northstory + co

One on one with Designer Sarah Richardson

Last Fall before BlogPodium, myself and a handful of lucky bloggers were asked to come have tea and join a Q&A session with designer Sarah Richardson. It was quite an experience and in many ways started the ball rolling into a year that changed the trajectory of my site.

Well, earlier this month I received an email from Sarah’s PR team asking if I wanted to come down and interview Sarah and preview her new collection for Hallmark that features a line of stationary, gift wrap and cards. If you read my site regularly, you know my affinity towards making cards and gift wrapping, so I think it me took about 5 seconds to ask “What time?” Let alone the fact that A) It’s Sarah Richardson and B) if you’ve gone to her office and met her and her amazing team, this was not something I would miss.

Sarah Richardson’s studio is breathtaking on its own. Add in her new collection for Hallmark on display throughout the office, it was complete eye candy in only the way a design by Sarah Richardson could be. Fresh, bright colours, warm pastels and just everything evoked happiness.

Sarah Richardson's office -

Designer Sarah Richardson's line of stationary and gift wrap with Hallmark - northstory (3)

Designer Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line with Hallmark - northstory (3)

Designer Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line with Hallmark - northstory (2)

Designer Sarah Richardson's line of stationary and gift wrap with Hallmark - northstory (5)

For me personally there’s something quite sexy and old world about the tactile feel of card stock and stationary. It may seem like a strange way to describe paper, but it’s like holding a hardcover book in your hands that you have read a dozen times and with it comes that feeling of worn in comfort. Even the scent of the book evokes emotions. You can imagine it in a gorgeously displayed library wall along with all your favourites.

As much as I appreciate the advent of communicating through technology (I text as much as the next person and I mean, look at how I am sharing this post), sending cards and receiving cards have this feeling of a similar throw back to an era where doing so was a big deal. Letters were cherished and put in boxes as keepsakes, holding fast to all the memories of years gone by. Thank You cards were an etiquette must. And stationary itself became works of art.

And that’s one of the first things I asked Sarah when we sat down for our one on one chat. How in an era of ecards and emails, did the collaboration come about and what her hopes for this collection are. Sarah then told me the story in the funny tongue and cheek way that only Sarah could, like the designer and host we’ve grown to love watching on TV over the years.

How did the collaboration with Hallmark come about?

I actually met Patrick Carr who is the president of Hallmark at an art fundraiser – Art with Heart which is a Casey House fundraiser where Canadian artists donate a piece of art and it gets auctioned off. So it was interesting that that was the sort of genesis of this whole project, that started at something that was meaningful and was about original art.

And so he followed up with me after and said “Hey would you be interested in doing a line with Hallmark?” And I said “Yeah, Sure I’d love to!” And so that’s where it started – a few years ago, 3 years ago at least. The actual design part of the process started last June.

Designer Sarah Richardson's line of stationary and gift wrap with Hallmark - northstory (4)

Designer Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line with Hallmark - northstory

Do you find the process of designing cards was different for you than say designing a piece of furniture?

Yes and no. I mean I would compare it…the thing about designing a piece of furniture is it’s a sketch and then it goes to 3D. And so it’s taking a piece of paper and having it come to life. So it’s funny that you ask me that because I was actually looking at frames of furniture I had designed yesterday in the showroom at the manufacturers and seeing how that  sketch had come to life. Which is SO fun, I love doing that. This is different but it’s similar in some ways. For the fabric collection (Sarah has a fabric collection with Kravet), it was designing on the computer, and then colouring it and then eventually a year and a half later it was applied to fabric.

And here, it’s always the transition from screen to something that you can touch and hold. And I think that the through line with everything is, you have an idea, you have a vision, and it’s the combination of pattern and colour and the execution that delivers the ultimate end result. So the fact that all the paper is matte. There’s no shine. There’s no glitter. For me, that’s who I am. I like simple elegance and quiet sophistication as opposed to BAM! Glitzy and glossy!

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark - (3)

That needs to be put on a t-shirt – quiet sophistication. That’s a good quote. What do you hope people take from this collection? I personally because I love cards so much hope people start sending more…

Yes. (Laughs!) I think, that’s the goal with this. In every product line I do my goal is to create the best results for the widest audience. So price point is really important. And it’s a really bad strategy as someone who gets paid based on royalties but so far this is the second collection that I’ve launched that I’ve said how low can we go. Which means how little can I make. But that’s not really what it’s about. The cards are $3.99, a set of 10 note cards is $9.95 and I think .99 cents for a card is really reasonable.

I think I want people to embrace the fact that the written word is so important. And as much as sitting and having meaningful person to person experiences is, it can’t all be by text. And it can’t all be short forms – it’s not all LOL and OMG.

They’re small cards. You don’t have to say much but say something. And mean something and make it heartfelt. And take the time. Because I think taking the time means you care.

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark - (4)

Princess Diana was known to send thank you notes from events she went to and it was her signature thing to do. I think that’s very timeless thing to do.

I think part of it is and I shouldn’t say it’s a disincentive…for me I don’t always find cards that feel like they’re not a good expression of me. And so I want to have a set that I just keep on my desk and you come home and the first thing you do, is you write it out and you stick it in the mail and it’s done. You feel good when you do it and you feel better when you receive it. I mean to know that you did something that imprinted on somebody, that somebody cared enough to send you a note, really brightens your day. You have to remember that. When you drop it in the mailbox or drop it at their door, just remember you did something that made somebody feel good. So my thing is that taking the time to put pen to paper and tell the world how you really feel, is an important approach. I hope people will write more.

I have to ask after seeing all of these cards, are you a fan of typography and if so what is your favourite font?

