21 Dec Interview with Couture Invitation Designer Marc Friedland
As an event designer, working with other creative people is one of the best parts of my job. Which is why from time to time I’ll be chatting with some of the event professionals who inspire me about their work, process, and the business of events.
First up is my good friend and frequent collaborator, Marc Friedland, Founder and Creative Director of Marc Friedland Couture Communications. If you’re fortunate enough to receive an invitation he designed, you’re lucky on more than one count; not only are his invites often works of art themselves, the events they herald are frequently some of the hottest tickets in town.
What started as a handmade greeting card company in Marc’s apartment 27 years ago has since blossomed into a multimedia communications and branding firm in a 7,000 square-foot Los Angeles studio that creates bespoke pieces for corporate clients, non-profit organizations and A-listers hosting private events. True story: one of the company’s first big private clients was Molly Ringwald, who announced her 21st birthday party with a hand-painted, French linen invitation scented with her favorite perfume.
Now, MFCC works on projects as diverse as a run of 200,000 holiday cards announcing Universal Studio’s rebranding to a single, custom-crafted motorized snow globe complete with soundtrack. Regardless of the scope or size of the job, Marc is committed to helping his clients tell their story in the most powerful, and memorable way. “We’re storytellers through design. We help people communicate, celebrate, and connect — and we do that with a sense of community.”
In this first installment of a two-part series, Marc talks about how he got his start, balancing corporate and artistic concerns in his projects, and the challenges facing his field today.
When did you realize you wanted to be a designer and what did you do about it?
It was a very evolutionary process. I never woke up one morning and said, “I’m going to be a designer.” I was finishing up my master’s degree in public health, took a mixed media class and one thing lead to another. I started a hand done greeting card company and that’s how the business started. It kept evolving from there into invitations and then into branding and then into storytelling.
What was your first project or “gig”? How’d it go?
Our first big commission was for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and we did about 5,000 invitations for a fundraiser; it was a three-dimensional hand-painted piece.
Whose work do you really admire, or whose work is a primary influence?
I really like a lot of different people and a lot of different arenas. I love the beauty and craftsmanship and elegance of Monique Lhuiller and Tom Ford in fashion, I love the wit of Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders, and Jony Ive in product design. I love Daniel Ost, who is an amazing florist and a sculptural landscaper in Belgium; I think his work is extraordinary. I like Kelly Wearstler’s sensibility. So we pick up our cues from a lot of other mediums.
How do you balance the need to incorporate branding elements with creating a visually stunning invite?
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think the invite is an awesome branding tool.…We start with creating the event brand first and then all of the elements that are created are an extension of that voice.
If a company wants to include their identity in an event that they’re doing then we figure out a way to do that but still tell the story and the experience that we are trying to communicate. We’ve never really had an issue where a company’s logo just didn’t work. There are always ways to treat corporate identity in an event brand identity.
When do you know a project is a success?
It depends on how you define success. There are certain business successes: Was it done on time and in budget? Did we make money at it? And then creative successes: How did it communicate? How did people receive it? How memorable was it? How did it make people feel?
What are the biggest challenges facing your field right now? What’s most exciting?
Most of the challenges are how to create what we create within the parameters of time, money and possibility. I think that the changes that have occurred over the time that I’ve been doing this is how to simplify communications and get to the heart of those communications in a much more pure form — in a world that is so bombarded with inputs from all the various devices, from all the visual inputs that we get in the course of the day.
That’s really where the bigger challenges are coming right now: How to cut through all that clutter and still capture people’s emotion and engagement and excitement about wanting to attend something.
How to be relevant to a changing world I think is a bigger issue. We’re also dealing with a generation that grew up with electronic invitations, so I think social graces is a big thing and paper versus pixels and netiquette versus etiquette in a changing world.
Be sure to check back for part 2 of Marc’s interview!