Real Simple and the Number 10

We’re thrilled to launch our newest design challenge, which celebrates Real Simple magazine’s 10th-year anniversary with a design challenge theme around the number “10”. The magazine will be marking its 10th year of delighting readers in April 2010. Real Simple‘s art department, led by Janet Froelich, will be judging our challenge.  Increasing a quantity by “an order of magnitude” most often means multiplying the quantity by ten.  It feels to us at Minted that this challenge is an order of magnitude more exciting than others!  To inspire our design challenge around ten-year celebrations, we’d love to hear about your favorite cultural references to the number 10, or ten-year stories of any kind.


Here’s one from me to start this off.  Marc Benioff, the Founder and CEO of, is quoted in “The Facebook Era” as saying that “in the technology industry, people overestimate what can be accomplished in one year and underestimate what can be accomplished in one decade”.  10 years ago, my business partner Varsha and I bought the URL from a very savvy mother who negotiated hard with us before parting with it.  At the time, she was using the URL to host a website for her 7-year old daughter, named Eve.  During the discussion, she put me on the phone to negotiate the sale with her daughter.  (Needless to say, that was the toughest negotiation I’ve ever had, since back then I had no experience negotiating with children, a condition that my 5-year old son has now cured me of.)  Eve ultimately got cash, stock in, an honorary board seat, a trip to Disneyland, educational software, a computer, and lots of press interviews. was founded, sold cosmetics online, and was ultimately sold.  Though Varsha and I were told a few times by venture capitalists that “women don’t buy things online” (no, I am not kidding), the cosmetics business has thrived and become a big business online along with a lot of other things people didn’t think would ever be sold successfully online.  And just a few weeks ago, now 17-year old Eve reached out and contacted me through Facebook – a reminder to me of how much, both people and technology, can change in one decade.


A Few of my Favorite (Type-Related) Things

My love for typography is no secret. I like to impress (torture) my friends and loved ones by identifying fonts in movie credits, billboards and print ads. Did you know Woody Allen always uses EF Windsor for his film credits and that the new Tonight Show With Conan O’brien opted for Neutra Face for their logo? Admit it, you’re pretty impressed. I know I’m not alone here so I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite type things:
The Rather Difficult Font Game

The Rather Difficult Font Game

Some people play solitaire on their computer, I play the Rather Difficult Font Game on And they’re not lying — it’s really hard. Can you name a typeface by only an ampersand? I’ve challenged Koshi several times to a font identification challenge but he has yet to accept.


This documentary is a typophile’s dream. Massimo Vignelli, David Carson, Stefan Sagmeister and Paula Scher are all in this film – what more could a design obsessed gal want? It more than a movie about a font, it’s about the history of graphic design.


Ampersand T-Shirt by House Industries
Not only does the team at House Industries produce amazing typefaces (who isn’t obsessed with Neutra Face right now?) but they make t-shirts to outfit every type obsessed boy and girl.


Upper Case “R” in Hellenic Wide

Favorite font? Pssshhh, true connoisseurs of type have favorite letters. For me the R in Hellenic Wide does it for me. The slab serif, the perfect curve in the leg. This letter makes me wish my name started with an R.

I know the Minted community is equally type obsessed. What are your favorite letters, any current font crushes, and Koshi if you’re ever up for a font identification challenge, well you know where I sit.


Catching up with The Happy Envelope

We had the pleasure of chatting with Sarah Pattison from The Happy Envelope recently, and she gave us a peek into the genius behind a brand known for its versatile, feminine, and often nature-inspired aesthetic.  Sarah uses an offset printing method that gives her wedding invitations a luxurious, clean feel, meanwhile offering  clients an accessible price point. You can see her entire collection here.

Happy Envelope

minted: How did you start The Happy Envelope?
Sarah: I came down to Tennessee from New England to go to design school at the University of Tennessee. It was fun, warm, and friendly here. I worked at a small design studio for a few years and started designing stationery and invites for friends—I thought it was a lot more fun than doing logos at work. So, when I lost my job, my husband said, “Now is the time. You might as well try it, and if it works, great.” And, here we are seven years later, so I guess it worked!

minted: Your designs pair expanses of clean, white space with delicate detail in all shades of the rainbow. Have you noticed any new trends in color recently?
Sarah: We see color trends come and go a LOT. I remember having brides a couple of years ago coming in and saying “I’m really excited about pale pink and chocolate brown” and I would think, ‘Oh, girlfriend you are two years too late.’ But I think in our industry we see things before they catch on with customers.

