It’s that time of year. Don’t pretend you don’t know. It’s that time when the task of getting the office mail suddenly gets interesting and potentially competitive. For the next month, the mailbox could contain any manner of festive cards, gifts and even chocolate. Here at Porchlight, we are busily doing our part to fill mailboxes with goodies.

Mind you, our idea of goodies may not be universal. There’s no sugar involved, just clever hardworking design and utility. But it’s nonetheless beautifully festive, handcrafted and sent with our fondest holiday well wishes. Not to mention it’s paleo-friendly and gluten-free.

That’s right, it’s time to check your mailbox for the 2021 Porchlight Holiday Notebook.

The holidays mean different things to different people depending on their interests. For the designers at Porchlight, it’s a time to have fun with our brand. Since the early days of our agency, the process of concepting, designing, estimating, producing and shipping a meaningful, affordable holiday gift has been an annual tradition and a challenge. Not only is it a project we enjoy, but it’s also an exercise in being our own client. Because like any other creative project, there’s a limited scope of work, a limited budget, and a hard and fast deadline.

The Evolution of and Motivation Behind the Holiday Gift

Over the years, we’ve explored different holiday gifts, from coasters to cocoa and coffee mugs to calendars. But we always felt that something was missing. The best self-promos are not simply branded and useful. They also showcase one’s positioning. As an agency rooted in packaging, we wanted to design a holiday gift that would not only share our brand, but would also demonstrate our dedication to packaging design

In 2018, our design team solved the puzzle by creating a one-of-a-kind self-mailer that contained a custom journal. Working with our friends at Henry & Company, we configured this solution so that we could minimize set-up costs and optimize quality materials and finishing. We designed for economy by creating a die line that could be reused year after year, making it a one-time cost. Likewise, the artwork is repetitive, featuring a hardware-inspired pattern that first debuted in 2013 on our holiday letterpress calendar. The cutting and print plates were a one-time investment, leaving us with room to explore new materials, colors and textures each year. 

The Execution: Creating Limited Edition Brand Material

The process, which once began as early as September, now begins in late October when we begin workshopping colors. The initial kickoff is a bit like open season on likes and dislikes. However, once we agree, we all agree. Like many a team, ours is opinionated but quick to rally around a good idea.

With a project like this, choosing colors doesn’t happen on a screen. Color is a matter of reviewing paper stocks and choosing something that meets our expectations for quality, texture, cost and availability. It’s also a matter of deciding what hue of ink and finish will best complete the design. This year, we chose a classic black and white palette from French Papers. The journal cover is made from 100# French Construction Recycled White printed on an offset press using black ink for the back cover and with a blind embossed logo on the cover. The envelope, meanwhile, is made from 140# French Muscletone Blacktop printed with Pantone Silver 877 ink and foil-stamped for additional contrast.

Once we’ve selected materials and inks for the mailer and the journal, we decide on the journal interior. We are especially enthusiastic about paper that feels good to write on. However, we are divided on whether the best journal page is lined, dotted, gridded or blank. If you have an opinion, we’d love to hear it.

At this stage, the design is set, and we’ve passed all the artwork over to Henry & Company, who bring the final product to life with impressive precision and craftsmanship. The month of November has us making frequent trips to see each piece come off the press to verify ink and color accuracy and to decide if one hit of ink or two is best.

Finally, after returning from Thanksgiving break, we have our flat mailers and bound journals in hand. We’ve checked our lists like Santa and armed ourselves with tape guns like workshop elves. Assembly begins, complete with paper cuts and peppermint. There’s folding, taping, labeling, boxing and lots of triple-checking. Stamps and shipping labels are bought and applied as evenly as possible. Batch by batch, we take turns walking to the post office where the Porchlight holiday journal begins its journey from our team to you.

If you’ve been on our holiday list for a few years, you may have a few Porchlight journals on your desk. We hope you find them useful and have enjoyed learning how they come to life. It’s a tradition that we hope to continue for years to come. Make sure to stay connected so you are always on our list. And if you have a picture of your journal in use, we’d love to see it.

Happy Holidays from our team to you.  

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