At the end of each year, the owners of the project management software company Basecamp express their gratitude to their team through the gift of travel. Each employee can select a world destination to experience, with a curated list of eclectic locations offered as idea starters.
Last year’s gift was presented in the form of a keepsake walnut box, a letterpressed leather-bound book, and an illustrated and embroidered world map printed on linen.
Each box was customized with an engraved leather nameplate. The top slid open to reveal the book and the map, wrapped with a glassine band and finished with a wax compass seal. Maps were personalized with hand-embroidered linework and a star denoting the recipient’s home.
Several illustrations were created for the map, and for the letterpressed book, a simpler version of each image was drawn. Each press form of the book was printed with a different split fountain gradient to color the illustrations. The pages were then French folded, and the books were handbound into leather wraps with a modified longstitch technique.
Many thanks to Lindy Sinclair for creative collaboration, project management, sourcing, hand-finishing, and more. Copywriting by Andrea LaRowe of Basecamp. Letterpress by Ryan Basile at Double Trip Press. Bookbinding by Nicolette Ross. Boxes made by Host & Toast. Leather from Horween Leather Co. Fonts by Hoefler & Co.
Inspired by East Coast, Italian-American restaurants from the 1950’s, Formento’s blends traditional ambience and all-out hospitality with new age culinary sophistication.
Formento’s is prominently located on Randolph Street’s “Restaurant Row,” and tucked around the corner lies sister shop Nonna’s, selling made-to-order sandwiches, desserts and retail goods.
True story designed the complete brand identity, including a custom script logo, signage, menus, stationery, website, dozens of illustrations for their massive wine list, and packaging for a retail line of Formento’s-labeled wines and sauces.
The overhand script “F” in the logo was based on the signature of Fred Wagner Jr.
Impact² is a Chicago-based consultancy that guides corporations, NGOs, and not-for-profits through the planning and implementation of strategies for positive social change. With a proven business case for “doing good,” they help their clients grow profit, enhance reputation, and ultimately improve society.
True story designed the brand identity for Impact², including a series of illustrations depicting “The Birth of Organizational Change.” Inspired by the co-founders’ complementary backgrounds, each image combines a different kind of chart with elements of life and nature. Rational meets romantic.
Located in Bucktown, The Bristol has become a staple for Chicago’s local dining crowd, off-duty chefs, and visiting foodies looking for a great dinner or weekend brunch. Their menu features handmade pasta, charcuterie, farm-fresh produce, and a nose-to-tail approach to cooking.
The brand identity conveys their straightforward approach, favoring substance over style. For stationery and collateral, unrefined materials including kraft paper and chipboard were used to communicate humility and authenticity.
Historic landmark Tree Studios was established in 1894 as an artists’ colony, home to many greats, such as painter Richard Florsheim, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, actors Peter Falk and Burgess Meredith, and sculptor John Storrs.
Today, Tree Studios serves Chicago’s arts and cultural community as a space for arts-related businesses, as well as street-level shops and restaurants.
True story was enlisted to design a brand identity that would evoke Tree Studios’ origins while presenting it as a contemporary, fashionable workspace and shopping destination.
For the logo, a variety of symbol and type compositions were explored. The solution was a simplified typographic approach – rooted in history yet timeless.
German immigrant Conrad Seipp founded his brewery in Chicago in 1854. By the late 1870s, Seipp’s was among the largest breweries in the United States, and it dominated the Chicago beer market, producing over 100,000 barrels a year. Despite its early success, the brewery struggled through Prohibition and closed in 1933.
In 2018, Seipp’s great-great-great granddaughter began the process of resurrecting the Seipp’s brand and its beer. True story was hired to update the product logo, formal signature, and corporate seal for a contemporary, beer-savvy audience.
A custom, low contrast script typeface was designed to withstand lo-fi printing on materials such as metal or cardboard.
More to come!
Bom Bolla was a Spanish-inspired Cava bar offering authentic pinxtos, montaditos and bocadillos in Chicago’s Wicker Park.
For their decor, Bom Bolla mashed motifs from modern Spanish art with punk music circa 1977.
True story designed Bom Bolla’s brand identity including logotype, signage and website. In addition, True story illustrated murals of Debbie Harry and Mick Jones that were hand-painted onto the tile walls by Right-Way. These murals became a favorite backdrop for visitors’ selfies and Instagram pics.
‘Sagrada’ icon designed by W. Craig Cooper.
Chicago’s Shattered Globe Theatre was started in 1991 by a small ensemble of committed artists and has since grown to more than 30 members.
For 10 years, True story provided SGT with pro bono design services, including identity design, season campaign design, print advertising, posters and postcard design for 15 plays.