Six years ago it was the warms and now it’s the cools. Gray is the new neutral. People are doing a lot more blues and purples. I’m seeing a lot of eggplant or grape or magenta and beet. I am personally a warm person so I have to do a brain shift…although I am loving seeing tone on tone, so you would use a magenta with a violet and its gorgeous! It’s a way to incorporate something on the same side of the color wheel in a way that is just so pleasing to the eye. Or people are doing more tone on tone blue, like a turquoise with a navy, and I love, love that. Or a hot pink and a chartreuse. I’m happy to see the comeback of black. For a long time it was chocolate brown text with a color and I’m exited to see that people are willing to go black again. It’s so bold and crisp on a white paper.

Gingko Goodness

Also, I’m seeing a more natural palette — khaki, sand, dark brown. It’s great because it gives you that earthy feel, and with everyone being so “green” it has an environmentally-conscious element without saying it outright.

minted: And what’s hot in typefaces?
Sarah: In the last few years, we’ve really seen mixed typefaces take off. We’ve always done that here at the Happy Envelope, but now it’s even more mixed, for example an all caps serif with a really ornate script all in the same body of copy.  I love seeing this change because six years ago, the main focus for a wedding invitation was making the bride and groom’s names stand out from everything else’s name. Now, now it’s more detailed—it’s all about taking care to treat each line as an individual entity that should be crafted and made beautiful.  We’re also seeing more sans-serifs, even for wedding, which was rare just a few years ago because serif feels much more traditional.

minted: How do you pull it off?
Sarah: I would put my own limit at three fonts, period. I never mix an italic and a script—it just looks silly and italic just looks like slanted type so if you’re going to use a script don’t use an italic.  When it comes to type, I err on the conservative side because it needs to be highly readable, so I tend to stay clear of ALL script, especially on an A7 or A9.  I don’t even use three fonts often—I usually just mix two.  For new designers I would say that you have to be very careful when you go more than that. A little bit of discipline on the front-end goes a long way on the back-end.

minted: How has living in Tennessee inspired your work?
Sarah: For one thing I grew up on the beach, right on the bay in Rhode Island, and I just loved it—the wind in the hair and the salt in the air. It was a bit of a a shock to move to landlocked Tennessee, but there is a whole different beauty here. The colors are all shades of green, rather than blue. And the mountains! We’re right at the foothills of the Smokies, and they are called that because it looks like there is a haze of smoke around them. The Smokies have really gorgeous purples and blues—you’ll never see anything like that where I’m from.

We live in a pretty rural little town right outside of Knoxville. It’s a very small town, and I don’t know if it effects my design sensibilities directly, but it’s fun to be in a small community and to get to work directly with people.

minted: When you were starting out as a designer, where did you draw your inspiration from?
Sarah: Even when I had no money as a college kid, I would buy clip art books at garage sales and art stores. I would scan things in from the library and go through old cookbooks.

minted: How do you know when a design is done and it is as perfect as it can be?
Sarah: It is really hard. At the end I’m usually taking things away rather than adding to it. It’s not anything I can put my finger on — it’s more a feeling of what’s right. For myself, if I keep trying to add things and it doesn’t feel right – I must be finished.

And then of course I am really, really particular about what our studio and home looks like and what our house looks like. People who have a passion for design want their whole world to look good all the time. I definitely love shopping for clothes and I love having things look a certain way. My husband Pat told me we’re done painting the living room: we’ve only done it five times!


minted: What color is your living room now?
Sarah: We had this really fantastic light olive green for the least three years and then one day I was siting in the living room, and it just felt like I was living in a cave, so we just painted it a light cream. Our dining room is a dark cream, so there were go again with the tone on tone. The light cream really opened up the whole room though—the art really pops.

minted: What is the storefront like?
Sarah: We really lucked out. Our studio was redone right before we moved in. It’s all exposed brick with great white trim everywhere, hanging chandeliers, and big, white shelves. It’s just a fantastic space and we didn’t have to do anything to it.

It’s 2,000 square feet with 30 square feet of retail. In the front part, we only sell our own products. The boxed cards and note cards are printed here, and we also meet some brides here.

The whole area is fantastic. In Clinton, on Market Street, there are antique stores all up and down our street. You get really good bargains. I got a shelf unit and metal cabinet for $25. There’s a great mix of clean fresh paper on old beat up pieces of furniture. All of it is super cheap, and you don’t have to get anything shipped.

minted: Your design aesthetic is clean, with lines and splashes of color precisely arranged on large expanses of white. Would you say your organizational style is similarly clean and organized?
Sarah: I’m not horribly disorganized, but I definitely wish I were better organized.  For a long time, I was messy, but I knew where everything was. I was organized in my own disorganization, but then I had two babies really close together, and I swear to you that since that first baby came around I can’t even remember where my keys are. It must have burst half my brain when I gave birth to my child. I’ve heard the same things from other moms, so it must really be true, but in terms of images, I keep really organized. My design files and workspace are really organized — that’s a must.

