An Interview With Tess Darrow From Egg Press
Tess Darrow took the design and production skills she'd honed at Nike and opened the doors for Egg Press in 1999. This Portland based designer has been creating greeting card magic for over two decades now.
It's easy to forget, when you're combing through the racks of a shop or pages online for the PERFECT card as the jumping off point for some of your most important messages, that there are people behind those cards. People that sit around and think about how someone might use a particular turn of phrase or joke as a way to help strengthen a bond or heal a wound.
Tess took some time out of her busy holiday schedule to give us a few insights into their process at Egg Press. Read Our Interview with Tess below:
What got you into greeting cards in the first place?
When I left my job at Nike, the plan was to do freelance design and letterpress job printing. But I was drawn to smaller format design projects that lent themselves to letterpress, and, having just come from "cube culture" loved making the small ephemera that I would have wanted to pin in my cubicle as bits of inspiration. And I realized that the format and subject matter was essentially the recipe for greeting cards. I knew nothing about the business.
As far as I can tell you seem singularly focused on cards. Do you think you’ll ever expand the line?
Over the years we have explored outside of the greeting card realm, and as much as we love thinking outside of the rectangle, the cards are what we've mastered. We print our own line of cards, as well as three other brands, which keeps us busy.
Tell us a little about how you use cards in your own life?
I'm inconsistent about sending cards. Sometimes it's the classic "cobbler's children have no shoes" scenario and I don't think to bring an arsenal home with me. When I do send cards, it's more in fits and spurts. My favorite thing is when the card itself inspires the urge to send. I have a stack of "Orange You Glad It's Over" cards on my desk ready to send to friends and family who were invested in the election.
I LOVE what y’all are did with the Write_On campaign. Can you tell me a little more about how that came to be and what you hope to accomplish with it?
Write_On originally came about as a challenge to myself (and then staff) to write a card a day for thirty days, with the hope that it would help build a habit. That first year, we challenged our social media followers to do the same, and incentivized it with free cards. It grew so much that by the third year we gave away 60,000 cards! When we realized that model wasn't going to be sustainable, we also knew that a good trajectory had been sent and that folks had engaged in a way for the idea to spread on its own.
Tell us about your process. Where do your ideas come from? Do you start by thinking about a particular deficit (like needing more birthday cards for instance) or do things tend to hit you more organically?
We are both organic and formulaic in our design approach, and design for seasonal releases. We have a lot of years of designing under our belts, so we have ideas about what works and what doesn't, and find that often our favorite cards are the ones that don't sell. We usually know exactly the number of styles we need to design for any given release and cross fingers that we'll be inspired at just the right time.
How about your editing process? Are there ever ideas you love and the team steers you away?
ALWAYS : )
What about your actual physical printing process?
That's where the magic happens. When we look at something on screen, we know that it's going to be twice as good when it's printed. Without fail. And we can be pretty bold with our technical approach because our printers are just that good. There is very little they can't do! At the beginning of Covid, I had to print a couple of things and realized just how rusty I am at the press. It made me appreciate just how truly smart and talented our crew is.
Inside the studio
Any tips for filling out a great card?
Speak with your heart. Don't worry about your handwriting or saying the perfect thing. Just go for it! Everyone loves a handwritten note more than they love perfection.