Meeting up with Marabou’s Brandy Brown

I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Minted designer Brandy Brown and her adorable family over the holidays while visiting my family in Seattle. We met for coffee. Brandy has just recently starting drinking coffee and so she got a hazelnut, vanilla, mocha, which she could barely finish. (I, of course, had no trouble with my extra large latte.) It’s clear from just one meeting that this girl has no shortage of energy! We went on a power walk through Lincoln Park down to the gorgeous water, where we met up with her husband and daughter.

Brandy's husband and daughter at the beach

Brandy's husband and daughter at the beach

Have you always lived in Washington? Yes. I attended a small high school in a even smaller town.

Did you go to art school? After high school I studied a little graphic design and art history at the Art Institute of Seattle. I dropped out after a year and a half to enjoy some traveling in Europe. After returning home I landed a great job in downtown Seattle at a modeling agency.

Not surprisingly, Brandy is a former model.

Not surprisingly, Brandy is a former model

How did you get started in graphic design?
One night I came across a Minted ad and it mentioned something about a design challenge. I was immediately curious and thus entered my first competition. This month marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of my dream career. I have Minted to thank for creating such an amazing platform for independent designers.

How did you pick the name Marabou?

The Marabou Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family. I chose it as homage to my daughter, Ava. She is a never ending source of inspiration. Since becoming a mother my philosophy has been that… clean design & little people go hand & hand. Ava loves all things girly–like mother, like daughter! When I am designing for the opposite sex, I tap into my husband’s aesthetic, which is very minimal, modern, and crisp.

Brandy's daughter Ava at 12 months

Brandy's daughter Ava at 12 months

Marabous girly Brolly Valentines Day Card

Marabou's girly Brolly Valentine's Day Card

You are obviously a very passionate person… what are you in love with right now?
I love raw oysters. I’ve had the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix CD on replay since June.
I love cats, but own two fish. I’m very particular about wrapping paper & have a soft spot for doilies.

Brandy's office

Brandy's office

A peak into Brandy's home

A close-up of a very cool chair print

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

One of the things that makes Minted great is that our community of designers live all over the world and so many of our designers are really inspired by the communities and geography in which they live. Consistent with the sweeping national locavore movement, we’re seeing some of our customers trying to support their communities by choosing cards designed by local designers. Brandy says she loves living in Seattle where “you’re constantly surrounded by beauty. I find lots of inspiration in nature. I’m privileged to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we enjoy all the seasons–from the cold, dark days of winter to the vibrant colors of Fall.”

I asked Brandy to share with us her top five things to do in Seattle just in case any of you are headed Northwest in the New Year.

1. Ferry ride to Orcas Island

A view from the Orcas Ferry

A view from the Orcas Ferry

2. Walks along Lincoln Park
3. Shopping at Moxie Papergoods & Gifts
4. Amtrak Train ride to Portland, OR (weekend getaway)
5. Dining at Barolo

Barolo in Seattle

Barolo in Seattle

Since Brandy had such fun Seattle recommendations and because she has an adorable little girl, I thought I’d also ask her for her favorite, well-designed baby products.

Ava's playroom

Ava's playroom

1. David Netto’s moderne Crib

2. Boon’s Flair highchair

3. Binth Baby Book
4. Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Baby Diapers & Canus Li’l Goat Milk Baby Wipes
5. Esthex Naomi Fuchsia Doll

6. Wheely Bug, bumble bee
7. Mary Had A Little Amp, by Various Artists (audio CD)

8. Wooden Doll Pram in Natural from Haba Toys

9. Birds Of A Feather Mobile

Brandy's home office

The mobile is above the mirror on the left. Also, note Brandy's beloved wrapping paper.

10. Personalized Stork Marquee on canvas

*Marabou’s #1 beverage for expectant mother’s (besides H2O)… Dry Soda! It keeps you entertained during the holidays and it’s refreshing during the summer months.

Finally, I’m fairly certain that with all of your energy and enthusiasm for life you must have a New Year’s resolution?

To learn to do my own taxes and to teach myself the language of love, French!


A little inspiration

If you’re having trouble getting inspired for the current Keep in Touch Good Housekeeping Challenge, check out the new website Letterheady. It’s a curated collection of famous and not so famous people’s letterhead.

