Seth and Maddy Lucas love the outdoors. The design studio they founded in 2010, Ello There, centers around creating products that celebrate trees, fresh air, and sleeping under the stars. But where it all comes together for them is the U.S. National Park System.
Let’s Go Camping
Established by an act of Congress in 1872, in 2019 there are 61 protected areas formally designated as National Parks. Over 300 million people visited at least one park last year, which in part explains the surging market for National Park-related posters, prints, patches, pins, and other products.
Ello There was early to the category: its first product was a National Park map it released in 2012. “Maddy and I had this personal goal to go visit all the national parks,” Seth Lucas recalls. The duo created a map they could use to track their visits and began offering prints online. ”They just, kind of, took off,” said Lucas.
From there, a product line emerged and Ello There began selling to retail outlets around the world. Among their more consistent sellers is a National Parks calendar which features a different Park each month, illustrated in Lucas’ whimsical style.
Digital Workflow, Naturally
Based in Indiana, the couple has traveled extensively to visit the National Parks that are a source of their inspiration. Lucas tallies their visit count at, “A little less than half.” In addition to travel and camping, his illustration research includes historic National Park imagery.
For example, for the Sequoia National Park illustration on the cover, he recalls that it began with “That famous black and white picture of a guy in a little VW beetle going through the tree.” He then added three characters hugging another tree nearby. “I haven’t thought about those details in a while,” he laughs. “It’s a ‘protect the parks’ kind of message.”
Despite the nature-oriented subject matter, Lucas’ workflow is entirely digital. “I sketch everything on an iPad in Procreate and then I bring it into Adobe Illustrator,” he said. There, he adds brushes and texture to finish the piece. “I don’t do any paper sketches at this point.”
Notable, too, is the minimalist design and typography that take a back seat to the illustrations. The font, Neutra, was one of the first faces he licensed as a designer. “So I’ve got a lot of use out of it,” he said. The feel of Neutra also reminded Lucas of vintage postcards in a way that, “Didn’t distract from the illustrations,” he said.
Good Product, Well Made
“We definitely put a lot of focus on making sure we have really high-quality prints,” said Lucas. While some of the posters that Ello There offers are limited-edition silkscreens, the Lucases knew their work would have a wider market with larger production runs. After ordering a short run of the calendar, Lucas was sold. “We were really impressed with Smartpress’ prints,” he recalls. “It made it a lot easier for us to reproduce the calendar instead of trying to hand make it.”
The smooth, uncoated stock lends the calendar an appropriately natural feel that complements its subject matter. Wire coil binding with a drilled hole for hanging serves practical purposes while giving the finished product a quality feel. Lucas notes that “A good product made well makes people happy. That sells well.”
For now, the Lucases camping and National Parks visits have been temporarily curtailed. “We were bigger campers before we had our daughter, Winnie,” Lucas said. Still, demand for products and deadlines for retail shows pushes Ello There for new material.
With Maddy Lucas acting as art director and critic on his illustration work, Seth Lucas works quickly to finish pieces for the next year’s calendar. “My illustration has evolved a little bit,” he says. Taking about two weeks to complete the set of 12 illustrations for each calendar, Lucas appreciates the pressure of a deadline. “You can come up with something good in a short timeline.”