I am. So (pauses) I am a closet graphic designer. When I was in Grade 5 the first thing I ever wanted to be, the first career I ever knew about was Graphic Design. And that’s what I wanted to be. But I was told by my guidance counselor that I had to have chemistry and Grade 11 chemistry and did not get along. The periodic table was terrifying and I couldn’t master it. So I dropped chemistry and then I thought Well I’ll never be a graphic designer. So I am a total closet graphic designer. To the point where Tommy will tell a story that I will redesign peoples invoices.

So I am always looking at fonts. I spend so much time finding fonts. And then I was told that some of the fonts weren’t available. And I said I can’t accept that. We to get in touch with the designers of these fonts and get these fonts! And we did!

I adore typography. I am a more is more person so I wanted to have everything. I couldn’t just choose 4 fonts that we would use for everything. I think it makes such a difference.

So you don’t have a favourite? I know I am not asking a fair question because I can’t choose just one.

I don’t have a favourite although I would say this one I really love – this is a Dymo font…

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark -  (2)

Oh I love my Dymo label maker!

Right? This card is in a texture. Things for me, it’s about having something somewhat sentimental. Like this reminded me of my Dad has a compulsive need to label everything and that made me think of him. And this one (points to another card)…I think in terms of….oh no I can’t. I like this and this one. I like them all!

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark -  (3)

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark -  (4)

As a former TV producer, I need my story arch. Tell me something funny or unusual that happened during the process of making the collection.

In the licensing process there are a lot of different ways you can approach it. Some people would say Ok here’s my name, let me know how it works out. I can safely say that the Hallmark team had no idea that I would be this involved. (Laughs) I started out the process and I knew how to open a photoshop file. I can’t say I really knew how to work it. And by the end of it I had created all of these files and designs and I needed to have somebody nearby and it was “How do I do that again?” “I’m stuck!” “How about this? Let’s try this! Where are we going to end up!” and that’s the evolution of the collection was me playing around.

And I guess the funniest part is I didn’t pay any attention to what the projected sales were, what the royalties were or anything until I got to the end. And I actually found that out and was like “What did you say? Cause do you do know how long I worked on this?” (Laughs) So I really hope it sells. Because I’ve invested way too much time. But I think when you’re passionate about something it doesn’t matter. I can’t put my name on anything unless I really believe in it and unless I would want it.

Designer Sarah Richardson's line of stationary and gift wrap with Hallmark - northstory (2)

Designer Sarah Richardson's line of stationary and gift wrap with Hallmark - northstory

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark -

I wanted to ask you about design. What is a distinct “Sarah” design or lifestyle philosophy?

I think a signature of what I do is that I want to deliver the most thoughtful and useful result or product to the greatest audience. My thing is I want to help people. And there’s a very earnest element to that. Things need to work. I’m practical by nature and I think especially as a working mom, with 2 kids, it has to work and if it doesn’t work I don’t have any time for it. So my fabric collection is linen and cotton, durable and hard wearing, great looking but natural fibers. I want a sense of playfulness and joyfulness and happiness at home. I think work is challenging for everybody everyday and I want your home environment…I want you to come into your home and love your home. So if I can do anything that helps you feel like you scored…if I can make it easier for you. I endeavor to create solutions that make your life easier and that your experience at home is everything you want it to be and it’s as easy as possible for you to get there. Because I am in the midst of a renovation and I could use some easy right now! (Laughs)

You are on Instagram, on Twitter and other social media, how has that changed how you interact with your audience?

For me, because I do it myself, it’s more personal. It’s not always about sharing the design inspiration, it’s about sharing what inspires me. And I think that’s what I like about Instagram and so everybody has a different approach to what they want to do. Some people say I should only be posting things about design elements but I sort of feel like I think enjoy following people and seeing where they are and what they’re doing, what did they see this morning? If it imprints on me maybe it will be meaningful to someone else. So I think it definitely makes it more immediate and allows you to stay in touch. I think Instagram specifically allows you to have conversations that you may not otherwise have because of how instantaneous it is.

Well we like it when you do it!

Well thank you! You can’t answer them all but you try!

I wanted to thank you for your time. I also wanted to thank you for featuring my wreath on your Show & Share with Sarah this past Christmas. For shamelessly selfish reasons, may I suggest one for cards?

Sure! Absolutely! Maybe we’ll do a DIY one too.

Sarah Richardson's card and stationary line for Hallmark - (2)

You can find Sarah’s collection exclusively at Hallmark Gold Crown Stores across Canada.

For more information and a behind the scenes video of Sarah talking about the collection visit Sarah Richardson Design today.

Sarah Richardson's note for her Hallmark launch -

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  • Reply
    July 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Beautiful! What a gorgeous line of cards, stationary and wrapping…everything Sarah touches turns to gold! Love her. Great interview and post Alex!

  • Reply
    Victoria • Restoring our Victorian
    July 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Lovely! This post is SO you – you are like my card-making guru.

  • Reply
    Gemma Bonham-Carter
    July 10, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Excellent interview, Alex!! So fun to read, and I’m sure you had one fabulous day at her office 🙂

  • Reply
    Meredith Newberry
    July 10, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    How exciting Alex! This is beautiful. I love the idea of having stationary and actually using it. And the way that Sarah designs it, I might have just found the right stuff. Nice work keeping this interview under wraps — you must have been bursting with excitement to share. 🙂

  • Reply
    Megan Preece
    July 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I just picked up a set and a greeting card! Such gorgeous and fresh designs!

  • Reply
    July 14, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Dang girl! This is such a great interview; you are a total pro. Hope you guys get to collaborate more soon.

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