Every few months or so, we look for a way to gift our partners with something that reflects our culture. For the past few years, these gifts have reflected on of our core values: Be Good to Each Other.
This gift-giving exercise has taken us to some pretty cool places. Last December, we designed a card deck to invoke positive coworker interactions through kindness, inspired by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies card set. The year before, we developed a three-print series depicting surprising symbiotic animal pairings, which symbolize dependence and interconnection.
We were really happy with how both projects turned out, so we set the bar high for our 2015 gift.
A Timeless Piece of History
In revisiting the theme of being good to one another, branching out beyond the workplace only made sense. With this thinking, we started to explore the concept of “paying it forward.” We’re all pretty familiar with the idea but were surprised to learn about its origins.
In our research, we found a beautiful letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend who’d requested to borrow money. In it, Franklin asked his friend to repay the debt by lending to someone else in need down the road, noting that he had no intention of receiving repayment but rather sought to do a world of good with what little he had to give.
This letter is among the first historical accounts of the pay-it-forward philosophy, having resonated with countless readers throughout time. It’s an outlook we feel perfectly relates to our company values and what we seek to do in our own lives. It’s a beautiful way to relate to the world.
New Applications in Today’s Society
We can learn a lot from Ben Franklin’s contributions to society. Having never finished school, Franklin’s list of extensive accomplishments over time is made more impressive by his humble beginnings and dedication to constant self-improvement.
From countless scientific discoveries, to strategic commercial and political relations, to his pivotal role in the founding of our country, Franklin’s hard work, discipline, and values seemed to revolve around one question: How can I help?
This outlook has inspired us to frame “being good to each other” in a new way. How can we ensure that the work we do, no matter how big or small, is helpful? For starters, we can keep this prompt at the forefront of our minds. And what better way to do that than with a constant visual reminder? That’s how we decided to turn this letter into a poster.
The “Pay It Forward” Poster
Benjamin Franklin was a prolific printer and publisher, deeply dedicated to the power of the written word. No doubt his most famous contribution is the Declaration of Independence, but his wisdom and wit still live on in countless works published throughout his career. Honoring his words meant honoring his printing prowess as well.
In an era marked by visual language, we wanted to ensure Franklin’s powerful words still speak for themselves. So, we settled on a clean, modern typography design and illustration style to showcase the beauty of the words without overpowering them. The poster is printed in two techniques: letterpress and hot foil stamping.
To make the message really shine, magnesium plates stamped copper foil on German-made Gmund color matte; 100 g/m², 200 g/m², 300 g/m²; acid-free; pH-neutral paper in a selection of dark shades to stand out brilliantly against each other. (Colors range from: black #10; dark navy/indigo, #89; blue, #59; dark green, #60; dark brown, #87. Limited edition of 350, 70 prints for each color.)
For the letterpress series, we selected metallic copper and blue ink on French-made Reich Savoy, 118# Cover, 100%-cotton paper. Recyclable and biodegradable, the Earth-friendly Savoy paper is free of acids, chlorine, or tree-related elements. (Limited edition of 350 prints total.)
Leaving subtle foil imperfections and variations in ink and impression, these elegant and sophisticated stamping techniques ensure no two pieces are entirely identical. We’re really happy with how it all turned out. Above all, we hope it acts as an inspirational visual reminder for anyone who sees it.
Update: We’re also honored that this unique piece has garnered several awards, including: