high school. There was a teacher at Pittsford Mendon H.S. who really encouraged me to follow my dreams. Back then it was called “commercial art”. Does that date me? LOL.

I would spend hours redecorating my room: rearranging furniture, painting the walls… I spent a lot of time expressing my creativity with my clothing. My poor mother put up with crazy combinations from the ’80s and ‘90s.

Really though, the icing on the cupcake was a trip to NYC to visit my cousin Helen while she was in school at Parsons. She took me around to her classes and allowed me to tag along while she finished a catalog design. I was hooked. Check out one of her gorgeous bridal shower invitations available on sale at Minted!

Deco Lights Bridal Shower Invitations by Coco Paperie

Do you have any formal design training?
No. Is that shocking?

Not at all! Lots of our designers don’t (and do) have formal training.

I was actually informed by a couple of college professors that I would never make it as a graphic designer. They scared me off so much, I decided to pursue a BFA in photography and film. I was disheartened but found something else to focus on so all was not lost. Still, it took a long time to get over insecurities that had been planted.

Looking back I think having trained in something other than design turned out to be a bonus. Learning on the job isn’t as safe as a school environment but you definitely take your responsibilities seriously. I’ve been fortunate to have had some great exposure to wonderful environments and incredibly talented designers. You learn a lot from your peers. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve learned from them and continue to do so. It helps you refine and pushes you to do better.

How does your background as an art director influence your stationery design?
Working for magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and Virtuoso Life, I came to really understand the business of design. It’s critical thinking and making connections between nuance.

Stationery is a new area for me. I don’t design stationery full-time (I help small businesses build web sites) so I’m learning every other day or every other month about the ins and outs of the stationery business. I’ve been working on my first line of invitations and note cards with a consultant for the past few months… It is quite emotional and thrilling to see everything coming together.

How would you describe your style?
I’m attracted to so many different things, aesthetics that it feels hard to describe my style. I’ve been exploring this for awhile and I think my style is understated elegance. I guess I lean toward modern, clean lines with a mix of vintage and rustic. Here’s a screen grab of two of my Pinterest boards:

What is your normal workflow or process like?

I sketch like mad. Doodle and rip out ideas from magazines, make pictures of everything I see that interests me. I do a lot of “drive by shootings” or “drive by snapping” when my husband is driving. But sketching is the first step and more sketching. Then I hit the computer and see what happens there. I walk away a lot and take a break. Getting feedback is important too. It’s nice to have a core group of peeps to give you honest feedback. I take some; leave some and go with what I feel is “right”. Even then, designs always feel like a work in progress; that urge to tweak is hard to overcome!

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
There’s no magic number. Some take many and others are like, “Yes, that’s it!” But it takes more than a few times. I start. Leave. Come back to it. Redo. Tweak. It’s a process and I try to give myself enough time to fine tune. Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way. Many times I’m designing under serious time constraints!

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?

  • Pencil and Paper
  • Writing down words; word association
  • Mood Boards
  • iPhone
  • Evernote
  • Stepping away from the computer
  • Recognizing patterns
  • Understanding audience
  • Understanding function
  • Design isn’t about being an artist.

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
I’m not sure there is an easy part of the design process and I say that because I think design means different things to different people. It’s hard to evaluate because design encompasses more than just the end result.

I think one of the most challenging parts of the design process is breaking out of your own patterns and what is familiar or tried and true. It’s hard to break your own habits so it’s important to break out of routines especially when working for yourself.

Do you have a favorite font?
Do I really have to name just one? OK, one of my favorite places to go for typefaces is Village based out of Boston, MA. They have a great selection of typefaces from independent designers (I’m all about Galaxie Polaris at the moment). I’m also swooning over the work of Maximiliano Sproviero of Lian Types. His typefaces are incredibly sexy. Here is Reina:

Favorite pen?
My pink Tornado pen by Retro 1951

Favorite notebook?
I use napkins, scrap paper, post it notes… maybe I should get one to keep them together! My problem is that the notebooks I do get, I love the newness of them and hate to write in them. Weird, I know. There’s a paper store, Papelera Palermo in Buenos Aires I’m dying to visit for notebooks.

Favorite design tool?
Music. Right now, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals helps me a lot during the afternoons. The Decemberists – love their new album, “The King is Dead”. I’m also a big Norah Jones fan and I love Stan Getz.

What was your wedding invitation like?
It was simple with custom calligraphy on rich, creamy cotton paper. The invitation set was letterpress printed using a charcoal grey ink. It was a winter wedding (January) in New Mexico. I wanted it to reflect warmth and be down-to-earth but still classy.

Did you send out a Christmas card? If so, what was it like?

We did!

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.
Red Ribbon Happiness Holiday Photo Cards. I love working with photography and the story behind this is that we were visiting friends in Pittsburgh on our way to the LOOK3 photo festival when I realized I needed to get a holiday card design submitted.

Red Ribbon Happiness Holiday Photo Cards by Coco Paperie

So I opted for simple after trying a variety of ideas because I didn’t have a lot of time. My husband’s suitcase has a red ribbon on it to help distinguish it from all the other black carry-ons and once I saw that, “lightbulb”!

Did you know when you designed Opera that it was brilliant right away and that it would be an amazing party, birthday or wedding invitation? It’s such a wonderfully effortless and elegant design—one of my favorites!
Thank you and no. Every time someone purchases a design, I feel extremely flattered. I love it when Opera is letterpress printed. The fine lines and typography really shine with that printing process.

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
I love the holiday challenges. They get me in the mood early for my favorite times of the year.

