Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Remember Letterheads?


Letterhead design used to be an integral part of identity design, one of the first steps in branding a business. The letterheads of Russian Constructivists and Bauhaus individuals are still studied in design textbooks today for their radical typographical innovation. In fact, custom letterhead also used to be popular for prominent or distinctive individuals. Electronic correspondence may have rendered this stationery tradition archaic but, in their rarity, letterheads hold a sense of design curiosity and nostalgia.

The website Letterheady features a vast collection of letterheads from the turn of the 20th century to the ’50s, including that of well-known individuals (including Hitler) and businesses of a bygone era. Think typographical eye candy married to historical ephemera.

Given how charming old stationery can be, it’s not surprising that electronic correspondence might seek to imitate it. Paperless Post (Beta) for example, is one of a few websites attempting to recreate the experience of receiving custom stationery. Their designs are clean and classic, with seamless navigation. It even appears that you can design your own stationery down to the color of your envelope liner. Although the experience of opening a card online may not really compare to its physical counterpart, at least it saves paper. And, design-wise, it’s vastly improved from the days when eGreetings and Blue Mountain were your only options. Chronicle Books also has the art from many of our favorite books available as free e-postcards (in addition to a vast collection of paper stationery designs of course.)

Letterheads, like visiting and dance cards, maybe a thing of the past, but at least we still have paper mail, well designed promos and invoices, and well, books.

Suzanne LaGasa

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