One of the first lessons of design I teach is to not hold on tightly to your first idea. If you can loosen your grasp, another idea will come, usually stronger and better. It’s a hard-learned lesson.
Earlier in the year, Gate Davis and I had been thinking of an appropriate, meaningful, yet affordable mailer to the friends of Laity Lodge as a nicety: a package that would arrive in the mail to former guests saying—in essence—We’re still here. We miss you, too. Here’s a little something to remember us by.
About the same time, we had been talking about Florence Butt’s now-famous quote, which ends with the maxim: Quality Remains. My first idea was to offer a tip of the hat to the lodge construction we were/are in the midst of and present everyone with a classic wooden carpenter’s pencil, perhaps nestled in a custom box. I went and mocked up this idea on the computer and sent it to Gate:
We sat with the idea for a while. We both got busy with other projects, and the next time we talked about the mailer was over coffee. Gate had been thinking about it more than I had been—this happens a lot with Gate, and I’m grateful for the deep, patient thought he gives to projects; I want to grow to become more like him in this regard—and he suggested a seed mailer.
My grasp on the pencil idea began to loosen as he told me of his idea. He had been meeting with Ten Eyck Landscape Architects and Overland Partners about the landscaping changes that would be made at the Lodge. He knew that the landscapers would eventually be securing a Texas Hill Country wildflower seed mix that one day soon would cover what is presently the Laity Lodge parking lot. In the place of barren, caliche dirt, a meadow would blossom, bringing songbirds and beauty with it.
“Why don’t we mail everyone a bag of wildflower seeds?” he asked.
“Ooh: why don’t we design a custom seed packet…” I said. “Maybe with a historical design?”
Within a few days, we had a loose plan to test, some more sketches and mockups, and within another week, I’d talked to the seed vendor, Native American Seed Co., from right up the road in Junction, Texas. They’d print, fill, and seal the seeds using their own equipment, using our custom design. I had found a number of antique paintings of the germane flowers that were in the public domain and had merged them into a bouquet of Texas wildflowers.
My first concepts played up the vintage look I was imagining:
Gate received the idea warmly and sat with it for a week or so. When we both came back to discuss it, we both had misgivings about the art being too Victorian, not solidly “on brand.” Too precious, perhaps.
I set about simplifying the seed packet and conformed the design to Native American Seed’s art template, and concurrently designed a companion insert card and envelope.
Gate wrote the copy for the insert card: Marcus Goodyear and Morgan Dooley worked with Herring & Co. to print, fulfill, and mail the cards and envelopes locally from Kerrville.
The final seed packets were a small investment in the lives of the people who have come to know and love the Lodge. For about a dollar-and-a-half investment in their lives, the Lodge was able to give a gift, reinforce their brand during a fallow season, potentially build some new brand loyalty, and—once the thousands of seed-clutching hands loosen their grasp, open their fingers, and empty their contents down into good soil—the Lodge will have broadcast enduring daily reminders of another place near Leakey, Texas, where the wildflowers also grow.