minted: What is on your desk right now?
Sarah: Two pantone books, color chips, paper swatches, a bunch of business cards, scratched up post its everywhere for myself, a pile of samples that I am going to do something with,  a clip art book, and a clip art disc on the desk. Its always a little on the messy side —  I definitely tend towards a happy mess I think.

minted: It seems that in the stationery industry, there are a lot of supportive husbands throwing their weight behind their designer wives. How do you make the wife-husband team work?
Sarah: Communication. It’s the key. We’ve got to talk. It is funny because people ask about what it’s like to work with my husband, and think it must be so hard. He and I were talking about it and he said, “I like hanging out with you or I wouldn’t have married you, or spend all this time working.” We know each other well enough that we both know my strengths and weaknesses. I don’t do anything ever with invoicing, and when I do I think I mess it up anyway. So we just have to communicate. About the invoicing thing, he always says, “Why don’t you just let me do that.”

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Last call holiday card judge’s picks.

We are continually stunned by the incredible talent in our design community and by how many great designs are entered in each challenge — the last call holiday card challenge was no exception. We asked our guest judges for their favorites and, like us, they had a hard time picking a favorite.

Rachel Levin, senior travel editor at Sunset magazine, has never sent a Christmas card — but she’s excited to do so for the very first time this year with her new daughter front and center. She says she “leaned towards more general, less Christmasy” designs when making her selection.

Rachel: These are my top two. Even though I think you only want one; it was a tough call — so many fun ones!

cocoa Holiday Photo Cards
cocoa Holiday Photo Cards

retro greeting Holiday Photo Cards
retro greeting Holiday Photo Cards

Lindsay Bierman, Editor-in-Chief at Coastal Living.

Lindsay: This was tough — so many great choices and beautiful graphics. I went back and forth, but if I had to choose just one I’d say the space needle would be my top pick. Since the challenge was to refer to a city or region, I love how the card can be recycled for use as an architectural tree ornament!

Seattle Space Needle Ornament   Holiday Photo Cards
Seattle Space Needle Ornament Holiday Photo Cards

Tied for second, I really like the “bright holidays ahead” (although no place mentioned) and the “santa cruz basics” card. I liked the integration of type, graphics, and photo on the bright holidays, and adored the surfboard motif on santa cruz. Both are really bright and cheerful graphics that don’t overshadow the photo. I’d personally send the surfboard, but the conversion to an ornament gave Seattle the slight advantage.

Bright Holidays Ahead Holiday Photo Cards
Bright Holidays Ahead Holiday Photo Cards

santa cruz basics Holiday Photo Cards
santa cruz basics Holiday Photo Cards

I can’t wait to see what your visitors choose!


What the foodies want in their paper goods.

We asked leading food magazine editors to be special judges in our recent holiday party invitations challenge. Here is what they picked. Congratulations to the Minted design community again for coming up with fantastic designs for this challenge.

Emily Kaiser, Associate Food Editor, Food & Wine

Here’s my favorite:
Light Bright Party Invitations
Light Bright Party Invitations

by escargot studio

It jumped right out at me from the page displaying all 140 entries; I particularly loved the light strings, it was quite a feat the way they were both elegant and playful at the same time. I also loved how the warm gray background allowed the information about the party to look clear and, well, inviting. The choice of fonts also helped make the invitation clear and easy to read.

Close runners up:

Snowy Bloom Party Invitations
Similarly enjoyed the fun design and clean presentation.

This Little Light Party Invitations
I loved the color and the candles; the way the candles floated on the page, there seemed to be a surreptitious allusion to the Adams Family.

Bird on a Branch Party Invitations
I was drawn to the robin on the branch and the play on red and green.

Francis Lam, Contributing Editor Gourmet
I’m so glad you got such an enthusiastic response, and with so many wonderful entries. It wasn’t easy to choose from many designs I really liked, but here we go. I have a pick and a few runners up.

My pick:

oh, joy Party Invitations
oh, joy Party Invitations

by Stacey Day

I love the colors here, using the traditional Christmas combination but in a muted, restrained way. But even more, I love the subtle contrast and harmony. The green circles are a happy mess, set and anchored by the graceful strokes of the “Oh Joy” before them – the invitation speaks of a party both elegant and playful. I’d want to go to this party, dressing up neatly for it, knowing that we’ll all be a little sloppier by the end.

Runners up:

Holiday Elephant by Erin Rau

This is a really lovely way to express winter; the rich blue and rough-edged white space suggest sky and snow, but the roundness of the elephant suggests softness, plushness. It’s a really appealing invitation. It gives a real sense of warmth. The text fonts don’t work for me super well, though – I find them a little busy and heavy in relation to the simple curves of the elephant and the simplicity of the rest of the design.

