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January Refresh CHS, Stitch Design Co.

Spoleto office
The Murray Center in Charleston, aka Spoleto USA's main office.

Charleston is one of several cities with a local chapter of Refresh, a group which seeks to inspire and maintain local creative communities. In Charleston, this looks like a somewhat-quarterly event with presentations, munchies, and mingling—lead by the ever-energetic Karl Hudson Phillips.

Yesterday’s RefreshCHS event was held at the beautiful (seriously) Spoleto Festival office, where Tami Boyce’s artwork hung on the walls and the founders of Stitch Design Co. gave a great presentation on their client-driven process.

Stitch's presentation
Amy and Courtney talk about how Stitch got started.

Stitch was founded by Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson, who bought a letterpress together and started a side business: Sideshow Press. After much positive feedback on their letterpress work, they decided to pursue design full-time. Thus, Stitch was born five years ago.

Throughout their presentation, Amy and Courtney stressed the importance of involving the client in the design process. Their MO is to meet people face to face, ask insightful (and many) questions early, and show a bit more process work than might be the norm.

Highlights from the presentation

  • It is not uncommon for Stitch to show 10–15 logos in one presentation. The number is pretty high, but the concepts are thoughtfully picked, and the intent is to involve the client.
  • Stitch helps clients see past the bare-minimum deliverable; for Mixson Racquet Club (at the time a brand new destination sort of in the middle of nowhere), they printed invitations on tennis towels.
  • Taking business risks helps you empathize with clients, who are investing real money into design work.
  • When clients have a hard time articulating their feedback, the designers gently ask questions to guide the conversation to a more specific, meaningful place. They also remind the client that they don’t necessarily have to pick what has already been presented.
  • When convincing clients to go with a larger print budget, usually “the idea sells it”, but a good logical case to make is: “why bother spending the money if you’re not going to do it right?” [paraphrased]
  • As for red flags, the founders are wary of clients who aren’t willing to sit down and talk at the beginning of a project. They seek out partners who would enjoy their design process, rather than be at odds with it.

My favorite moment in the presentation was when Amy and Courtney were describing how they got their hands on their first letterpress. They ordered the machine from Briar Press, a woman who was getting rid of all her things in order to serve as an overseas missionary. Amy and Courtney were expecting a table-top press, and were shocked when the Chandler & Price machine came in on a flatbed truck. The designers said that they blocked Meeting St. (a busy downtown street) for an hour, and ended up having to borrow a forklift from a company across the way. Both said they were glad they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into—they wouldn’t have dared to go for it if they knew the press would be so huge.

See more of Stitch’s work on their website, and if you’re in Charleston, check out Refresh on Twitter and Facebook.


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