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2016: Never Forget

Written by in Color & Texture, Inspire, Letterpress

Originality. Authenticity. Beauty. 
Craft. Gratitude.

Every year has sweet souvenirs. 

As Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” No matter whether you regard 2016 as a year filled with good or bad, richness or dearth, the past informs the future. Keep that in mind.

Regarding things on my mind, what’s in your inbox and mailbox today? The seasonal deluge is abating. We have received original, hackneyed, beautiful, ugly, witty, and witless cards, memes, catalogs, and self-promos. Which do you remember? Which have you forgotten already?


Posters printed on CRANE’S LETTRA® Papers, Fluorescent White, 220 lb. Cover Duplex. Luxurious, toothy, soft, elegant.

I discovered a Keeper: The 2016 calendar poster series from Fifth Letter, a Winston-Salem, NC, design company, was my favorite of the year. Arriving in four installments beginning in January and concluding in September, each poster—one as good as the next—came with a personal note.

Let’s be honest. An investment in goodwill like this takes money and commitment. The planning, printing, and shipping of these oversized prints is impressive; more impressive is the quality of design, paper, and printing. Elliot Strunk, founder and creative director at Fifth Letter, explained the strategy behind the series—and recipients’ reaction to it.

“We decided to put together a calendar series for several reasons. First, something time-based and quarterly meant we would have a way to touch people four times a year. Second, something delivered in installments meant friends and clients would anticipate the next delivery.”

Four designers worked on the project: Strunk (winter), Valecia Hopper (spring), Jan Badger (summer), and Kei Kato (autumn). The series is cohesive, yet designers had room for interpretation, including choice of oddball holidays and ways to illustrate them. Fifth Letter pushed the media using elements not typically used in letterpress, including pixelated fonts and artwork, brushy type, and bold icons. They also ran a third un-inked plate as a blind deboss to create subtle detail letterpress fans can appreciate.

“The paper did an amazing job holding all the details,” says Strunk, “and our friends at National Letterpress here in Winston-Salem worked hard to get each calendar just right. We love working with them.” Strunk also believes the posters’ size mattered. “In our digital age, receiving by mail an oversize paper poster has stopping power. This series created conversations among clients and prospects. People liked them.”

But his best surprise was that this snail-mail, letterpress, tangible paper series gained its widest exposure through digital media. “Many friends and clients shared it on their Facebook and Instagram pages as a way of thanking us for thanking them. We did not expect that.”

What does Fifth Letter have in store for lucky recipients in 2017? Strunk’s not saying: “We’re pulling together a client gift box for 2017. That’s all I’m willing to say at the moment. We want to keep it a surprise.”

Originality. Authenticity. Beauty. Craft. Gratitude. Every year has sweet souvenirs. Happy (Anticipatory) New Year.