Designing Patterns for Creative Stationary

So here you are, behind your laptop, you just received an email from your new client for whom you’ve just designed an awesome logo, and boy, is he as excited as you are. Make sure you’ve got the right process and know-how to get it done.

He likes the colours you’ve chosen and raves about the beautiful typography—Great! This means it’s time to start creating a full set of brand stationary: business cards, envelopes, a letterhead, everything. People often wonder how to design these different things in a creative way while making sure the result is a coherent identity, and here are some tips to keep you on the right track.

I think we’ve all seen the examples where people go the ‘easy way’ by simply placing the logo and some basic typography on the front of a business card; Oon the back they place the logo again, inverting the foreground and background colours. I’m not saying this will result in an ugly or bad design, however, the approach isn’t really the best creative approach. Luckily, designing something a little more unique doesn’t have to be very hard…and can go a long way! I aim to share some practical techniques I’ve used in a recent design for a client called Say Green Cosmetics. I will show the entire design process I used and explain the choices I made hoping this will inspire you and give you some ideas for your own branding projects.

First, let’s take a look at the logo

Logo for Say Green Cosmetics

Say Green Cosmetics is a web shop specialised in ecological and biological cosmetics. The logo we created features some pretty green typography and a little icon of a bird, the bird representing the typical Say Green costumer: connected to nature and free to choose the sources where he/she gets the best that nature has to offer. We wanted to avoid chemical additions to products as much as possible. As you can see, the bird is subtly shaped like a leaf, done to represent the strong link Say Green has with nature.

Experimenting to create additional graphics

So there I was, happy that the client accepted the logo design; I set out to create some pretty stationary for the client to use. The first step in creating this was making some additional graphics (you’ll notice it’s really tempting to jump into creating some pretty media straight away, don’t). With that said, make sure your entire identity is coherent first; it’s a good idea to start creating some reusable design elements. I first started playing with some pattern designs; patterns are a good place to start. They always come in handy as backgrounds and can be used on a variety of media. Since I loved the curves in the little bird in our logo, I tried to incorporate those (see below).

Some patterns for Say Green Cosmetics

In example 1, I liked the green parts, but wasn’t really feeling the negative space too much. I took two birds and connected them at the tail creating a shape that is more inspiring but in my opinion, ended up being a little too simple. With that idea in mind, I copied the entire shape and rotated it 90 degrees. The resulting shape was a little flower-like and seemed incredibly really fitting for our client (I experimented a lot more with patterns, but these examples illustrate my point enough).

Creating ornaments from the pattern

Really satisfied with the pattern shape,  it reminded me of those old fashioned floral ornaments that you see in antique books—or at your grandmother’s house. That gave me the idea of creating my own modern version of these ornaments for Say Green Cosmetics. I took one of the flowers from the pattern and started building upon it again.

The development of the Say Green Ornament

As you can see, experimentation is key. I started with shape 1, which I found too simple, and then copied and rotated it to create a something a little more complex. The resulting shape is pretty, but you can hardly spot the bird from the logo in it; that’s why I added colour (example 3). In my opinion, the green was way too strong, so I gave it some transparency, as seen in example 4, to soften it up and add some depth. I wondered what would happen when I’d repeat the first step, so I duplicated the shape and rotated it again. However, this shape was losing the ornamental feel I like so much in the first shape and why I eventually settled for shape 4.

Using the newly created design elements

At this point in the design process I was armed with some pretty design elements that really went well with the logotype. That’s a really big plus of using the logo as the basis for your design elements. Now the last step I took was using the elements in a creative way to create the stationary. For example, take a look at the business card I designed.

The unique Design for the Say Green Cosmetics business card

As you can see, I pushed the size ornament to give the business card a unique look. To ensure a feeling of balance, I used pretty basic typography so that it wouldn’t fit on the page. This made sure the end result wasn’t too distracting. The real unique application of the ornament was on the back of the business card.

The unique design of the Say Green Cosmetics business card

I positioned nine business cards on one sheet of paper and positioned three big ornaments on them. After printing and cutting, the result was nine unique abstract backgrounds. All nine of them were derived from the basic logo, so they had the same type of curves, colours, etc, making the whole business card very coherent. Now, after I discovered how pretty this ornament was when used large, I made sure to bring this on a couple more elements. Take a look at some more examples, you’ll also see the pattern I designed earlier popping up:

A view of differents stationary items

Some stationary items showing the pattern design in use

A closer look at some of the Say Green stationary

Summary: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

In this article I tried to show you a simple approach to creating some interesting stationary using your logo as a starting point. I did everything possible to the early, simple bird shape: copied it, rotated, resized it, gave it a different colour, et cetera. The end result was a set of unique shapes that really go with the style and feeling of the logo. It all comes down to experimenting and not being afraid to go over board. As long as you copy every shape before you start editing it, it’s really easy to go back to a previous version you liked better.

Of course this is just one approach, there are tons of others thing you can do when creating stationary. I’d love to hear if this design process worked for you! Show us some of the results in the comments or some other approaches you take to creating quality stationary.

  • Tahsin N

    I would love some business cards like that…I love the embossed area. Great design.

  • Michiel Koers

    Hey Tashin,
    Thanks for the nice words. Glad to hear you liked the design.
    Take care, Michiel

  • Indika Jayatilake

    Love your design. The colour scheme is awesome.

  • ByBe

    I love the color scheme you used, I’m in the process of designing some flyers / leaflets for my little website but I want to match them with my website… Now I hate my website color scheme lol.

  • Michiel Koers

    Hey Indika, thanks for the compliments!

    Hey Bybe, I think you shouldn’t be too rigid about using the exact colors of the website on your flyer. Just experiment a little! For example, I noticed that on your website you use a range of grays and a tint of red. Maybe you can make the colours on your flyer a little more lively by adding another colour like purple or blue maybe! A nice technique for incorporating a new colour is adding a photo with that colour in it. You can easily take, for example, a picture of a business man and photoshop his tie to be the exact colour you need in your design. This makes it easy to use that colour in different elements on your flyer without it looking disconnected!