LOUIE Awards show: What happens when you tell creatives “the sky’s the limit”

If you work with clients, you know the deal: The difference between your blue-sky ideas and what fits in the brief and the budget is…well, it’s big. The difference is big. That’s why Hallmark Designers Sam B. and John D. and Trends Strategist Bill M. jumped at the chance to design collateral materials for the 2017 International Greeting Card Awards Competition, the “The LOUIE Awards.” Creating the invitation to the LOUIE Awards show gives greeting card makers, printers, and paper companies to show off their skills—and our team reached for the stars.

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards

JOHN D., DESIGNER: When you get a brief that says, “Do whatever you want,” that’s an amazing and scary feeling. You don’t want to squander it. You have two options when you’re given a bunch of money and carte blanche to create: Be pragmatic or have fun. You can be scared or timid or…well, like my Creative Director said, “Make it —-ing awesome.”

SAM B., DESIGNER: The Louie Awards show was a dream project.

JOHN: We had free rein because all the printers and vendors were donating their services. So they want to highlight stationery achievements and greeting card design.

BILL M., TRENDS STRATEGIST: We show off their capabilities.

JOHN: There was a bunch of handwork with 30 people doing a weird fold to make a special envelope, floods of foil, treating offset printing like bespoke printing, with crazy critical registration to the half-point…usually, at some point, someone’s going to step in and stop you. That didn’t really happen this time. It was up to us to say what was too much.

SAM: And I don’t know that we ever did. As a creative, there’s probably nothing more gratifying.

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards

JOHN: Sam put the theme together based on a lot of trend research.

SAM: Futuristic themes were just beginning to re-emerge in 2016 for color and materials. This was reflected in mineral surfaces, dimensional formats, planetary imagery, and iridescent metallics. We took these elements and paired them with a color story of electric blue, muted mauve, and a soothing lilac-grey. Thematically, we wanted to explore the nature of infinity, starting at a geological level and then zooming out to a vast, luminous cosmos. 

JOHN: It was very ethereal. Mystic. Spiritual. The tone is very—

BILL: Mystical is a good word for the tone.

SAM: The voice of our project drew inspiration from the idea made popular by Carl Sagan, that we are made of starstuff. With a little Instant Karma thrown in the mix.

BILL: I wrote a lot of different short pieces of copy I thought would work for the Louie Awards show, then we went through and paired it up. The challenge was to figure out how to fit the philosophical space voice and still be celebratory.

Ribbons for the 2017 Louie Awards show

Materials for the 2017 Louie Awards show

JOHN: The whole suite was intended to drum up entries and invite people to a party. We tried to make sure once you saw it in the mail, it was something very different from what you usually get.

SAM: And since the event was intended to highlight creative talent, we felt Bill’s piece “We are Wonders in a Universe of Wonders,” captured the idea of an expanding universe of luminaries perfectly. It was a cosmic-level pat yourself on the back.

BILL: Right from the call for entries—we’re telling people they’re a star right from the beginning.

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards

Materials for the 2017 LOUIE Awards show

JOHN: The postcard was a solid flood of foil with the message “Shine on, star stuff.”

SAM: Iridescent foil is splashy. If a little goes a long way, a lot goes on forever.

JOHN: The whole project was an exercise in tasteful excess. Plus there were hidden, cryptic things—if you take the back of the cards on the call for entry, you can arrange them like a puzzle.

SAM: My favorite pieces are the four art cards that assemble into a larger composite image. When an internal logic or hidden order can be established, there’s something deeply reassuring in that. 

JOHN: There’s a visual language—thinking through what the “abstract” lines stood for. It’s really cryptic and subtle designing.

SAM: That sort of indulgent, needless attention to detail is something I’ve always enjoyed discovering and exploring in design.

BILL: It’s like doing a wheelie with your computer.

JOHN: Pretty true.

Along with Hallmark, J.S. McCarthy Printers, Leader Paper Products, Universal Engraving, Inc., Exclusive Bordering Company, and Infinity® Foils brought the Louie Awards show suite to life. Their work received a Merit Award in the HOW International Design Awards in the Invitations/announcements/greeting cards category and a local ADDY in the 2018 American Advertising Awards.


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