How does living in Oregon influence your design?
Oh the nature! We’re surrounded by it. 1 hour to either the desert, the ocean, or the mountains. The Pacific Northwest truly is heaven.

What are the places in your hometown that you would recommend a visitor check out?

The Japanese Garden

The Chinese Garden

Washington Park

Portland Art Museum

A walk or bike ride along the Willamette River

Sauvie Island (just outside the city) and a great place to ride a bike or pick berries – yum!

Definitely check out all the neighborhoods for shopping, food and people watching. My favorite places are Mississippi Avenue, Hawthorne, The Pearl District, Nob Hill, Alberta Arts and. N. Williams.

Some of my favorite restaurants include Ned Ludd, Tabla, Castagna, Caffe Mingo, Paley’s Place, Por Que Non, Screen Door, Tasty-n-Sons, Clyde Common, the Heathman Hotel, Ping and Toro Bravo. Beaker and Flask is a nice place for drinks.

The carts at SE 12th and SE Hawthorne. (If you like food carts, check out this blog: Food Carts Portland) Prost at N. Mississippi and N. Skidmore is also a fun place to hang out. There really are too many great places to eat and drink in Portland.

The Ace Hotel, The Nines and The Jupiter. All different lodging experiences and all very cool.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
I take a walk or go out to dinner or go window shopping. Fashion is a great influence and photography.

Where do you like to shop? What are your favorite stores?
Omg. There are too many to list! I’ve had to hold myself back on shopping since being self-employed but here are some of my favorites:



Mjölk Shop has the most beautiful things.

Felt & Wire

Garnet Hill

In Portland:

Suite 6

Mabel and Zora

Issac Hers

Ampersand Vintage

For wedding dresses, Lena Medoyeff. I bought my wedding dress here.


Nuvrei: Chocolate cookies!

Lark Press

What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?

The Thought Kitchen by Nau

You are the river

From Me to You

What designers do you really admire?

There are so many designers I admire and how about some women?

Precious Bugarin of Precious Bugarin Design

Peggy Wong, Blue Pool Road

Kristin Heide, Senior Designer at Squarespace

Tricia Orkin of Papercut

Tara Hogan of Ink + Wit

Is there a celebrity or famous locale whose style or aesthetic you envy or want to mimic?
There isn’t anyone I want to mimic but I do love Gweneth Paltrow’s taste.

Did you have a New Year’s resolution?
Yes! My resolution was to take more time off! It hasn’t happened yet and it’s almost the end of May! I see a vacation in my future…

What advice would you give a new designer?

  • Remember to take risks and learn as much as you can about money and business. If you can understand the business (“the money”) you’ll can base and sell decisions that not only perk the ears of your left-brain counterparts but also provide design solutions that will benefit your own pocket.
  • Budget to invest in your own business. Money makes money. Create partnerships with people who have different but complementary skill sets from you.
  • Create your own products! Passive income is wonderful.
  • Lastly, check your ego. Design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Be open to ideas, ways of seeing and solutions that may be different from your own.

Thank you for all your wonderful nuggets of fun information and wisdom Deb! It was a lot of fun spending some time getting to know you.

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Yolanda

    Hello Deb… so wonderful to learn more about you and your design aesthetics… very insightful interview.

  2. @Yolanda ~ Thank you, that’s so nice to hear 🙂

  3. Jen Wick

    Deb, it’s wonderful to learn more about you – you are phenomenal designer and I’m even more impressed because you are self-taught! Great interview!

  4. brandy

    great feature!

  5. Great interview Deb! I got such a kick out of your reference to “commercial art.” 🙂

  6. @Jen ~ Aw, Thank you so much! *smiling*

    @Renee ~ Hah, yea… that does date me 😛

  7. Sandra Pons

    Great interview. Love your work Deb! I particularly like your advice to new designers. This old designer is going to take heed!

  8. Thanks so very much for the awesome interview! I think that your advice was both useful and something that I needed to hear. Thanks so very much for a great feature!

  9. Learned even more about a good friend…lovely interview…great work.

  10. @Sandra ~ Thank you and I’m glad you found something helpful 🙂

    @Shelley ~ I’m so glad and I need to read my own advice from time to time!

    @Melissa ~ If this is the Melissa I’m thinking of… you made that photo above from our wedding of me trying to sneak up to the 2nd floor in the freezing cold and not mess up my hair or dress 🙂

  11. Meg G.

    Loved the interview! And your holiday card was beautiful! Thanks for sharing a bit about you and all of the cool resources. You are a talented lady!

  12. Wonderful interview–thanks for sharing your wisdom! And for the record, I took “Commercial Design” in high school 😉

  13. @Meg ~ Aw, thanks. You’re sweet. I have a massive eating and shopping in Portland, Oregon list.

    @Oliva ~ Cool. There really are a lot of us out in the wild 🙂

  14. great interview. thank you for the complement deb, wow!!! we really should meet up, i’m slowly getting back to work post baby 🙂

  15. Jessica Y

    Great interview – thanks for sharing your insights! “Opera” is such an amazing, classic design – you are so talented 🙂

  16. @Precious ~ 😀 That would be great and you are so welcome. Glad to recognize an awesome designer and instructor.

    @Jessica ~ Glad you found it helpful and thank you about Opera. You’re so kind!

  17. Pingback: Ribbon Holiday Photo Cards

  18. Hailey M

    It was so nice to ‘meet you’!! Really enjoyed your interview – and LOVE your Opera design. Thanks for the introduction to those typefaces as well… gorgeous!

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