John Segal, Creative Director of Stationery and Brand Design, is the driving force behind some of our statement-making products such as the iconic Crane & Co. blue boxed stationery, greeting cards, as well as the stunning 1801 Limited Edition collection, just to name a few. An avid collector of fountain pens, Segal will tell you about his inspirations, design process, as well as some of his favorite pieces from this year’s Boxed Stationery Collection.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Though I’ll never quite feel like a native, I’ve called New York home for 25 years. I ride my bike to work every day, I’m an avid collector of fountain pens, and I can name the starting lineup of the 1969 American League Champion Baltimore Orioles. I like my coffee black, I have a small 12lb dog named Daisy, also my favorite color is orange.
How long have you been with the Crane team?
I have been a full-time employee of Crane for three years, though my relationship with the company is longstanding. When the opportunity to come on board full-time presented itself, I jumped at the chance. This is my dream job, and I feel very fortunate to have, what I believe, is one of the greatest jobs in America. I design things that I love and get to use, and for a company that has a unique story and special role in America.
Can you attribute anything from your past to working at Crane today?
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to become a designer, but I didn’t really understand what designers did. I liked the idea of having a drawing table full of instruments (I have a very pronounced tool fixation). I figured the way to indulge in this fetish was to find a profession that used these tools.
But, I always remembered my parents having a keepsake box on their coffee table growing up. Their wedding invitations had been engraved, and the engraving was then turned into this box – it fascinated me. It now sits on my own coffee table and I consider it one of my most treasured possessions. Whether it influenced my choice in career or not, I don’t know. But whatever the case, it seems appropriate.
What’s your favorite part about coming to work every day?
I wear a lot of different hats at work, and there’s always something new on my desk to deal with. My absolute favorite thing about work is driving up to the factory in North Adams, Massachusetts. I love nothing more than to walk onto the factory floor, hear the hum of the machines and take in the smells of the printing ink. Anyone that works in the printing industry knows that rush, and it’s amazing.
Tell us a little bit about what your desk looks like.
At any given time, my desk is covered with coffee cups, paintbrushes, inkbottles, rulers, takeout containers – you name it. But underneath it all is a gleaming 8-foot slab of perfect white Formica – and the organized Swiss designer I always wished to be. Pristine underneath, frenzied on top – it’s forever in chaos.
How does life outside of work inspire you, and in what ways do you seek it out?
Bike riding, of course – something I do daily. But I also maintain the theory of “you are the company you keep.” I’m surrounded by talented and creative people. My wife is an amazingly gifted art director, and my daughter is an artist and writer. And, living in New York, you’re never far from inspiration – it’s everywhere.
Tell us about your design process. Does that change or stay consistent?
I like to see what else is resonating in the marketplace, and you’ll find me visiting all the trade shows, gift shows and stationery shows. I love visiting old-time office supplies stores to fine N.O. stock (new/old stock). Plus, I draw huge inspiration from the Japanese aesthetic and often find myself on the site Sumally (it’s like the Japanese Pinterest, and it’s absolutely delightful and entrancing).
Do you have any favorite designs from the current Boxed Stationery Collection? What makes them stand out to you?
There’s so many great designs to choose from in this year’s collection, but there are two pieces that I’m particularly fond of.
One is the engraved racing bike note (big surprise!). It’s an extraordinary piece of art and a remarkable example of engraving. Firstly, it’s an absolutely spot-on depiction of one of the most iconic racing bikes of all time—a Merckx MXL Leader. If you look closely you can make out each lug, spoke and chain link. A really great piece.
I’d also have to select the engraved sea turtle on the Beach Glass-colored note. What a gorgeous design! It also is magnificently engraved, but more importantly, the rich detail paired with the deco lining manages to be both timeless and modern at the same time. Just stunning.
Any all-time favorite pieces of work you’re most proud of?
That’s impossible to answer! I’ve had the privilege to work with so many great artists and designers over the years. How can I choose?
As a designer, however, I have to be looking forward. It’s the stuff that’s in the pipeline that excites me the most. Right now we have some incredible pieces underway.
What makes Crane Stationery unique in your opinion?
It’s that’s indefinable mixture of 200 years of excellence, artistry and know-how.
How do you make a note truly memorable?
As they say, the hardest part is showing up. The hardest part about writing a note is actually writing it and getting it in the mail. People are thrilled to get notes. Speak from the heart, be brief and concise, and get it in the mail.
Kara Neff lives in New York City by way of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. She is a fashion writer as well as a freelance writer covering beauty, fashion and interior design.