Using beautiful design to establish a unique voice and credibility for CAKE Literary, a boutique book development firm dedicated to bringing handcrafted, high concept stories to children, middle grade, teen, and women's fiction audiences.
Custom Brand Illustration
PDF proposal designs for the primary CAKE Literary brand and related imprints
Brand design for CAKE Literary imprints
Promotional materials for book launches
Custom brand illustration for website (used for hero images, spot images, and animated icons)
how it started
I was initially connected with the founders of Cake Literary, Sona and Dhonielle, through a dear friend and frequent collaborator, Julia Kuo, who had helped them with their initial logo design. They had just started their business and were looking for a designer who could help them design a few branded pieces that they could use to present their book concepts to interested publishers. What began as a small one-off job has blossomed into an incredible, ongoing relationship, with designs for multiple imprints, a beautiful website, collateral, and so much more!
When Sona and Dhonielle first came to me with their needs for Cake Literary, their business was literally brand new, with just a beautiful logo to their name. But they also had an incredible amount of heart and an amazing mission for bringing a fresh, unique voice to the YA publishing world, and I was truly excited for the possibilities of what we could create together. In the very short term, they knew they needed the right kind of design and presentation for the materials they would be sending to potential publishers. Their long term plans involved creating the right kind of online home for their business (since at the beginning, there wasn't one!) and to continue developing the look and feel for their brand, particularly how to maintain consistency in the core of their brand aesthetic. They knew the roadmap for Cake's future included expanding it in really ambitious ways, including spinning off multiple imprints for children, middle grade, and women's fiction, alongside their initial focus on teen reads, and getting into the digital realm. It was important to be able to maintain a certain level of design integrity in their brand, but working with it in a way where the brand could stretch and grow as they grew.
Sometimes, especially with brand new businesses, it takes a little while for things to click creatively. I'm happy to say that with Cake, there was never a false start. Sona and Dhonielle were gifted writers with a keen sense of what was missing in their industry. They came to the table with focused goals and ideas, and almost immediately from the start allowed me to step in and start giving their vision life.
Our initial collaboration started with a book proposal design, since that was where their immediate needs were. Their business dealt directly with publishers who saw numerous proposals a day, and they needed something that would get their proposal to the top of the proverbial pile. Almost immediately, we started to sketch in the missing pieces of the Cake brand so we had something to use as a design foundation for the proposal piece. The Cake Literary was simple but effective -- a beautiful silhouette of a cake on a stand, with the pages of a book, fluttering across the top layer. I used the elements in that logo as well as some of the pre-defined color swatches that came with it and got to work. Sona and Dhonielle wanted something that could play off of the illustrative themes of the logo, integrating the cake / baking elements, as well as the book pages, but also something that was rich, elegant, and visually delicious. The book proposal was a great place to experiment with how to expand CAKE Literary from just a simple logo to a fully realized brand - and we did that and then some, creating a series of brand patterns and typographic styling cues that transformed their simple word documents into professional, consistent, and absolutely beautiful PDFs that immediately grabbed your attention.
If the products themselves were the best of the best, then we needed to make sure the real-life experience of learning about and receiving these Postcard Pantry items felt consistent with the quality of the offerings, not to mention a natural extension of the website.
We use the new brand foundation that was created for the book proposal and carried it over as we went into developing and designing a custom website for CAKE Literary's new online home. I recruited another immensely talented friend of mine, Emily Dove, to provide custom spot illustrations and icon designs, which add yet another dimension to the CAKE Literary brand aesthetic, and a touch of whimsy to the online experience. It's a detail that constantly gets raved, is tonally on point with the personalities of the fantastic women behind the operation and provides a relevant, personal touch to the audience CAKE appeals to.
As CAKE has continued to grow and develop into a respected player in the children's publishing industry, they've been able to achieve their dream of creating specific imprints to appeal to even more audiences who want fresh, diverse stories. Together, we've worked on a branding a few of those imprints, including Cupcake -- a middle grade focused imprint and Babycake, a soon to come imprint that will focus on picture books and reads for younger children.
