Write_On: Tell us about yourself! What’s your background and what drew you to design cards and stationery?
Shino: I was an illustration major at a college, then a freelance illustrator for a number of years when I started working for my friends who owned a letterpress greeting cards company.
Write_On: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Shino: I love Scandinavian designs, vintage children’s book and advertising illustrations, and Japanese character designs. My Japanese upbringing definitely shows through when I design our cards. I try to design cards that communicate immediately, and evokes some sort of emotion. They tend to be more of ‘illustrations’ than ‘designs’.
Write_On: How do you use your designs to inspire people to connect in writing?
Shino: My hope is that people see our cards and somehow make them think of specific people in their lives, and inspire people to send the cards. When I design, I usually have specific person in my mind for that particular design.
Write_On: What does your process look like for creating a new card or stationery design?
Shino: I have so many papers and half-filled sketch books lying around everywhere - printshop, computer desk, dining table, on a night stand… I brain storm constantly. Once I have a rough idea, I sketch it out, and sometimes do a finished drawing to scan it into Photoshop, or I re-create the image in Illustrator, depending on what feels right.
Write_On: How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?
I used to write long letters all the time to my friends when I was a kid. My family and I moved around within Japan and then from Japan to Texas when I was 13, and there was no Skype or email then, so I wrote. I’d check the mailbox everyday to see if my friends wrote back. Then when I started college in California, the rest of my family moved back to Japan, so again, I wrote to them. My mom would send care packages, I still have many of the letters my mom sent to me from those days. After college, some of my friends and I sent little comics to each other about what’s going on in our lives. I still have those as well, and they crack me up. We were pretty silly. I also made zines for a short while, and it was exciting for me to receive letters from total strangers requesting to purchase them. I think I sold them for something like $3 each.
Write_On: What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?
Shino: It’s really weird, because I used to LOVE writing letters, and now I don’t know what to write about!!
Write_On: What does your letter-writing practice look like?
Shino: I still write to my friend from college (she is an avid letter-writer and a mix CD sender), but other than that, they’re pretty limited to writing notes to our customers and also birthday and Christmas cards to friends and family.
Write_On: Modern times have made digital correspondence increasingly available and convenient. Why is it important for people to send handwritten cards and letters?
Shino: Both personally and professionally, a hand-written note or memo immediately makes whatever that’s written so much more personal. When I receive a hand written note, I can imagine the person behind the writing. Not as much with emails or texts.
Write_On: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?
Shino: I don’t remember if I ever received any advice about writing letters.. but I love it when I receive a letter and it tells me something about that person I didn’t know about. So I try to do the same when I write to other people.
Write_On: What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?
Shino: To that college friend/pen pal. I owe her a response.