Lululemon strikes a pose on paper with lots of ‘Great Excuses Not to Go to Yoga’

the gang

[Alyson Kuhn] I was chatting with Bob Atkins of Skylab Letterpress before the holidays, and asked him whether he’d printed any unusual year-end cards or calendars. He faux-casually commented that he had in fact printed 215,000 cards — in three colors — for Lululemon, the nimble yoga outfitters. My antennae levitated lightly! After a few deep breaths, I called designer Stephanie Chan at Lululemon in Vancouver, B.C.

I can’t quite decide what to ask first. Am I correct in assuming that these cards are not being mailed to customers?
You are. The card is for our e-commerce customers — it’s a surprise “gift with purchase.” The digital team came to our creative team with the idea to do some sort of “delight item” for the holidays. They were open to anything — it could be a card, or something 3D, or even an item that we bought. Whatever it was, it would simply ship in the bag or box with the order. The customer wouldn’t be expecting it in the package. As Lesia Dallimore, our digital community guru, put it, “Online packages can be so boring. Let’s have some fun with it and give our guests a little somethin’-somethin’ they aren’t expecting in their order.”

Stephanie Chan at her post in the creative team’s pod. Photo: Pat Young, Lululemon.

How did you come up with the “Great Excuses” idea?
We brainstormed for a long time, and we liked the idea of doing something “diagrammy.” We decided we wanted it to be connected to yoga, but that it should be a bit unexpected. We came up with the excuses.

The job ran four-up, and the pale gray boxes went down first.

We also wanted the piece to be interactive — “choose your adventure” was sort of the initial idea. We hoped people would actually pick it up and spend a little bit of time with it. The goal was that our guest would either keep the card on a bulletin board, display it somewhere else, or pass it on to a friend. Also, I follow Jessica Hische on Twitter, and I think her “Should I work for free?” diagram is awesome. She definitely provided some inspiration.

Recent work on the inspiration board. Photo: Pat Young, Lululemon.

This is so perfect for New Year’s. Who actually came up with the excuses?
Well, first we asked everyone in the office. And then we asked an editor on the digital copywriting team to make the excuses funnier.

How did you decide on the size of the card?
Small seemed appropriate. It’s in line with our environmental respectfulness. It measures 4-1/4 x 5-1/8 in. — about the smallest it could be without becoming illegible. We wanted a guest [e-commerce customers are “guests” on the site] to be able to mail it to someone else — or to use it as a card with a gift.

Second press pass: The black prints on top of the gray, along with lots of little dots.

Has your group previously designed and produced a letterpress-printed item for customers?
I haven’t personally, and I don’t think our department has. I’ve been here for almost a year. Most of our projects are large scale — artwork for stores, or posters, or ads. The “Great Excuses” is a special piece, where the printing is particularly important.

I thought letterpress would make the piece seem more personal. We wanted it to feel good, in the way that our clothes feel good. I think the feel of the card is something our guests notice and appreciate. We sell luxury workout gear — so touch and feel are really important.

If you hadn’t done a letterpress project before, how did you decide to work with Skylab in Kansas City?
I googled! It’s true. I liked the Skylab site, and the project just came together really easily. Bob Atkins sent us samples of his work and samples of papers he felt would work well. Originally, the design was only two colors, red-orange and black, but it didn’t really work without having a box for the excuses, so we added pale gray.

The red-orange (PMS 178) went down last. Lululemon’s corporate color is red (PMS 186), but Chan wanted to use something different.

And what paper is the card printed on?
It’s Mohawk Options #130. Bob sent three samples, and the Mohawk sheet was in the middle pricewise. It’s nice, it’s thick, it’s 100% PCW [post-consumer waste], and it didn’t break the budget. I really wanted the card to be letterpress printed … and it turned out not to cost that much more than using offset.

Skylab used “quite a few cartons” of Mohawk Options 130# (26 x 40 in.). Photo: Bob Atkins, Skylab.

And may I ask how yogacentric you are?
I try to do yoga every week, but I end up doing other kinds of workouts more often, like circuit and spinning. And a lot of us wear our products — but not necessarily head to toe every day. I think the majority of girls here wear Wunder Under Pants. [Do click on the link, if only to read the clever copy.] And pretty much everyone here wears the Cool Racerback tank top as a layering piece.

Allessia Imbrogno posted about the card on the Lululemon blog. Photo: Pat Young, Lululemon.

Top photo: A typical day for the Lululemon creative team. Photo: Pat Young, Lululemon.

Photos: © 2012 StudioAlex, except as noted.

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Comments (6)

  1. Posted by Mick Hodgson on 01.4.12 at 12:13 pm

    Very funny read this, right after I’d realised that if I was going to do some stretching before I go to my office, I’d better get off the laptop!

  2. Posted by Diane Tompkins on 01.4.12 at 12:31 pm

    Skylab’s the best! Loved reading about this project, Alyson!

  3. Posted by Pam on 01.4.12 at 4:33 pm

    What a great story. I love how Lululemon created a tactile surprise for their customers. How about a larger sized print? I’d hang one! Also, thank you for the tip and link for WUP! Next stop: shopping!

  4. Posted by Lee Moody on 01.4.12 at 10:24 pm true ~ really loved this one ! made me laugh ~ at the same time…here I sit on FB instead of YOGA CLASS… oh brother ~ smile !

  5. Posted by Nancy on 01.5.12 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks Alison.
    I can understand the attention for a specially produced card. Lululemon on Madison in NYC is one of my favorite stores. Beautiful interior design, great styling of cloths and merchandising. Excellent taste all around. Store personal a delight.

  6. Posted by Jenny on 08.31.13 at 11:15 pm

    Are these still available?

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