Balena is an Italian-inspired restaurant focusing on foods sourced from the farms of the Midwest. Its beverage program showcases wines from all regions of Italy, and its amaro-based cocktails are offered on a 1-to-10 scale of bitterness.
True story designed Balena’s brand identity, including the logotype and chef’s chop, menu design, to-go packaging, stationery, collateral and website.
The upside-down “a” in the logo was inspired by early team discussions in which the name was voiced conversely as either “ba-LAY-nuh” or “ba-LEE-nuh” (the former won.)
Interior designers Barron & Stoll create lush experiences that make all guests feel regal, uplifted and welcome. With a traditional viewpoint, they will often throw in a few curves and introduce modern or outsider touches inspired by their travels or appreciation for art – each space telling a unique story, equally comforting and provocative.
Like their work, their brand identity consists of formal elements, presented informally. For stationery, tactile production methods including embossing and letterpress were used to reflect the luxuriousness of their work.
For their website, an immersive 3D experience was designed, encouraging users to discover their work like exploring a museum.
mStoner develops strategic marketing and communication solutions for higher education. They are regarded as thought leaders in their industry and routinely share their intelligence through a variety of webinars, conferences and white papers.
True story has worked with mStoner for several years, providing website design concepts for over 20 schools.
The name of West Loop restaurant Sepia is a tribute to the print shop that inhabited the space from the 1890’s. That history, combined with the owner’s love for printing and photography, was the basis for Sepia’s first website, which used animation and music to cinematically present the restaurant and give visitors a glimpse of the Sepia dining experience.
Ten years after the launch of the original website, True story designed a new responsive website.
True story has also designed signage, packaging, sales collateral and advertising for Sepia.
For Shattered Globe Theatre’s “Meet John Doe,” lead actor Joe Forbrich was photographed on the roof of the Chicago Cultural Center. The resulting poster was delivered inside a mock newspaper that served two purposes — it was a promo that set up the action of the play, and it was used within the play as a prop.
The plot: during the Depression, a struggling reporter writes a fictitious story about a man who is distraught over America’s neglect of the little people. The story quickly spreads, and everyone wants to find this “John Doe.” To save her job, the reporter enlists a homeless man to portray Doe. Unwittingly, the story propels him to become a populist hero, a presidential candidate, and a pawn of big business.
Every so often, we send out a printed promotion. In 2010, we designed a wall calendar combining silkscreen, letterpress and die-cutting, all on super thick 59pt. binder’s board. The artwork showcased the character of our identity font, Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk.
Letterpress and die-cut by Rohner Letterpress. The silkscreening was done in our kitchen.
The B. Hospitality Co. restaurant group was founded in 2008 with the launch of The Bristol. Since then, the team has opened five more restaurants, each with its own fully-realized personality, each tastefully balancing the classic with the new.
Their brand identity reflects their collective personality – seasoned, sophisticated, honest, confident, and accessible.
Ixonos is a Finland-based technology and design firm employing a global community of designers, engineers, strategists, and innovators.
To convey Ixonos’ core brand principles to its employees, True story designed a folded poster consisting of 6 sub-compositions that, when opened, combined into one single image.
In collaboration with Colleen Arturi.
Wonderlic’s Cognitive Ability Test is a trusted exam used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees and students for learning, decision making, and problem solving. Most famously, “The Wonderlic” is used by the NFL during their annual pre-draft Combine as a tool to evaluate future players.
Wonderlic engaged True story to redesign its brand identity, design identity standards, and communicate a cohesive brand messaging strategy to its employees.
Lakeview Baseball Club on Sheffield Avenue is the original Wrigley Field rooftop. LBC is instantly recognizable by its historic “Eamus Catuli!” and “Anno Catuli” signs that cheer on the beloved Cubs and count the years since they’ve won the division, pennant, and World Series. After their 2016 World Series Championship, the counter was ceremoniously set back to “000000.”
True story designed the brand identity for LBC, celebrating the history of the building and the traditions of Major League Baseball.
And we got to update the old signs.
Set in the 1930’s, Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of “Hyde in Hollywood” tells the tale of Julian Hyde, a famous actor/director/producer with a secret. When a columnist tries to destroy him by revealing his secret, Hyde declares war. His weapon of choice – the media.
To advertise the play, lead actor Steve Key struck an expressive pose and the resulting poster was printed with references to cheap, era-specific production, including flat-tint duotones, coarse halftone dots and intentional bad registration.
Printed by Sonnenzimmer.
Since 1982, Pops for Champagne has been a popular Chicago destination for lovers of the sparkling French wine. After moving from Lakeview to the River North entertainment district, Pops has become a favorite spot for tourists and downtown residents looking for a fun place to celebrate or meet with friends.
True story designed Pops’ brand identity and website. The number of dots in the logo was in recognition of Pops’ thirtieth anniversary.
One-offs and outtakes...