Case Study: Rebranding Descanso Gardens

Main Identity Set

It started innocently enough, with a simple request to create a set of rules around using their wordmark and design a style guide around it. Just a guiding document for internal departments and external contractors to follow for a consistent presentation of all Descanso Gardens print matter. As with many things, though, that which appears simple has many unanticipated questions and discussions ahead, so we started as we always do, with discovery!

In this case, we did a full identity audit of the past few years of print matter, sorted by type [main stationery set, organization communications, membership campaigns, fundraising efforts, field guides, event collateral, signage], mounted to boards and affixed to the walls for all decision-makers to review and discuss. There’s nothing like seeing everything you’ve put out into the world all in one place to really see what works and what doesn’t. My approach is to collect everything and prepare the boards, along with best recommendations ahead of time, then present to the group and see where the discussion goes. Separately, we did a brand audit interview worksheet for stakeholders to fill out separately, to make sure the forward look of the organization was in line with the mission and the values of their membership. This is often where the best insider advice comes out, when people have the chance to speak anonymously.

Much of their core identity was very strong, it just needed a bit of refinement and standardization. Descanso Gardens’ main mission is to steward the land left by the Boddy estate, which includes in greatest number an impressive collection of camellias and native oak trees. We revised the leaf cluster used previously to reflect those of coast live oaks, and gave them a simple boxed wordmark in their signature green that keeps visual continuity with their previous setup. For social media, everything is further simplified, but the 3 elements are all there.


Expanding to the full identity set, we have a standard logo setup, address lockup, leaf cluster placements for bleeds and non-bleeds alike. Descanso previously used an extended color palette reflective of the 4 seasons, which we modestly updated and applied to the business cards, specialty communications and membership campaigns.

Finally, the set was complete, and guidelines could be compiled into a style guide. We’ve covered everything from the basics of logo usage and type styles to organizational messaging and positioning. For the in-house departments, we have the basics of 1-sheet and flyer layouts, and for off-site contractors we have lock-ups and callouts and color specs for all color spaces.

Style Guide

We’re really pleased with how everything turned out, and looking forward to seeing how they use it in the coming years.
+ See more of our work for Descanso Gardens here.
+ Read more case studies here.

Is it time to whip your identity into shape? A brand & identity audit can get everything on track and moving in the right direction, and it also happens to be what we do. Say hello anytime and let us know how we can help.

Recent Work: The Rise, Only at Descanso


It’s been really hard not to shout about this project all year long, but now that it’s complete: these gala materials have been one of our most fun projects to date! As the only west coast host to The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns, Descanso set their fundraising gala ahead of the public event as an evening garden wonderland among the carved pumpkin sculptures. We decided to glam it up by printing metallic copper on cream paper, adding an elegant twist to fall festivities.


The calendar leading up to this exclusive event is a long one, so we got started more than 6 months out with an overall look & feel, and initial commitment materials in the form of an extended letterhead set. Next came a save-the date invite, and eventually the event invitation, finishing up with on-site collateral. We definitely had a budget to keep in mind, and managed to create really beautiful pieces by going 2-color and running together on similar stocks, and layering specialty papers together.

I’m really pleased with how these pieces work together, and Descanso Gardens reported that this gala garnered increased commitments and donations from the previous year.

+ See the complete project here.
+ See more of our work for Descanso Gardens here.

Recent Work: Center Circle Identity


The Center Circle members at Descanso Gardens are a special sector of supporters who donate at a premium and highly value the grounds they help protect. In turn, Descanso has a selection of events, a personalized welcome kit and focused communications that require a unique identity reflective of this group.

We built an identity for Center Circle collateral around one of the main colors in their extended palette and tied it into one of Descanso’s specialties: cherry blossoms. In addition to a stationery set, the welcome kit includes tips on all the ways to maximize the membership experiences, delivers membership cards, and contains a personal note from the director.