Not surprisingly, Albert Einstein kept it super simple:

Walt Disney Studio’s was quite lively:

Elivis’s is pretty comical:

Nat King Cole makes nice use of contrasting fonts:

And this not so famous one is really sweet:

And if you haven’t already check out Letterheady’s sister site Letters of Note. It just might help you get started writing the perfect Valentine! By, the way lots of Minted Valentine photo cards are now for sale! Beat the rush–order today! xoxoxo


Real Simple winners announced

The winners of our Real Simple 10th Year Celebration Challenge have finally been announced! It certainly took us a bit of time to announce the winners, but these excellent party invitations were worth the wait. Our community had so much fun dreaming up ways for Real Simple to announce their upcoming tenth anniversary.

We were deeply honored to have Real Simple’s design department, headed by Janet Froelich, their esteemed Creative Director, serve as the guest judge for this challenge. Janet is pretty much as big as it gets in the design world. (Before Real Simple, she was the longtime Creative Director of the The New York Times Magazine.) Janet and her team chose Uplifting Achievement by Lauren-Dawn McBurney for their Judge’s Prize.

Uplifting Achievement by Laurel-Dawn McBurney

uplifting achievement by Laurel-Dawn McBurney

What  Real Simple loved about it: We chose the Uplifting Achievement Party entry because it communicates a clever, unexpected concept in a clean and clear way. The invitation could be used for business-related milestones, for sure, but it could also be used for more personal milestones—for example, a 10th anniversary party for that couple who is not all about hearts and flowers.

One of Real Simple’s runner-ups was also an Editor’s Pick:

forever by Oscar+Emma

forever by Oscar+Emma

What  Real Simple loved about it: It’s clean and simple, yet still visually interesting. The numbers themselves are the art.

First prize (as voted by our wonderful community):

sweet success by sweet street gals

sweet success by sweet street gals

What  Minted loved about it: Typography has certainly never looked so tasty! In fact, it looks so delicious it made our design associate Kim want to eat it. (Not surprisingly, it was her favorite design. )  It could easily be used as baby shower invitations or girls birthday party invitations… actually, come to think of it, we know a lot of grown women who adore cupcakes more than any child ever could!

Second prize:

standout party by R Studio

standout party by R Studio

What  Minted loved about it: Numbers on their own are just so beautiful and here their perfect placement creates a work of art. Renee of R Studio‘s work never looks overworked or forced.

Tied for third:

typography cake by Karen Glenn

typography cake by Karen Glenn

What  Minted loved about it: It’s so cool how the text combines to form a cake illustration. And we love the lines on the bias through the candle.

Tied for third:

Savvy Celebration by Jessica Johnson

Savvy Celebration by Jessica Johnson

What Minted loved about it: This is just classic design perfectly executed and could be used for anything and everything!

A favorite in the Top Ten:

stargazing by Frooted Design

stargazing by Frooted Design

What Minted Loved About It: Natasha thinks this is so sweet and romantic. She thinks the text is laid out masterfully and likes how it references the stars.  It’s not easy to combine that many types of font in such a small area.

A favorite Editor’s Pick:

exceptional celebration by sweet street gals

exceptional celebration by sweet street gals

What Minted loved about it: Annie Clark, whose love for hand lettering is no secret, was instantly smitten by this entry. She’s personally begging these ladies to create a whole alphabet. Katherine Cheng loved how unexpectedly delicate and modern this design feels. The aluminum background is very elegant, while the touches of bright tangerine give the design a hip, energizing touch.

A favorite Editor’s Pick:

thoughts on birthday by Moglea

thoughts on birthday by Moglea

What Minted loved about it: Such a fresh, fun and modern design! Annie loves that each speech bubble can be customizable –  just imagine how much fun our creative customers will having thinking of ways to fill them.

A favorite Editor’s Pick:

modern swash by koshi

modern swash by koshi

What Minted loved about it: Jody can’t stop staring at the “10” . The illustration would look great used as a recurring motif for all sorts of party decorations, and maybe even a screen-printed over-sized poster!


A huge congratulations to the newly engaged!

We know lots of you lovebirds made plans to tie the knot over this past holiday season, as one in five engagements happens between Christmas and New Year’s. And why not? It is such a festive and cozy time of year!

