It happened not based on a deliberate decision but from an unexpected opportunity.
We recently toured the St. Paul-based Werner Design Werks studio (WDW), founded by Sharon Werner in 1991 and run by Sharon and Sarah Forss. Sarah spoke with us about the studio’s process behind some of the product lines that they have helped brand and launch, including: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, 10 Cane premium rum, and a line of children’s books that started with the book, Alphabeasties and other Amazing Types. We were interested in how the studio decided to embark on book design, a different direction from their other brand identity work, and according to Sarah, it happened not based on a deliberate decision but from an unexpected opportunity.
The studio took on a pro-bono assignment for the 2008 Type Director’s Club (TDC) call for entries and Annual Competition. They presented a solution that was a marked departure from the annuals’ usual typography-centric design and showed a tongue-in-cheek version with hardly any type at all, in a neutral palette. Needless to say that version wasn’t approved, and Sharon and Sarah had to come up with another version, quickly. They said, “Well, let’s give them what they want: type. Lots of type, animals, and a foil-pressed rainbow gradient.” The TDC board loved it. The design not only caught the attention of the director’s club, but it also peaked the interest of publishers Blue Apple Books. The publishers called WDW and asked them if they were interested in expanding the design for the TDC annual into a children’s book. Sarah told us more about what they learned during the process of designing and publishing Alphabeasties. Matt Porter does a great job of capturing the full story in his article on Against the Grain.
If WDW hadn’t taken the pro-bono work for the TDC or been asked to redesign their initial proposal for the annual, they may not have had the chance to design the book series. Their story shows the importance of outside interests. It may be the side projects that lead to amazing opportunities.