Decorative Ornaments by Lauren Mummé

Really beautiful; I love the warm colors and the “Tis the Season” font. It’s deliciously retro, like a card I might have found in my
mother’s attic.

Up Up and Away by Milkmaid Press

I have to confess that my favorite part of this card is also, to me, the most inexplicable. What does a hot air balloon have to do with this party? It’s not really clear from the rest of the card. Still, that graphic is gorgeous with its fine lines and textures, a quality echoed lightly in the elegant fonts below. I keep wanting to stare at the balloon, but the weight of the word “Celebrate” keeps drawing my eye to itself, a nice trick that makes the balloon really feel like it keeps floating away from me.

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Interior designers weigh in on their favorites.

We were over the moon when three internationally renowned interior designers signed on to guest judge our Inspired Personalized Stationery Challenge. Their involvement really jump-started our community and inspired hundreds of stunning designs. After giving us their final picks, we picked their brain about how they arrived at their tough decision.

minted: In general, what do you look for in personal correspondence cards?

jay jeffers: I want something that reflects my personality. I send many handwritten notes to friends, colleagues, and clients because I feel its a more personal gesture and gives you the opportunity to create something beautiful.

martha angus: A piece of personal stationery should really be a portrait of the person sending it out. It’s asking a lot; you have to get the whole person down onto one tiny piece of paper.

orlando diaz-azcuy: I want the recipient to be able to identify the sender even before reading.

minted: How did you arrive at your final decision?

jay jeffers: Monogram by SunnyJuly – is elegant, modern, and versatile – I feel I could send it to a friend or a business colleague.
Mongram Personal Stationery
Monogram Personal Stationery

martha angus: I have a fine art background so those designs really resonated with me. The final decision was agonizing! It was really difficult to widdle it down past my top ten. In the end I picked what I love: bright and colorful. Candy Buttons by Cayce Cobb reminded me of Damien Hirst–I used to have one of his paintings hanging behind my desk.
Candy Buttons Personal Stationery
Candy Buttons Personal Stationery

orlando diaz-azcuy: typehead full stop by six other press looks like it identifies with me and my name and represents my attitude of minimal and sensual.
typehead full stop Personal Stationery
typehead full stop Personal Stationery

minted: What were your other close favorites?

jay jeffers:
I really liked Simplicity by Amanda Larsen and Jacquard by Vinyl. They’re all elegant and simple, and feel balanced to me. Each is also very individual.

martha angus: There were WAY too many wonderful designs to choose from and it amazed and it overwhelmed me! There is a staggering amount of talent that Minted draws in. It was such a treat to be on the other side of the design process. Thank you SO MUCH for all this genius sent my way!!

Loved Paper Dahlia‘s nob hill.

Loved stacked type for Orlando by annie clark but I realize my name wouldn’t look as good as his does.

I’m also crazy about Gabriela Cartin‘s orange frame.

Marabou‘s posy personal was great.

KRUSHgraphic‘s from martha is fab.

Katie, who works in our office and has a graphic design degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, loved navy rings by jessica jenkins.

talk bubbles by Jody Wody was divine.

orlando diaz-azcuy:
Unity Personal Stationery by R Studio and Mod Flowers Personal Stationery by Amy Fontes Graphic Design were my other favorites.

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Design Trends: Hand Drawn

First off, let me say that I absolutely adore hand drawn elements in design. Much to the chagrin of my family I made them stop every three buildings on a trip to France to take pictures of hand painted signs.

Look at that! Art is all around you! Don’t you see how beautiful the curve in that “S” is??!?!

With my love for all things handmade, it’s been wonderful to see our amazingly talented Minted community incorporating hand drawn elements into their work.

Carved Tree by pottsdesign
carved tree Save the Date Cards

Emily Potts of pottsdesign beautifully married a rustic illustration of a tree with clean, classic typography. And all the variable elements that our customers can change right down to the initial carved into the tree are a font — which makes the designers at Minted very happy.

Line Blur by Lili Meng
Line Blur Personal Stationery

Who knew scribbles could feel so modern? Lili Meng’s stationery design is colorful, energetic, unique and hand drawn!

Dry Petals by Gleaux
Dry Petals Personal Stationery

Erika of Gleaux certainly has a knack for layering modern graphics with hand drawn illustration and Dry Petals is a perfect example. Overlaying organic line art brings depth and warmth to her design.

Foggy Holiday by Kimberly Schwede
Foggy Holiday Holiday Photo Cards

Our Last Call Holiday Challenge has just begun we’re already amazed by what our design community is creating. It’s hard not be charmed by Kimberly’s whimsical illustrations of San Francisco. By eschewing clip art Kimberly’s hand drawn elements give this design personality and a truly unique flair all its own.