Our Halloween Cards and Letters

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A year in the planning, we can finally show you our latest piece of Downey promotional material. Marketing Director Leo Turner gives an insight into the creative process behind our Halloween letter.

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So what is this years Downey Halloween mailer?

This year we decided to produce engraved stationery for the Devil, with our version of his coat of arms.

What was the inspiration?

Some of our private clients have coats of arms which they have printed in their stationery and I wanted to showcase this beautiful classical style to the public. Obviously I couldn’t use one of our client’s personal coat of arms, so I was thinking this could be something we do for Halloween. At first I had the idea to create one for Dracula, because if you think of the background there, the tale comes from Vlad the Impaler, a member of the Transylvanian Royal household, but then my next idea was the Devil, and that just seemed to be a more logical move, so we proceeded to design the Devil’s coat of arms.

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You’ve been developing the Downey promotional material for a few years now, what’s the purpose behind them?

These mailers give us the chance to show off the work that we can do, which is all in house. It’s to show the quality you can achieve and also to give an insight into how quality and also traditional processes can be used to the best effect with modern designs and concepts. And it’s purely the design that will dictate how to use them, and if you’re looking to use, for example, a very fine white embossed ink on a black card, then you can only use engraving, because it works so well. I like it that we can give people inspiration that stays in the back of their mind, so that when the time comes the knowledge is there to incorporate it themselves.

The Halloween letter seems to be a new take on this work, was there a conscious decision to produce something different?

The fact it was for Halloween gave us a great opportunity to be a bit more off the cuff. Last year we had the beautiful multi-level embossed silver skull, which was a bit like a gallery piece. The card was very thick and this year I wanted to do the opposite and show that we’re not restricted to just A5 pieces of thick card, that we can work with many formats.

So how did you develop the design?

I started thinking about imagery that relates to the devil and ways in which we could incorporate as much detail as possible to create something really striking. There are various elements that make up a coat of arms; i.e the crest, the mantling, the helm, the compartment; all of which were really helpful in providing a structure to work with. I then used this to incorporate various devil symbolism – for example the pyramid and the all seeing eye, the trident, the flame pit and skulls at the base, the pentagram, the serpents, the raven, the number 13 and finally the horned goats holding it all together. It was a fun process and this was a point that we really wanted to get across – the creative, fun side of it all. After all that’s what Halloween’s all about!

When I had the coat of arms established I next had to start thinking about the wording that we were going to use and a phrase which naturally sprang to mind was ‘The Devil’s in the Detail’. I wanted another line to go with this and I found one from Thomas Edison which ended up being not only a great link to the Halloween theme, but also to us as a company, and that is ‘ Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something’.  And that’s really what we’re trying to do; every day we’re trying to push the boundaries of the medium we work in. We experiment with processes, materials and finishing techniques, sometimes because we have to out of necessity for a job and sometimes because we choose to, because it’s all research and it’s all development. So that was a good one to go with because it’s definitely a concept we can all relate to here! 

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There’s some great traditional features to this, are you trying to re-introduce this style and process to a modern audience?

The focus for the project was the engraving used in the coat of arms.  You can get an incredible amount of detail into a coat of arms, traditional ones produced by the College of Arms are fantastically intricate and really, the only way to print something like this is with engraving, any other way just wouldn’t work as well. Engraving’s also great for metallic inks, which crests quite regularly incorporate, and for getting that crisp emboss at the end of it all.

So when you see a coat of arms, not all are suited and have to be re-drawn, to be adapted, but more often than not they would start off as a black and white line drawing and the colours dropped in after – each with a separate engraved plate for each colour – and that’s very much the way we went about developing the Devils coat of arms.

In Downey’s early history we were purely hand engravers and then we started printing ourselves in the 1960’s. Those traditional methods of hand engraving tie in nicely with private stationery, in particular royal warrants and coats of arms and that’s where a lot of our reputation comes from – this kind of highly detailed work. With this project there was a great opportunity to essentially show off the art of crest making and also to give an insight into the processes that make them work so well. We’re hoping that you’ll receive it, pick it up and think, right, so this is what can be achieved.

We’ll be sending these out for delivery on hallows eve. If you are not currently on our mailing list and would like to receive one, please get in contact and we would be happy to send one out to you.