Great design projects start with a big idea and finish with every detail considered and no opportunity missed. To spark energy and excitement for the 2019 AIGA Minnesota Design Show, storied Minneapolis studio Little & Company. took this approach just as it would with any other client project. The results are positively electric.
Call for Entries
Since 1979, Little has brought together strategists, designers, writers, and producers to work with brands including Target, U.S. Bank, Gap, Lowe’s, Microsoft, and Medtronic. The current team consists of “about 25,” according to creative director Ian Davies, and works out of offices on the northern edge of downtown Minneapolis.
Part of the fabric of the legendary Minnesota design scene, Little was tapped by AIGA Minnesota to design the invitation and call for entries for its 2019 Design Show. An on-again-off-again affair, Design Show had returned after a three-year hiatus. AIGA, the professional association for design, handed Little a design brief that asked them to visualize combining great design with great strategy. With both disciplines in the studio’s DNA, creative director Ian Davies took the idea and ran.
Celebrating the Community
A marquee design event in the Upper Midwest, Davies saw the AIGA Minnesota Design Show mailer as an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of the design community. “We wanted to create something that was visual, had some impact, and got people excited that Show is back,” he said. “Let’s have some fun and embrace what we get to do,” he said.
“It’s the one time we actually get to design for designers, so everybody wanted to work on it,” Davies recalled. Collaborative by nature, the studio opened the project to the entire creative team to pitch ideas. “Everybody got a couple of days to throw it all up on the wall and go through creative reviews,” he said. “Within the first week we narrowed it down from over 25 ideas to maybe five or six. Then we presented just three or four.”
What made the project particularly interesting for Davies and his team was the lack of existing brand standards. “It’s so fun to have no handcuffs or preconceived ideas. Aside from having a theme, we could just push to come up with an amazing idea, combine it with great design, and make it come to life.”
Despite the pro bono nature of the project, Little approached it as it would any other client work. Led by Davies, the core team of a designer, an account handler, and a project manager tracked the mailer alongside their dozens of other projects. “We wanted to make sure that we treated it like any other project, not something we just slough off,” Davies said.
“The first time you hear a project is going to be digital, there’s a bit of a collective sigh,” Davies noted. “So many times, designers want to jump to how it gets executed, like letterpress or silkscreen.” Acknowledging that this comes out of designers’ desire to execute gorgeous creative, Davies was impressed with the Design Show mailer’s outcome. “You can’t tell it was printed digitally. The bright paper, it’s bold and colorful and visual. It looks amazing.”
Little took the project further by designing a unique fold for the poster, creating a front and back to the poster that tile together, and converting the envelope so they could print on its inside. “We wanted to leave no stone unturned,” said Davies. “We have a great design community here in Minnesota. We wanted to make sure that whatever we did for AIGA Minnesota upholds that standard of excellence.”