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Letterheady

A new online archive of bygone stationery design

by Youyoung Lee in Design on 18 March 2010

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Before email signatures and customized Twitter themes, people wanting to make an impression with correspondence turned to the gloriously idiosyncratic and oft-outrageous personal insignia stamped onto letters. Letterheady, a new website from writer Shaun Usher, celebrates this lost art of communication with interesting letterheads from iconic figures and corporations of the 20th century including Wrigley, Charlie Chaplin, Einstein, Marvel Comics and more.

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Gestalten editor and co-mastermind behind the new book "Impressive: Printmaking, Letterpress and Graphic Design," Hendrik Hellige walks us through a few of his favorite designs below.

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Nikola Tesla Company, circa 1900

Hellige: "Letterheads today are quite boring and minimal. Letterheads are more subtle, using fancy paper—kind of like the business card scene in American Psycho—to deliver a point. What I like about this Tesla letterhead is that he put his inventions in the letterheads, in a cult-type design. Essentially it's one big advertisement."

Madonna, 1994

Hellige: "She doesn't really need anything besides her name. It stands on its own."

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Houdini, circa 1920

Hellige: "Another advertising brochure for himself—the famous tricks, box in water, hanging down. International flags add to the intrigue of mystery."

Converse, 1928

Hellige: "What's funny about this letterhead is its connotation to the present and how it's evolved. The company with the elaborate Art Deco lettering is the same company for all the emo kids today!"

See more of the vintage designs in the slide show below.

Picking the brains of Gestalten's book editors and designers, Youyoung Lee reports to Cool Hunting on what inspires them.

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