THE MANY WAYS OF PAPER - A DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: with Carissimo Letterpress, Vienna

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

We are Ana & Alessandro. We founded Carissimo Letterpress in 2014 to share our love of exclusive papers, typography and beautiful printing techniques. 

We met in Milan, Italy over a decade ago while studying graphic design and fashion design. Our professional experiences include working for several graphic design agencies in Milan and designing jewellery and accessories for an international fashion house. After 4 years in Milan we packed our bags and took off on a travel year that brought us as far as Australia and New Zealand. We returned to Europe with our minds full of ideas and inspirations.

After deciding to create our base in Vienna we started assembling our studio, it took as a few years to collect all the machines, printing know how and bits and pieces we needed. We have found our antique machines anywhere between the south of Italy, the Swiss mountains and down-town Vienna. They all come from a time of artisan making, real handcraft and full-on steel power. In 2017 we took over a historic Viennese print shop with a selection of machines that has been running here in 6th district in Vienna since the 1950ies. Since then we have been growing our production possibilities as well as our graphic design services. You can now buy our wedding and baby Semi Custom Collections online and we have Hotfoil and Relief stamping as well as more options for die-cutting, creasing and folding.

What we have kept the same is the dedication to our design work, the details, the precision and the human touch in all that we do. All our illustrations and layouts go through our hands, nothing is done automatically.

Show us one of your favourite designs and tell us about how it came to be. 

I guess one of our all time favourite wedding stationeries was the one we created for a couple of long-standing clients from Belgium. They saw a design we did for an editorial with the reknown photographers Gianluca Adovasio and Greg Finck for the Ostuni Workshop in Italy and they loved the design work and decided to fly in from Antwerp for an in-house consultation. They were going to wed in Antwerp and in Italy and we created a whole stationery set full of custom hand illustrated details and personal aesthetic. What I loved most about this design is that we started from a quite conceptual point, we were inspired by flemish painter Clara Peeters and the botanical illustrations of Sybilla Maria Merian, because we fell in love with their „living“ floral compositions.

So we were going to incorporate these ideas in the stationery in a contemporary way. Their Antwerp reception was set in a green house, so the theme of growth, botanics and nature was perfect. Their Tuscan wedding was set at Castiglion del Bosco, which is a typical Italian Borgo close to Florence and its just such a beautiful setting, the Villas are amazing and the landscape is just breathtaking. So for this second festivity, we created invites with illustrations of the Borgo and their individual Villas - each card was Letterpress and Hotfoil printed and handpainted with gold pigment for more depth. Maybe now you have something quite heavy and old-style in your minds - just add papers in bright yellow and candy pink as well as two tones of green to your imaginary invitation set. Apart from the aesthetic, which is really one of a kind, what we loved most was the creative process - the back and forth of ideas and the personal touches, we were consequently able to incorporate making something really special and meaningful that remains a beautiful keepsake.

What are your favourite colours to work with right now? And why?

We love soft dusty colours and earthy tones - dove blue is an all time favourite, but also earthy terracotta tones have us swooning this season. With hotfoils we have been drawn to semi opaque foils, that have more subtle nuances. 

Which of all our colours of handmade paper do you like best if you had to chose one? 

I love the crisp of your white, it’s beautifully warm but pure at the same time. Also your bluish grey is lovely, especially with gold tones and Hotfoils it’s a winner for us.

Colour combination that will never go out of style? Colour combination that will make a comeback?

Soft greys always look great in Letterpress and really go with any colour scheme that might develop later on. They are timeless and the relief effect is beautiful on the lighter tones.

We have had more silver come back recently - while it’s been all gold for the last seasons, silver foil does have a unique vibe to it and in a more opaque finish, really looks crisp and elegant.

What are design elements that you use consistently in your work?

We are drawn to beautiful, classic Serif fonts like Bodoni, Didot or Requiem, for example, combined with more contemporary Sans Serif & Calligraphy fonts. We love to mix them a little to create interest and a playful approach. We use lots of white space as well as it really gives air and lightness to the designs. And of course hand illustrated elements, whether its florals or venues or monograms, we really love the quality and uniqueness of hand drawn lines. Our aim is to create a connection between the past and the present while creating timeless beauty.

How do you see handmade paper? Is it a more modern or a more retro design element?

We feel it very much depends on the design, its a very versatile material to work with. Our Bridgerton themed stationery is really leaning into antique books, florals, copperplate calligraphy and an old world elegance - while our Minimalist Suite is the complete opposite.

What inspires you?

Mostly Architecture for forms and decor but also proportions. Antique books and typography in books in general - there are really beautiful font combinations to be found.

Your dream design project?

I’d love to create a stationery for one of those totally over the top Indian or Libanese weddings with thousands of guests and loads of colour.

If you had to use only one font on handmade paper for the rest of your designer's life, which would it be?

Probably something really classic - like a Bodoni. 

Are you secretly a serif or sans serif person?

Definitely a Serif person but with a soft spot for Sans Serif. Alessandro is more of a Sans Serif, I would say. Usually when we work together we create the best design work, because each of us goes out of their comfort zone.

Which three words best describe your style?

Timeless, light, playful

Did you teach it yourself or did you go to school for design?

We are working as a team, so we all bring in our different skills and educational backgrounds. Alessandro has studied and worked in graphic design, but he learned printing by himself mostly. He has worked for several studios in Milan and often really starts from a concept when designing branding projects. I studied fashion, so I have some basis in graphic design and layouting but obviously a lot of learning on the job. I worked a few years in design at Marni in Milan, where I had to draw but also work a lot with my hands. It has really formed my design approach but also the way I see inspiration and sources for ideas. Our team member Leni has brought in new skills as well, she is great at illustrations and loves drawing. Her style is more naif and playful, so she is a great addition.

Your guilty pleasure in design?

Mine is Interior design, I just love to see all the amazing things that you can do with a home, furniture, colour, wallpaper, tableware - it really never gets old for me.

Why do you like working with handmade paper? 

It adds character and texture to any design and really has a unique, sensual quality to it.