OLD CITY MAILROOM
The tone of your wedding is set the moment your guest opens up their mailbox to find something different. Something special. The letters dance across the envelope, foreshadowing a first dance. The fringed paper alludes to the lacy hem of a white dress walking down the aisle. It's an invitation—to toast, to dance, to eat expensive cake, to send you and your honey off in a fancy ride at the end of the night. Your wedding is a brand in itself, wether that's minimal and modern, sweet and simple, or wild and whimsical.
"Graphic design feels like home to me. I delight in working with people to develop their visual voice. I believe a brand should be completely unique and evocative, and I am emphatic that my artwork always reflects careful attention to detail. My experience as a designer has been wildly influential in my calligraphy, and for me the two worlds almost always go hand in hand. While slick penmanship came pretty naturally to me (thanks for the genes mom and dad), it's no coincidence that calligraphy is my speciality. This fine art form is a culmination of the most significant things – grace, intentionality, motion, originality and simplicity."
Andi Allison the owner of Old City Mailroom based in Portland Oregon. She is a designer, calligrapher and graphic artist with a modern yet timeless aesthetic. She creates for weddings, events, brands and hosts workshops to share her creativity with others.
Q & A
Nina Moore: Tell us a bit about yourself – What makes you passionate about calligraphy and graphic design?
Andi Allison: Oh, it is surprisingly hard to put into words. I would be more inclined to say “I am a designer” than to say “I love design.” When you’re a designer, everything is a composition in your mind—every room, every plate, every outfit, every dinner table. Compositions feel like puzzles to me, and it’s so rewarding when you get it just right. The potential to create something that’s never been created before just fires me up, and I enjoy the challenge of infusing purpose into every visual decision. I believe in using design to create an atmosphere of beauty, and the feeling of serenity that comes with that. And calligraphy… Calligraphy is sort of like singing, but with your hands. It is such an expression of grace and motion. One thing I appreciate about calligraphy specifically, is that it is so literal. I think this straightforwardness balances out the challenge of being so innovative with graphic design.
Nina Moore: How did you decide to start your own business and what advice would you give to others?
Andi Allison: Well the funny thing is, I never actually “decided” to start a business. I moved to Portland in January '17 thinking it would be temporary. Since I was only going to be here for a few months, I figured I would just freelance to get by. I quickly realized that there was no half-ass-ing it, so I learned how to write contracts and estimates and spec materials and talk to clients. Let me tell you, there were a lot of tears and sad phone calls to mom and dad during this chapter. I never knew if my current project would be my last one, and this feeling of unpredictability still haunts me when I let it. Nothing has challenged my faith like this journey. Those winter days were so hard but so sweet; I had to come to Jesus every single day and ask for my daily bread. If I would take one step a little further in faith, He would provide, and He continues to do so. If you had asked me 3 years ago what my dream was, I would have said this. I didn’t even mean to pursue it, but He knew. I think He wanted it to happen just as badly as I did.
It’s hard to give advice, because I still feel like I’m winging it a lot of the time. I will say that I would absolutely not be here if I didn’t go to school for graphic design and then work at a branding studio. That quality education and experience are invaluable to me. Don’t jump the gun before you’re ready, then when you’re ready, be patient. I had to do some crappy projects starting out, and some projects that only paid a nickel. When you start to get busy, start raising your prices and don’t stop. When you’re really busy, delegate jobs that don’t utilize or require your expertise. I’ve seen a lot of people burn out because they were working too hard for too little. Explore your personal style and master it! It is more valuable to be excellent at one thing than to be mediocre at everything… prune those branches that aren’t bearing fruit and water the ones that are!
Nina Moore: Tell us about your journey in creating stationery for the modern day bride? What is your design process and how do you collaborate with your client while still staying true to your work?
Andi Allison: Thankfully most of my clients approach me with specific images of my own work for reference of what they’re wanting. This is why it is so important to broadcast the work you are the most proud of and enjoy creating the most. People want what they see. This past year I have really refined my personal style and most importantly learned that I don’t need to be versatile. I don’t strive to appeal to the masses, but to become excellent in my niche. “If you try to create something everyone’s going to like, no one’s going to love it.” I’m becoming a master of Andi Allison’s style and—praise the Lord—people are liking it. I do my very best to hear out a client’s vision and I usually propose two options; one that I love most, and one that I think they will love most. More often than not they choose the one that I love most, so it’s important to trust your instinct even if it’s not explicitly what they asked for.
Nina Moore: From your work, it looks as though you have a good balance of calligraphy, typography and illustration. Tell us how you use all of these elements consciously to create balance. What are the do’s and don’ts?
Andi Allison: Because of it’s wild form, Calligraphy will always claim hierarchy, so I like to use it sparingly. The same goes for illustrations. Typography is just as impactful when used intentionally, so I like to let it shine too. A sincere minimalist at heart, I am always looking for places to remove excess. I am always asking how we can communicate the same message using as little as possible. I can’t explain it but it’s such a riveting challenge for me.
Ok so do’s and don’ts… Don’t add something like a busy illustration or a sheet of cool vellum to compensate for a design that feels halfhearted. Do work to resolve the composition and make it the absolute best it can be. Do pay attention to every detail, like what elements do or don’t show when the cards are stacked. Look for ways to create subtle moments of delight Do try everything! Don’t limit yourself to creating something you’ve already seen. Do push the limits of what’s been done! Turn something sideways, make something tiny, put something in an unusual place, combine unexpected textures.
Nina Moore: How do you select the ink and paper you use, and how important is that to your finished product? Are there types of products you feel works best for you?
Andi Allison: Right off the bat I like to talk on the phone or in person with my clients about their wedding day. If the venue is in Italy and has olive trees surrounding it, let’s put an olive sprig in your suite. If the groom’s custom tux is going to be deep green, let’s use deep green for your envelopes. I always ask if a client has specific requests for any of the pieces, and if not, I propose the color and paper scheme. I do have my go-to papers, but if a client has something specific in mind, I'll do a little shopping. One of my current bride’s is incorporating terra cotta’s in her wedding, so I found the most amazing terra cotta construction paper; she will be my only client to have ever used this paper! I love those personal moments. But don’t get me wrong, I still get starry eyed when a client says “we just want simple white”. Black and white will never get old to me.
Nina Moore: Your aesthetic feels Modern and Old World at the same time, tell us about your perspective of how you express Old City Mailroom.
Andi Allison: At the risk of sounding totally pompous… I try to create designs outside of time. Designs that transcend trends. I look at old design a lot to try and deduce what makes something timeless, then incorporate those elements. I think my use of negative space is what makes my designs feel modern, and my handmade touch makes them feel classic.
Old City Mailroom Site