Promotion Design Mailbag: 8 Fun Projects


‘Tis always a fun day when the HOW team receives a package in the mail and opens it to find a unique promotion design from designers and firms like Rule29, Alexander Isley Inc. and WPA Pinfold. If you could see our tidy desks (okay, they’re only occasionally tidy), you’d notice everything from well-designed flyswatters to typeface promotions to beautiful cookbooks—all reminding us of the creative minds we serve.

With the Promotion & Marketing Design Awards 2016 Early-Bird deadline fast approaching (March 11!), we thought we’d offer a behind-the-scenes look at some of the fun promotion designs we’ve recently seen in the mail. We reached out to the creatives behind each piece to find out how their promotion design projects have been received, and how the projects have helped their company or firm “get noticed.”

Find out how The Designers Foundry created something that wouldn’t spend its life in a bottom draw, how much of an investment Alexander Isley Inc. makes in promotional design, how Rule29 sent a much-needed message out into the world, and much more.

8 Fun Type, Paper and Graphic Design Self-Promotion Projects

Clever CrEATive cookbook from Clever Creative

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Coverself-promotion-graphic-design-1“The Clever CrEATive cookbook is our most successful agency holiday mailer to date and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and complimentary. Our clients, partners, vendors and potential clients have all expressed how impressive the cookbook is, from the final design and construction to the genuine, family-inspired recipes.

“This mailer has increased awareness of our agency on both direct email responses as well as an increase in our social media conversations. People are talking about this and actively reaching out to Clever team members asking where they can buy another copy. That is such a compliment to our entire team, who worked passionately on this creation. It is clear that our Clever heart and soul was poured into this cookbook, and the rewards have been nothing short of delicious.”

—Shannon Gabor, CEO/founder, Clever Creative, Inc

“Be Present” Card by Rule29


“Our goal each year is to make a Christmas card that has some statement around things that we value, how we see, or ideas we have been pondering. We weren’t sure how this years card would be received but we felt that it was a message we wanted to try ourselves. The response was wonderful. We had people tweet us, call us, email us and ask us how we were being present. This made us happy on several levels: 1) Our card was actually being read 2) Many felt like we did, which was the need to unplug, pause, look around, and engage with what is right in front of you 3) The message seemed to really break through the clutter of cards and resonate at a deeper level with many 4) People were giving the extra card away and enjoying doing so.

“Part of this project is for us to do a piece that helps us stand out, promotes us, etc. But those are really secondary to what we are trying to say. But we feel if we do that well, the attention will come. We have received calls to start jobs after receiving the card, requests to think through some unique ideas of potential work and comments of, ‘Hey I loved your card; we will be talking early next year about some work.'”

—Justin Ahrens, creative director

Sampler Pack by The Designers Foundry

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self-promotion-graphic-design-12We had an overwhelming response from the people we sent [the sampler packs] to. We had a huge number emails and people sharing photos of their copies on social media, which was one of our goals with the project. Everyone seemed to love the experience the sampler gave with the multi-layer unwrapping and slow reveals created by the materials we used.

“I wanted a unique experience for those who were lucky to get their hand on one of the 200 we produced. We wanted to create a promotional piece that wouldn’t be looked at once then spend the rest of its life in a bottom draw, which is why we went with the loose cards, so people could sit them on their desk, pin them to the wall or even frame them.

“The sampler pack was designed as a tool to help us get noticed and create awareness of our new website and brand, and we were lucky enough to be featured on a number of popular websites such at It’s Nice That. Receiving that sort of attention definitely puts a big tick next to the project and makes every dollar and hour spent well worth it.

“We sold out of 200 copies (50 of which were sent out to designers/studios we admire for free/as a surprise) within three days, which was followed by about four weeks of daily emails asking if we had any left or being reproduced.”

—Daniel McQueen, TDF Creator

Holiday Gift by Alexander Isley Inc.


