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The Custom Friskies Notebooks Job


One of my biggest clients was the Nestle Purina Corporation (owner of Friskies brand cat foods) and this is the story of how I translated their branding into my own vintage collage style.

The story begins with Miller High Life funnily enough...


"The Champagne of Beers"

The collage above is a composition notebook I designed many years ago and used to sell on my website. It was done the old fashioned way with actual paper , scissors and glue! Imagine that. Collaging with pixels is endless fun but nothing really beats the tactile experience of working with real materials. Anyhow, my story begins here because this was the notebook that a nice fellow from Nestle Purina purchased one day which started this whole ball rolling. This was about 3.5 years ago when I still made some of the products myself and filled the orders off the website myself. I remember very clearly when I got this order because I didn't have the materials I needed and then went through a whole fiasco because the coloration on the design turned out super dark and faded and I kept having to re do it and it took almost a month to get right. This was before I had any idea who the customer was that ordered it, I just have always had a real thing about quality and making things perfect, which worked to my advantage big time in this situation. He didn't mind that it took forever to get his order and I imagine that had I just sent off the sub par version I never would have had the opportunity to work on such a fun, challenging and lucrative job.

So the guy from Nestle emails me one day introducing himself and telling me about what he'd like. I had never done a project like this before but it sounded fun and plus they wanted to order like 200+ notebooks! He explained what he liked about the High Life design and we worked together to come up with a Friskies kitty cat version. 

It took about 8 months of back and forth to get this design made. I am not sure why it took so long, part of it was that we both had a lot of other projects to tend to, and he assured me that he wasn't in a rush so it just moved slowly. The image above is the finished version, which they ended up liking so much that they re-ordered 3 times! The kitty on the design is from an actual vintage Friskies ad, and the little sea creature figures coming out of the sea is a more current design element you will find on their bags and website branding, so I think we struck a nice balance. I was pretty proud of it. 

Then about a year later I got a call from Ryan about doing a series of 4 notebooks inspired by their 4 new kinds of cat food.

These are the 4 main kinds of dry food Friskies offers. My job was to translate each one into vintage collages to fit on composition notebooks! It was a  big yet totally fun challenge. In the end they only picked two of my final collages for notebooks, the Seafood Sensations Collage, and the Surfin' Turfin' Favorites one. 

This is one of the pieces they chose -- Seafood Sensations. I got lucky with this, it was the easiest of all 4 to create because the background photograph was just perfect for the setting. 

These next 4 designs are my attempts at the Indoor Delights bag design. I actually did more than this- these are just the ones good enough to show you! I found that translating the concept using collage to be really tough because I had to merge an indoor and outdoor world together. Whoever designed the original ( see bag second from left) was really good.The way the waterfall just merges into the couch and the blanket is GENIUS.

So with this piece, you see my struggle right?! Here let me just stick a chair into a waterfall scene... 

Or how about a whole living room set into a waterfall scene? no?

Ok what if I merge an incredibly loud living room decor with a gorgeous mountain scene?

Ok, last try. I make it a river merging with the wallpaper instead! Haha! I did it! No? What do you meaaaannn! Ok I get it. 

Moving on..

This is the Surfin' Turfin' Favorites design. This was one of the winners. I collaged a number of different realities together to make this piece but it came together pretty easily, thank Goodness! 

So these last two , inspired by the Grillers Blend bag, were ones I really thought they would go for, but for whatever reasons they also did not make the cut. I love how the kitty is totally out of proportion climbing down the mountain like a fierce monster sized mountain lion! 

I love this one too, the richness of the greens surrounding the campsite makes me just wanna go find some trees and grill some veggie burgers! 

I had a lot of fun and learned a lot with these projects. I really enjoy having a specific challenge, having to rise through it, and getting paid for it all to boot!  A lot of creativity really does flow best within defined parameters. If I had not experienced this repeatedly I would not have guessed it would be this way. Having unlimited ideas and options can make it harder to pick a direction and get it done... Having limited resources/ money/ time can work to your advantage if you just don't let those things stop you!!!  My real challenge with this project was the specific task of extrapolating a design from a bag a cat food and making people I have never met in person like it enough to purchase  hundreds of copies of it. Even though they ended up only picking 2 out of 4 bag designs I felt really good about it because i truly did my best .. which is all anyone can do. I look forward to the next design challenge. If you work for a company that might want some original collaged notebooks ( or wallets, passport cases, etc! ) , you know who to call! 

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