And so the excitement begins… date setting, dress shopping, and our personal favorite: invites!!! A few of our new wedding invitations are already generating quite a buzz, including a full page of editorial in InStyle Weddings:

instyle-cover1 instyle-minted1 instyle-the-invitation1

And a great highlight in’s feature on Affordable Wedding Invitations.


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


Season’s Greetings

This year has been a whirlwind. We’ll hold off on the year-end recap for now, but 2009 was such a remarkable year, it’s worth pausing and saying thanks to all of our incredibly supportive and enthusiastic customers and designers around the world. Wishing you and your loved ones much rest and happiness in the new year.

Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year,

The Team at Minted

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It’s not too late!

If you’re like most of us and haven’t had a chance to come up for air amidst the craziness of the holiday season then you might not have gotten to checking Christmas cards off your to-do list. Not to worry: New Year photo cards are the perfect way around rapidly approaching Christmas and Hanukkah deadlines. And this way you can take your time addressing them and even writing personal notes. Here are a few of our favorites:

I like how this one really emphasizes the new year: 2010!

Elegant New Year by Annie Clarke

Elegant New Year by Annie Clarke

This is one of our most popular cards reworked with a New Year message.

float + peace New Year Photo Card

Float + Peace New Year Photo Card

You can even do a New Year’s Minibook card with photos from your holiday.

Annie Clarks Hip New Year Holiday Minibook

Annie Clark's Hip New Year Holiday Minibook

Or how about a Happy Winter card… you can send this one through February even!

winter berries by oscar+emma holiday minibook

Winter Berries by Oscar+Emma Holiday Minibook

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Busy Times!

As you can imagine, it’s been a busy December for Minted. We’re thrilled that so many people have taken notice of our great design and we’re seeing more and more Minted cards on other’s mantles.

Our recipe Minibook cards were featured in Food & Wine magazine as a fun gift idea.



The Early Show also showcased our Minibook cards featuring their anchors.





And, finally The San Francisco Chronicle, our hometown paper, included Minted in their holiday card trend story.

Didn’t they do such a cute job making our cards into a pretty wreath?!


A busy day for Minted!

Yesterday was a very exciting morning for Minted. We had our first television debut on the Early Show, followed just an hour later by a feature on the Today Show. Apparently our personalized stationery and new skinny-wrap™ address labels are a huge hit!

Amy Goodman, Senior Editor All You Magazine

The lovely Amy Goodman led the Early Show segment.

Amy and Harry

Amy and anchor Harry Smith had a lot of fun on set together.

Our cards on TV!

Our cards on TV! Candice Leigh's Zebra in purple really popped!

More of our cards on TV

Some of our more masculine cards for men and boys.

Don't they look just lovely on the big screen?!

Don't they look just lovely on the big screen?! The Sophia card (at left) is by Sarah Lenger. Modern Dots (at right) by Oscar+Emma is shown in Minted's signature green.

Style expert Alison Deyette, of,  talked up Minted’s personal stationery on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda in a feature about hostess gifts for under $50.

Hoda & Kathie Lee

Hoda & Kathie Lee are quite the pair.

Alison Deyette

Alison Deyette looked very chic.

The ladies ooohing and ahhhing over the great gifts featured

The ladies ooohing and ahhhing over the great gifts featured. One of the other fun ideas was giving exotic sea salts in cute labeled glass containers.

Our cards and skinny wraps on the Today Show

Our cards and skinny wraps on the Today Show.

Kathie Lee's cards

Kathie Lee's cards are called Eraser and are by Oscar+Emma.

Hoda, Kathy, and Ali's cards with skinny wrap address labels

Hoda's Contrail card is by Marabou. Ali's Candy Dots cards are by Cayce Cobb. The cards are shown with coordinating skinny wrap address labels.


Minted on the Early Show

The word is getting out! Minted’s personal stationery was featured this morning on the Early Show in a guide to holiday gifts for $50 and less. Amy Goodman, a senior editor at All You magazine, was very excited to share both our affordable gift price point and how we source our designs from an international community of designers. Early Show anchor Harry Smith commented on how nice it is to find a personal note amidst all of your bills and junk mail.

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