Industry Insider: Stacy Adair

Notes from a Gartner Studios stationery exec

It’s your best friend’s birthday, and you want to remind her how special she is. You’re getting married, and foil-embossed cardstock has been your invitation fantasy since childhood. You have a hankering to spill your thoughts out onto a page, and only a real paper journal (no blogging here) will do. Despite all of the ways to stay in touch digitally, you still reach for pens and pretty paper. And Stacy Adair, creative director at Gartner Studios, is happy to bring it all to you.

“There’s still a need for the written word,” she says. “The handwritten note, journaling, writing things down—with stationery, you get a product that fits your personal style, and it’s not all about function. People want the pieces to say something about them as a person. It’s as important as the clothes you wear.”

That sense of self-expression is paramount to Gartner, which was founded in Stillwater in 1998. The products are designed in the picturesque town’s historic post office building. In addition to producing high-end invitations, social stationery, and partyware, Gartner is the parent company for two boutique brands: the bright, playful Mara-Mi brand as well as the colorful office-supply company Russell + Hazel.

russell + hazel product courtesy gartner studios

As creative director, Adair oversees the entire creative team: That’s 10 designers, the art production team, a prototype specialist, and an on-staff photographer. She’s worked for the company for nearly 10 years, beginning her career with Gartner as one of the first four designers at the company. It was Adair who dreamed up the bold, graffiti-inspired packaging concept for the Duff Goldman (best-known as the Ace of Cakes from TLC’s eponymous reality show) baking line.

The process for any product design begins with her annual trip to Europe to check out fashion, décor, and stationery shows. “All of the trends translate into stationery,” explains Adair, emphasizing that neon hues and menswear-inspired designs (grid patterns, indigo washes, and plaids) will be hot for fall. She creates trend summaries and meets with designers to help them create patterns and figure out how to apply them to different formats for Gartner products.

The patterns need to translate to everything from notecards to coffee mugs to cell phone cases, and it’s the transition from the two-to-three-dimensional that Adair really loves. “I worked in marketing for a long time, and it was all about promoting product and service. But I wanted to focus on designing product and getting something in the customer’s hands. I love focusing on how a product feels and looks.”