Crane by Collins
Text by Richard Baird
Time. This is central premise of Collin’s work for American stationery brand Crane, and more specifically, the bookmarking of the past and the present, and a meditation on the “concrete” as a time machine to the future. It is a reflection of what it is to put something down on paper and what makes something last.
The past. Stephen Crane established the Crane paper business in 1770, purchasing the Liberty Paper Mill in Dalton, Massachusetts. Paul Revere was one of Crane’s first customers, using their paper to print the first paper money for the American colonies. By 1801 Crane was the primary producer of banknote paper for local and regional banks and, eventually, for the U.S. government. This solidified Crane’s presence in American daily life.
The present. Crane honours its heritage by continuing to offer a vast array of carefully crafted products that “gifts” its customers moments for thoughtful reflection and beautiful communication “grounded in time and space”. In today’s fast-paced, digital-first communications realm, the material, the substrate, ink on paper, becomes a more profound gesture. It focuses the mind, heightens consciousness and the possibility of generating a stronger response in the recipient. Perhaps, in its materiality, the quality of the surface, the detail of an emboss or a watermark, the note or the letter secures its existence into the future, where the digital, with nothing tangible to initiate its recovery, could be lost.
The future. Collins worked closely with Crane’s team to revitalise their brand and reboot their digital presence, creating a more relevant brand voice, as well as enabling new product development, artist collaboration and customisation capabilities. Through this new program, and as articulated by a new visual identity, Crane intends to explore new ways of expressing the depth and design of what are described as timeless, premium-quality 100% cotton products. The new visual identity positions stationery as something, not just fit for but in fact heightened by the present, and furthers the notion of material documentation and communication being a critical part of considered thought.
In some ways, the digital has imposed itself on this project. Colour blocking, a clear and strong graphic motif that is bold and elegant, large typeface application and the heightened allure of the physical in the face of the digital function as ways to migrate this material brand online, to give it a modernity and immediacy through simplicity and a clearly defined visual language to catch the eye amongst a barrage of visual noise. Collins’ documentation of the project itself becomes part of that digital economy of engagement. The images of the objects become a form of capital for both Crane and Collins, to be platformed and shared. In this way, it is now but also for the future,
The results are immediate and appealing, the visual language straightforward, but the real value lies in that central question posed, what it is to put something down on paper today, and what makes something last? It is difficult to predict the future of the material in an increasingly platformed world. Crane clearly has a stake in this, and Collins has understood the existential quandary and through visual identity, set them up in a way that affords them more time to reflect on and answer this question, and perhaps more importantly, put that question to others through their products by leveraging the medium of the digital.