T H E B A C K S T O R Y
Barbie has been an incredible friend and supporter of mine since my residency at the Prairie Center of the Arts in 2016. She and her daughter, Steph, signed up for one of my Lettering Workshops held at The Nest Coworking. Steph has some unique challenges due to her autism, Elhers Danlos syndrome, and other disabilities. The most important thing to know about Steph is that her favorite thing to do is to make people laugh and she’s an incredibly hilarious, kind, and brutally honest individual. Steph really enjoyed the workshop and left feeling inspired to apply her lettering to signs, cards, and other works of art.
Fast forward just over a year and the love for lettering her own designs didn’t fade. Over coffee, Barbie and I decided it would be fun to have me help her turn a design into a sticker so she could hand them out to her friends, coworkers, and doctors. With a partial knee replacement scheduled for February, we felt it could be a fun thing to focus her attention on and help her celebrate her talent.
T H E P R O C E S S
Steph created her first design and Barbie sent me an image of it so I could prep it to be turned into a sticker. It was important to me to retain her design, but vectorize it and color it in a way that made it like any other sticker on the market. Steph’s marker color choices were reflected in the final design and I added a “Steph Perry” credit, which she ended up loving. In order to recreate her design, I brought an image of her work onto my iPad, where I traced it in black. I brought the black and white design into Illustrator where I vectorized it and added colors to match her original piece. We sent the stickers off to production and hand them in her hands shortly after.
Then the really magical thing happened. This sticker sparked something in Steph that had been missing from much of her life. She was excited. She was proud. She felt normal. I didn’t expect this little sticker to change her life in the way that it did. With so much impact from a single, small design, I knew there was more we could do. We could take this whole project further and keep the momentum going with both Steph’s creativity and raising awareness for the causes closest to her heart.
B U I L D I N G A B R A N D
W I T H P U R P O S E
I wanted to do more. To give her the full experience of having a brand developed around her designs and hard work. To connect her own work to a bigger cause and purpose. This project was the same as any other in so many ways - logo design, scheduling a photoshoot, planning social media, putting together a webpage. But it was also so different - it gave a new sense of purpose to my work and reminded me that this is why I do what I do. To empower others to share their messages. I live for the moments when clients tear up with joy because of the impact of a design I created has on them. Dealing with disabilities and the challenges that accompany them is no easy task. This project led to some great conversations about visible and invisible disabilities and we connected in so many ways.
Ultimately, Barbie and Steph have been through so much over the past thirty years that I wanted to pause and help them celebrate their strengths, their abilities, and their potential to impact those around them with their story. To not make them feel ashamed of any part of their story, but to celebrate it in every way we could.
The most touching part of the photoshoot that we held at The Spot Coffee with talented photographer Sarah Waldo of Violet and Ivy Photography was that Steph came in beaming with pride and excitement. She loves making jewelry and crafted the perfect necklace just for the photoshoot - complete with her favorite colors. Since Steph’s Stickers is a brand all about bringing Steph’s personality to live visually, it was a given that we’d go with her favorite colors and allow this necklace to directly inspire the brand colors.
I’ve honestly never had a more decisive client than Steph. I worked on a small handful of logo options and treated this project like I would any other brand development. As I was sharing the three final options I put together for the logo, Steph immediately reached over the table and swiped back to the first design. She exclaimed “That’s it” and there we had a definitive decision for what the Steph’s Stickers logo would be. Barbie teared up saying how perfect the design was and I felt the excitement of providing a design that the client truly connects with and feels represents them. This moment is what it is all about in the design world - especially within a project as meaningful as this one. Having the world share in Steph’s story and raising awareness about adults with disabilities is icing on the cake to the passion project. The real magic lies within changing this girl’s life - it doesn’t really matter if anyone else hears about it - we did what we set out to do and that was build something for Steph. Something that she could be proud of and that empowers her to believe in her abilities more than anyone has allowed her to believe before. And we did that, right at the table at The Spot.
T H E S T I C K E R S
Here are the three designs that Steph has created so far. They reflect her positive attitude about life and her energy and light that she brings into others’ lives.
You may be wondering “What’s next?” and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m right there with you. This project has its fair share of strategy but it’s truly organic and developing as we go. Sharing Steph’s story with the community, calling our neighbors to stand up for adults with disabilities, and allowing Steph’s love of lettering to shine should inspire us all to appreciate some of the small things and the impact they can have on our lives.
For now, you can help by sharing Steph’s story with a friend. It would mean the world to all involved to see Steph’s story positively impact others the same way she has positively impacted our lives.
If you are interested in meeting Steph and Barbie in person, they will be special guest’s at the upcoming Lettering Works Third Anniversary Ribbon Cutting on Thursday, April 25th at The Nest Coworking (Lettering Works’ Office).
Steph’s Stickers is a Lettering Works for a Cause Passion Project.
All photography is by Sarah Waldo of Violet and Ivy Photography.