Editor’s Note: This gorgeous typographic poster, made up of Lesli Ink’s hand-drawn letters, was featured in HOW magazine’s Spring 2015 issue as the Best of Show winner in the International Design Awards, which recognizes excellence on a global scale.
Since she was a child, Toronto-based Lesli Ink owner Lesli Ferguson has saved every heartfelt card she’s ever received, amassing boxes upon boxes. So for the holidays last year, Ferguson wanted to send her clients a card that they, too, would cherish. “The holidays are notorious for generic cards, and I wanted to change that,” Ferguson says. “Many of our clients are small business owners just like myself. Over time we have created these amazing connections because we face a lot of the same challenges. I really wanted to show them how much I cared about them.”
The Lesli Ink design team sent each of its 200 clients a card that contained a personal message, a drawing of the client’s initial and a challenge: The first 10 recipients to visit their website and solve a “Wheel of Fortune”–type puzzle would receive a batch of homemade cookies. While many agencies would have ordered a slew of gilded letters and designed only the packaging, the Lesli Ink team designed and hand-drew every single initial in gold ink. The hand-drawn letters project culminated in a beautiful typographic poster screen-printed by Kid Icarus.
From concept to completion, the promotion took three months. “We’re a small team with an abundance of heart and lots of talent, so we made a conscious decision to do it right,” Ferguson says. That included 10-15 minutes to craft each letter and message—about two weeks total—and two days of baking. Because each recipient would receive only one letter, it had to really sing. “Spending the time sourcing inspiration and crafting each letter so that it was individually special across all 26 was the biggest challenge,” Ferguson says.
The team members drew from a hat eight or nine letters that they were responsible for designing. “Some designs came easy, and others took many iterations and revisions,” Ferguson says. “The process was fun and challenging and definitely honed our lettering skills.” The biggest unforeseen bump was learning that each Sharpie marker would last for only three cards, forcing the team to buy all the gold Sharpie markers they could get their hands on—87 in total.
The promo project turned out to be one of the firm’s biggest undertakings of the year. “The reason I’m OK with this is because of two things: No. 1, we love the magic created in the details. No. 2, we really care about our clients,” Ferguson says. “Because this project allowed us to execute on both of the ideals that matter to us, the time investment was well worth it.” The recipients responded to both the care poured into the project and the prospect of home-baked goods. Ferguson says the office was flooded with calls and emails that were full of love and excitement. “We sent 200 holiday cards, and the majority of people responded in some way,” she says. “And when you think that this was during the holidays, which is one of the busiest times of year, we [believe] that level of response is incredible.”
The piece also established the firm among local designers as a place where projects are crafted with great care. “We heard a story about another local designer who uses our piece to teach young designers about personalization,” Ferguson says. “This type of mutual respect from our peers means a lot.”
Ferguson says the project embodies a phrase spoken quite often around the Lesli Ink office: Do small things with great love. “Our team invested an incredible amount of resources and time trying to resolve the smallest details in designing every letter,” she says. “Thinking about all of these small details and going way beyond the functional imperative is what makes this project special.
“It’s like finishing the back side of the drawer,” she continues. “You can argue that people will never see it, and it’s very hard to, in any rational sense, describe why it’s important, but it just seems important. It’s a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people you’re making these products for. I think we see ourselves as having a responsibility to do that. It’s important. It’s right.”