The fruit borne from this project are some of the most beautiful things I've ever had the pleasure to create. The website on its own is a delightful marvel to look at as well as use, checking off every feature on the original wish-list and then some. Even as the website responsively adjusts to smaller screen sizes, like tablets and mobile phones, the user experience is never compromised and the brand details appear as considered and specific as they were planned to be at any size. Even simple website features like hovers and content filtering were designed in a very unique and specific way, integrating seamless combinations of color, typography, and image to visually enhance the browsing experience. The website is sprinkled with small details, both existing from the previous brand work like the playful patterned edges at the top and bottom of the site and the repurposing of simple icon flourishes into specific markers that match up with different types of content on the site, and new, like the engraved, old-fashioned food related illustrations to add more visual interest to larger expanses of background space when one scrolls through the site.
On the print design side, we were able to fully embrace the Postcard Pantry ethos of handcrafted and meticulously made and translate that to beautiful full color inserts and brochures, printed on textured, cotton papers. With the business cards, we were able to go a step beyond and bring in incredible natural, tactile elements, utilizing real walnut wood with white printed text on one side and pulpy cotton stock with warm grey letterpress printing on the other. They leave an undeniably memorable impression on anyone who is lucky enough to grab one of these beauties and reinforces the care and attention to detail that make Postcard Pantry the kind of business it is.
in stephanie's own words
What would you define as the catalyst or motivation for taking the leap and hiring a new designer?
The previous website was non-functional with broken code. The aesthetics and brand message needed a clean fresh start. The business model had changed to subscription-based instead of a physical brick & mortar. The catalyst was watching YouTube videos for 5 hours trying to fix my website realizing this is not going to end well like so many of my DIY projects around the house.
So there I was with a non-functional website (Postcard Pies), a desire to change business directions (in a big way), frustrated that I couldn't get from point A to B, and even bigger questions of why I was continuing to pursue these big goals when the odds were clearly not in my favor (aka broke). I had two choices: a) try to recover my losses and walk away or b) give this burning passion of mine one more last big push.
Phyllis came by way of recommendation by two professionals, IdeaLust, whom had first hand experience and were relentless that I connect with her to just get a quote and a solid (honest) professional opinion. From our first over the phone meeting it was clear that Phyllis had the gift to take these big ideas and make sense of it, all of it, and she said YES! That yes literally meant: yes your dream is achievable, yes this is a difficult project that will take some time, yes I'm invested in PP because I believe in PP, yes this will be difficult, and yes the rewards will be there tucked away in between all the layers of hard work built into the brand of PP.
how did you DECIDe on a designer?
There were three contenders, after receiving a discovery packet from Phyllis I knew right away she understood...it was more than a website. She had packets of homework that would provide a step by step guide of who PP is and what we do which is no small task. She wanted to truly understand the business to do her best work and didn't stop at the front door, we went through it all in an organized process that was direct and enlightening for both of us. The high level of commitment and professionalism was the ultimate reason for moving forward with Phyllis.
what are your OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF THE DESIGN EXPERIENCe?
It was a lot of hard work, with something of this magnitude there is no way you can say that was easy and have something come out the other end that you are so proud of accomplishing. This was a labor of love that took less than six months to execute (astonishing), to plan, architect, design, develop, test, and launch. There was never a moment that I didn't feel confident or question the direction we were going.
The most surprising thing to me was the road map outlining the scope of the project, milestones, dates, and our measured success throughout the life of the project as well as tracking side projects that tied in at various points. I always knew at what stage of progress we were in and never once had to inquire what was being worked on and when can I expect that work to be completed. The transparency throughout was impressive and something I have modeled after within my own business.
what SPECIFIC RESULTS AND IMPROVEMENTS have you seen IN YOUR BUSINESs?
By completing all the steps from concept to launch has helped us truly understand what we're best at and how to best serve our customers. That is significant for Postcard Pantry. I've been seeing steady growth with our online presence through increased web traffic + sales, and our social media footprint is steadily growing in numbers. Using a cohesive approach to from all online platforms to printed collateral has strengthened our brand message significantly.