“We got a few very positive responses—in fact, more than we usually receive. Every year we like to send out a customized example of a commonplace yet beautiful everyday object that we think is designed well [check out their previous projects here]. It gives us the chance to talk about things that are important to us, including how good design is simple and useful and often taken for granted. In
past years we have sent a pair of well-made scissors, a baseball, a stapler, an ice pack, a cocktail shaker, a hammer … you get the idea. An important part of it is the packaging and the story we tell. With luck the gift will give people an insight into our thinking, and be something that is both useful and unexpected.

self-promotion-graphic-design-6“These promotions go out to past, current and potential clients, a few friends of the studio, and members of the press. And my parents. People don’t always respond, but when they do it is positive. …

“People often receive a lot of gifts around the end of the year, so we work really hard to create something that is unusual that has a little story around it. This demonstrates how we can use writing and packaging to tell a story and perhaps encourage a person to look at something commonplace in a new way.

“One result of sending out these gifts is that we occasionally get clients wanting us to do something like this for them. They like the idea that you can give out something that is unique and memorable that tells a story—not a baseball cap or frisbee or water bottle with a logo silkscreened onto it from one of those promotional catalogs.

“The downside comes when we point how many hundreds of hours of labor can be involved in putting something like this together. To do something like this really is an investment. (We usually start planning in August to have something ready by the first week in December.) Once they realize what’s involved (and what it would cost) they usually end up ordering a bunch of silkscreened bottle openers from page 67 of the catalog. Oh well. We keep trying.”

—Alexander Isley

Typeface Promotion by Bunch Design

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F R A N K is a limited-edition typeface designed by Bunch and Alberto Hernández. The team launched a limited-edition pack of 100 to accompany the 100 unique copies of the typeface purchased from Milieu Grotesque. The packs contain a 32-page specimen featuring an essay on the history of the stencil by Mag. art. Dr. phil. Thomas Maier, lecturer on typography and graphic design at the University of Art and Design in Linz (Austria), a brass stencil and the digital typeface itself. The specimens also feature embossings, perforations, foil blocking and textured paper to show the typeface at its best, making these very tactile and engaging.

Check out this short making-of film for a behind-the-scenes look!

—Denis Kovac, partner

2016 Calendar from WPA Pinfold and Epic


Response from recipients has been fantastic; everyone loves the intriguing design and novel finishes. Brings a fresh contemporary feel to their work environments. The calendar has certainly helped raise WPA Pinfold’s profile, and for Epic it is a great showcase of its digital print capability.”

—Myles Pinfold, founder and director of strategy and planning

Mohawk Maker Quarterly from Mohawk

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self-promotion-graphic-design-1Mohawk Maker Quarterly issue number eight explores the concept of feel, and was designed by Hybrid Design, San Francisco, CA.

“With the Mohawk Maker Quarterly issue eight’s theme, ‘feel,’ we wanted the cover to jump out and grab you, to compel you to pick it up, to feel it physically, but also emotionally. Olimpia’s vibrant, unexpected color combinations and simple expressive characters were the perfect vehicle for that fun, emotional celebration,” says Caleb Kozlowski, design director, Hybrid Design.

According to Mohawk’s Chris Harrold, “Mohawk Maker Quarterly issue eight can easily be taken apart to encourage further discovery of these beautiful papers, the printing process used and the impeccable design elements. Paper takes center stage in this issue showing each grade’s unique ability to carry the photography and illustration featured throughout.”


Happy Holidata! Cards from Colle+McVoy


Everyone has loved the cards this year. The Holidata theme really hit a cord given how prevalent data is in our world now. They reflect how advertising and marketing have evolved in the last five years. My favorite reaction came from the head of our analytics practice who said, “I think this is the BEST set yet! Very clever lines and matching graphics. Spot. On! (100% haha).” From someone whose stock and trade is analytics, that is high praise indeed.

“During the holidays it can be very difficult to get noticed [because] people are so distracted. We’ve found that sending classic cards, yet with contemporary themes and designs, resonates with people in our digital age. Our goal is to not only send a gift people will enjoy and find entertaining, but one they will find truly useful. Our holiday gift gets used all year long and often makes people remember us throughout the year. It is a tradition we’ve been doing for numerous years and recipients are excited to see how we have evolved the designs each year.”

—Derek Till, group creative director

[Want more promotion design inspiration? Check out these 16 unique business cards and 9 designer self-promotion projects.]



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