After some years of using a standard merge-format letter, I sat down with Descanso Gardens to rework their membership renewal system with the goal of a more attention-grabbing letter, a push for membership upgrade, and incorporation of a new membership campaign. Their previous 2 packages had been in use for a few years in a row, and one concern was that viewing fatigue was causing recipients to ignore the mailing. Another item high on the list of additions was the ability to showcase new events outside the letter body.
Since a full-color merge document has to be done on a digital press, I thought we should maximize on the versatility of the process and make seasonally-themed ever-changing letters. We decided on a system that showcases a monthly theme for each mid-month mailing with timely event info to encourage engagement. Due to the changing theme, each recipient gets a different letter ahead of expiration from the one post-expiration to keep the look fresh and attention focused. While the letter body makes the case for membership in prose, we added an upgrade ask and a 2-year ask on the reply slip. The letter back does the heavy lifting of describing each membership level and benefit so recipients can make the best choice for their household.
The renewal letter was the first rollout of the We Grow More Than Plants campaign, where the focus is on people engaging with the Gardens and experiencing nature. Each layout has 3 placements of seasonal photos that change monthly along with color blocks to contrast. The letters feel like a series while each is a unique opportunity to show everything Descanso is up to. We’re coming up on completing our first year, and I’m really pleased with how these have turned out.
Aside from being a public garden, Descanso is also available to rent in several locations. Previous materials had not only to catch up with the expanding garden, but give a full update of services and possibilities. We created these two pieces as double gate-fold brochures, so there are several reveals on the way to the details. I especially like this format because you can’t get past the gate without stopping to take a look at everything.
As we tie together a cohesive package of collateral for Descanso Gardens, the festival and event postcards are a critical touchpoint in the package. At a bold 11″ x 6″ they stand out in the mailbox, provide plenty of space for a full event run-down on the back, and showcase a consistent look throughout the year.
Reworking the tri-annual newsletter for Descanso Gardens was a great opportunity to answer the question: Do we really need the title at the top of a cover? Since this is a member publication and an on-site handout, we answered with a resounding no and let gorgeous photos lead the way. Don’t worry, we made up for it by keeping a strong 3-column grid and baselined type inside. Positioned as the feature item in a suite of clearly branded collateral, members always know a Descanso piece in their mail before ever seeing the logo.
We’re working through print collateral at Descanso Gardens, creating pieces along the new style guide, and this is the first! This positioning piece is the first stop for all visitors on their way in. You can find everything you need to get started on your first visit to the Gardens, with one back panel reserved for promoting seasonal events.
For their first Annual Report, we really put the Descanso style guide to work, going big on everything the Gardens have to offer. Descanso is part non-profit and part guild, which means their books are always public, but the report helps give context to everything from where membership dollars go to how everything gets done and by whom, with a lot of face time for the people who make it happen.
In September 2015, Descanso Gardens unveiled their latest development: A garden dedicated to prehistoric plants to give the experience of foliage from the time of dinosaurs! A very cool stewardship that I was honored to help promote.
As Descanso Gardens expanded to include The Oak Woodland, attention turned to this cute lakeside structure that hadn’t been in use for quite awhile, The Boddy Lodge. Once renovated, the location was perfect for lakeside lounging and that’s just what Descanso decided to do. We created this fun summer camp badge logo to kick off a series of evening events in the Gardens, I’m super happy with how it turned out.
We’re still eating our way through squash season in the studio. My very serious research into squash recipes tells me that people are looking for any way to modify squash to do things other than be squash. Lots of people make chips. Others took a cue from the cauliflower pizza crusts of late and make a similar squash crust. While, on their own, they are interesting ideas, I can’t really get behind the concept that I’ve watered my garden during a drought only to desiccate its bounty. There are a few where you salt & drain off some liquid, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
Turning to a kitchen tool that opens up a lot of possibilities, the mandoline can really put a new spin on your squash experience. Unlike squash that’s been sitting for a week, fresh picked squash has a good tooth to it, and does well with other crunchy veggies in a crunch salad. When every ingredient is reduced to basically the same shape & size, you can mix any ratio of any selection of veggies, dress them and enjoy the freshness. These salads are off the charts for Vitamins A & C as well.
I used generally similar amounts of mandolined yellow squash, red daikon radish, cucumber and carrot. Then I chopped purple cabbage, kale and red pepper in a similar fashion. This left me with roughly 10 cups of chopped veggies, to which I added 4oz feta cheese, olive oil and lemon juice to toss together and store. For each serving, I add some capers and nuts.
The great thing about these freestyle salads is that you can use what you have. I like a variety of flavor and color, but you could do only a few ingredients if you want. They’re also filling and so so healthy!