Bespoke Stationery for 9/11 Memorial and Museum Event

Known for his exceptional design work for non-profit galas and prestigious events worldwide, Marc Friedland Couture Communications has been involved with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Benefit, since its inception following the tragic events of September 11, 2001.


Each year since 2011, Marc has overseen the design and production of the invitations and programs for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Benefit. This year’s benefit was held on Wednesday evening at Cipriani’s on Wall Street.

With the 14th anniversary of 9/11 weighing heavily on our hearts and minds this week, we spoke with Marc about his involvement in the Memorial and Museum Benefit and the impactful design work he has done for the organization.

Q. Can you tell us about the services provided at your LA studio for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Benefit Gala?

MF: We have a full project team on each of our projects and because we are primarily in an event driven business, we purchase our papers directly, our dies, use a variety of specialty vendors, and in house labor and fulfillment. For the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Benefit, we produced not only the bespoke invitation, but the various event accessories as well including table numbers, place cards, and the keepsake commemorative program. The total production time is approximately 10 days from the time of sign-off. In many respects we are one of the original “makers” in this category of social expression and have been creating hand-crafted pieces of communication art for close to 30 years.


Q.  Tell us about your design approach for the suite of invitations for the annual 9/11 Memorial and Museum Benefit.

MF: My stylistic approach to annual events, specifically non-profit galas and benefits, is to think of these events more than just a one night dinner.  In today’s highly competitive fundraising landscape, more and more non-profit organizations need to see themselves as “brands” that require compelling and dynamic communications. In addition, materials need to be created that “tell stories” and engage the recipient with heart, soul and of course tug on the heart strings. With the 9/11 Benefit in particular, there are numerous considerations to the event – and as an extension to the materials – that are unique.  The memorial has been a very important symbol and project of Mayor Bloomberg’s foundation and various agencies throughout the metropolitan area.  Then when you factor in the survivors’ families, the NYPD, NYFD, Port Authority, etc. “design diplomacy” is crucial.

So when we approached this from a design perspective, we wanted the invitation design to be poignant, minimal and austere, yet emotional and compelling – not flashy in any way.  The die-cut windows are an exact spatial representation of the twin towers footprint. It also mirrors the footprint of the breathtaking 9/11 Memorial. We intentionally went with the blind embossed process for subtlety.

The photos revealed through die-cuts are chosen based on a particular “theme” for the given year’s benefit. All of the images are focused on the future, hope, life, and a coming together that makes for a stronger community.


Q. This year’s gala invitation cover features words of inspiration blind embossed across the front of the invite, with a pearl embossing to highlight the 9/11 Memorial Museum copy along the bottom. Tell us about the significance of consistency in design from year to year, and the meaning behind the yellow rose.

MF: Keeping the consistency of the design year after year not only creates increased brand recognition, but from an artistic perspective creates a “limited edition” series, that could easily be collected.

The use of pearl embossing this year was to help differentiate the 9/11 Memorial and Museum name from the remaining graphic pattern of embossed words of inspiration. We felt that the subtle distinction created an additional air of sophistication and importance.  It’s a stunning example that demonstrates how using production techniques as “paints on your palette” can create meaningful pieces of communication art.  It’s this attention to detail that distinguishes our work and adds impact to our designs.




Q. Tell us about the photo selection process and significance of the photography which has featured trees in bloom, fall inspired foliage, images of the memorial, police officers, children visiting the memorial, authentic messages left by visitors on the interactive beam world map, and in 2015 a yellow rose. Due to the significance of the imagery, is it difficult to narrow down to just one or two images key each year?

MF: This is perhaps the most challenging part of the design process every year.  Prior to commencing with design, we have an overall team meeting with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum team and the event design/production team (360 Design Events by Matthew David). An overall message or context is created for the year’s event.  In the past, the use of trees was important as it represented the sole surviving tree from Ground Zero that was incorporated heavily into the memorial design.  Filling the die-cuts with that image, symbolized the view looking upward from the memorial to see the trees and the new life that has emerged.

The images are provided by the National September 11th, Memorial and Museum team, and here again, requires diplomacy. The images can’t focus on a particular group of responders, individual names of those who perished, or in any way isolate any one particular faction. The images also need to work aesthetically as well as “politically. “  What most people fail to realize is that to design “minimally” using only a few choice elements is perhaps more challenging than when you have a larger number of assets available.  It’s for this reason, we are so proud of our work for this piece as it sets a tone of respect and optimism.  While it commemorates a very tragic moment in our country’s history, the benefit is designed to honor and celebrate the positives that have arisen from the solemnity and tragedy of 9/11.



Q. Tell us about the significance of the use of color, or lack of color, in the design.

MF: The following is from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum website as it pertains to the color yellow:

The yellow roses are placed at the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks who served in the U.S. military in honor of Veteran’s day. These roses are an important reminder of the contributions made by those who were taken from us too soon.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum salutes their service along with the service performed by all of our country’s veterans and active and retired military. Veterans Day is the organization’s opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to every brave man and woman in uniform who has sacrificed so much on behalf of our country. Their dedication is extraordinary and their courage has enabled each of us to enjoy the precious freedoms of our democracy.

The connection between 9/11 and veterans is strong. There are thousands who were inspired to serve our country in response to the attacks despite knowing the incredible risks and the incalculable cost of that service.

When it came time for this year’s design, we loved the “happiness” of the color yellow, and juxtaposed against the black and white imagery, the color was impactful. In its singularity, it symbolizes a ray of hope.


 Q.  Which papers were used for the invites and programs? What does the paper choice communicate to the recipient?

MF: One needs to be conscious when designing for fundraising events and benefits. Donors don’t want to see their donations being spent frivolously.  Conversely, for a dinner that’s a minimum of $15,000 a table, the materials must also possess a level of gravitas befitting the importance of the evening and event.

Because of the social awareness surrounding this event and what it commemorates, we selected a finish that has a “warm” comfortable hand feel vs. something slick or “corporate”.  The Mohawk paper used is Bright White Strathmore Premium Wove 100 cover, and features 100% post consumer recycled content and at the same time has the impact of a brilliant white premium stock. Mohawk’s Strathmore brand is American made and known for its timeless elegance, quality and craftsmanship, and we knew it would be just the right selection for the event invitations and programs, as they will long be remembered.

 Q.  Can you share the design process and timeline for the gala invite and collaterals?

MF: Many times the planning for this event doesn’t take place until 3-4 months prior to the event.  The focus or theme is determined at that time.  The coming together of the design focus is a collaborative process based on the fundraising focus of the organization, the available images, and the timeliness of the theme.  Each year the materials need to have a fresh take while still expressing and communicating the essence and spirit of the Memorial and Museum.


Q. What’s next?

MF: I envision eventually creating a limited edition boxed set of note cards utilizing the designs from each year.  It will serve as not only a beautiful reminder of each fundraising event, but provide the perfect canvas for those wishing to communicate a message of hope and togetherness.

Editor’s note: The 9/11 Memorial will be open to the public for a special viewing today on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks for a Tribute in Light. For more information, visit

For more information about the 9/11 Memorial Museum, to make a donation, or for suggestions on how to pay tribute on the 14th anniversary, visit

For more information about Marc Friedland Couture Communications, visit or


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