See more of our work for Descanso Gardens.

recent work: beer & food


From the owners of Golden Road, Mohawk Bend and Tony’s Darts Away, comes expert hospitality team, Beer & Food Management, providing California-fresh artisanal catering and craft beer services for special events. In keeping with the local, hands-on theme, we’re using Neenah Environment 100% PCW recycled paper, and recalling the beautiful wood finishes found in your favorite public houses.

See more for the Mohawk Bend family of pubs here.

creative inspiration

bass pro
bass pro, image:

looking at outdoorsy design today, i’m loving all the natural, full-frame surfaces of this branding for bass pro. the complete set on fred carriedo‘s site.

national park stamps
national park stamps, image:

this beautiful set of national park stamps were commissioned by national geographic for their interactive guide to the national parks. thanks to for profiling the set.

native resorts
native resorts, image:

awesome work for this denver resort that specializes in outdoorsy experiences in the neighboring national parks. great poster series to compliment the branding. see the whole set on brian rau‘s site.

a store is born!

i spent the last few weeks working a christmas elf’s schedule, creating holiday cards, thank you cards & gift tags. i think they’re super-cute and thought some of you might as well, so i built a simple store for my site, where you can pick some up: the parlato design studio store! trim your list of holiday-induced malarkey and get ahead of the game by getting your cardstuffs right here!

holiday cards

parlato design studio holiday cards
send holiday festivities to everyone on your list with cards celebrating animals, poinsettias & snow! choose your favorite or go for a variety pack, all are sold in sets of 12. cards are blank inside so you can get creative! all are printed on 100lb uncoated cover stock and come with white A2 vellum-finish envelopes to match.

• woodland animals: 5.5″ x 4″
• retro wonderland: 4″ x 5.5″
• snowflakes & poinsettias: 5.5″ x 4″
• variety pack: 4 of each style [set of 12]

set of 12 cards & envelopes: $8 includes shipping

special offer!

* get a free set of 12 gift tags with your holiday card order, now through december 15, 2010.

thank you cards

parlato design studio thank you cards
say a resounding thanks to the people who make your day, week, or year fantastic. sets include 3 cards of each design for a set of 12, blank inside so you can write a personal note. printed on 100lb uncoated cover stock and come with white vellum-finish envelopes to match.

• variety pack: 3 of each style [set of 12], 5″ x 3.5″ with matching envelopes at 5.125″ x 3.625″

set of 12 cards & envelopes: $6 includes shipping

gift tags

parlato design studio gift tags
add flair to your gift wrapping this season, slap a nice gift tag on it! great for co-workers, friends, family & even your sweetheart. some styles coordinate with holiday cards, all are printed on 100lb uncoated cover stock and are small enough to fit any gift.

• variety pack: 5 of each style [set of 30], 3.25″ x 1.25

set of 30 gift tags: $5 includes shipping

special offer!

* get a free set of 12 gift tags with your holiday card order, now through december 15, 2010.

identity system for the shammas group

the shammas group identity system

this identity system for the shammas group asserts them as an idea-forward umbrella company over several successful family businesses. they bought the historical petroleum building in 1959 and use it as the home base for their headquarters, so this identity is a recognizable replica of the top floors of the building, putting them in the penthouse offices with the lights always on.

anne e. gimbel identity system

anne gimbel, mfti

i just launched this identity system for therapist anne e. gimbel, m.a., mfti, designed to announce and promote her new practice under mary k. cocharo, lmft. the business card efficiently doubles as an appointment card. the site has a complete profile of gimbel’s practice along with location & services information as well as a contact form. wordpress strikes again as a great format for this type of site, enabling a clean, seo-friendly format, while allowing the client to perform updates on the fly with a simple graphic user interface.

contentnext: stationery package

rounding out the identity materials for contentnext, being a social media company and relatively paper-free, this is one of the few roll-outs that have gone in nearly-reverse order from the usual procedure. they first developed a brand around necessary communications based only on a logo and a mission statement, then backed it out with support materials. while some projects can become scattered when done out of order, we stayed consistent and on-point with good guidance, oversight and a clear corporate communication from the beginning. in the end it reinforces the “whatever works” philosophy in terms of order–it came together really well and that’s what counts.