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Episode 132: A New Look For Gist Yarn with Maggie Putnam

by LaChaun Moore

On this week's episode, Sarah and LaChaun speak with Maggie Putnam, a one-woman creative office that crafts refined brand systems for conscious, intentional brands. For the last seven months, the team at Gist Yarn has been working on redesigning our brand identity and rebuilding our website to better reflect the company we’ve become, to better share our podcast episodes, and to better serve our community.

Maggie has led that process with us, working closely with our team to learn who we are as a company and translating those conversations into a redesigned brand identity that we are proud to have launched just last week. We learned so much working with Maggie and we thought it would be interesting to share a glimpse of the design process with our listeners and customers. Comment below to keep the conversation going! 

Maggie Putnam's Website

Maggie Putnam's Instagram

 

Transcript 

Sarah Resnick: I’m Sarah Resnick.

LaChaun Moore: And I’m LaChaun Moore.

Sarah Resnick: And we are the hosts of the Weave Podcast, a project of the weaving yarn shop, Gist Yarn.

Sarah Resnick: Hey, this is Sarah, welcoming you to 2021 and the 132nd episode of the Weave Podcast. We have a special episode for you today, a conversation between myself, LaChaun, and Maggie Putnam, that will be a peek behind the scenes at Gist Yarn and what we’ve been up to. Maggie Putnam Studio is a one-woman creative office that crafts refined brand systems for conscious, intentional brands. And for the last seven months, we have been working on redesigning our Gist Yarn and Weave Podcast brand identity and rebuilding our website to better reflect the company we’ve become, and to better share our podcast episodes, and to better serve our community.

Maggie has led that process for us, working closely with our team to learn who we are as a company and translating those conversations into a redesigned brand identity that we are proud to have launched just last week. We learned so much working with Maggie and we thought it would be interesting to share a glimpse of the design process with our listeners and customers. So, with that, let’s kick off the conversation. Thank you so much for joining us, Maggie.

Maggie Putnam: Hi, everyone. Happy to be here.

LaChaun Moore: Well, we’re happy to have you. Can you start out by telling us about your background and where you’re from?

Maggie Putnam: Sure. So, I’m a creative director. I grew up in the Boston area in Massachusetts. I was born in the city, grew up outside of it in suburban, kind of north of Boston. My parents were… One was artistic, the other was kind of science-software oriented. I ended up probably somewhere with a bit of both. I attended art school at the Rhode Island School of Design and have since lived in a few different places working as a designer in small studios and more recently as my own small, one-woman shop.

Now I live in Central Oregon. I’m really drawn to the mountains and the fresh air where I live. The outdoors have always been kind of a refuge for me and it definitely comes into my work.

LaChaun Moore: Oregon sounds beautiful and I can definitely see how all of those factors are reflected in the things that you create. You are a one-woman creative office that creates brand systems for conscious, intentional brands, which is how both myself, Sarah, and the team has gotten to know you, but I’m really curious what inspired or sparked your creative entrepreneurship journey.

Maggie Putnam: Sure. So, my creative journey started young. I grew up doing art as a kid. I would just kind of take part in whatever… My mom’s very creative and whatever she was doing, if it was painting, or macrame, or recovering furniture, I was kind of along for the ride. I didn’t see myself going toward design professionally as I was growing up, but I have to really give credit to my mom, who kind of saw that coming and took me to a few art schools for college, and that just really clicked. I just felt really at home in the creative environment. So, I ended up in Rhode Island and I think the process of design thinking and mapping concepts and connecting ideas, especially when meaning, and ethics, and values come in, is just so interesting to me. I’m drawn to projects where there’s something I don’t know about, where I have to kind of dig in and understand what it’s about in order to design for it.

In terms of the journey, I’ve been… Since I’ve gotten into design, I’ve focused it in very different areas, from furniture design, to typography, to book design. You know, I’ve kind of had this sort of roundabout path, but all of these share common traits where they are practical and require the designer to understand the function in order to design for it, and to me that’s really fun. So, that’s probably what led me into design, is wanting to connect these ideas together visually, and clarify, and keep things more and more consistent and closer to a core concept.

In terms of entrepreneurship, I struck out on my own in 2014. Kind of just reaching for something to do things my own way. I think I wanted to create the studio I wanted to work for, if I’m being honest, which may have been naïve at first. I don’t know. And definitely took financial risk and I think a position of privilege that I need to recognize that I was able to do that. And yeah, I mean now it’s driven by I think the purpose to do better for our social systems, and environment, and designing creative thinking, and advocating for better business practices is how I can make a contribution. It’s just kind of my language.

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. I mean, that sounds amazing, and I can definitely identify with wanting to create something that is the entity that you want to be a part of. And what types of services do you offer?

Maggie Putnam: Yeah, so I’m a creative director. I lead the process for brand strategy and design for other businesses, like Gist. I do creative strategy, identity design, working with clients to also execute on many aspects of their brand, so often that’s logos, website design, signage, book design. I often work alongside photographers, web developers, writers, printers, various other professionals, to see the projects through, but my work is the central concept and the core system that kind of links it all together. Does that make sense?

LaChaun Moore: Yeah. It does. And I’m curious, Sarah, if you could talk about what sparked your desire to rebrand Gist and how that influenced your decision to work with Maggie, like what were some of the things that you saw that made you feel like this would be a great partnership?

Sarah Resnick: Yeah, so we… I started Gist Yarn in 2017 and it was just myself at the beginning, and I made our logo in Photoshop, and my educational background is in forestry, so that’s how that came about, and I built the website myself, and I think that the website and the brand identity that we had, it brought us to where we were, but it wasn’t going to bring us to where we as a full team have grown and where we want to bring it. So, there were some technical things about the website that I knew we wanted to change. People really want to be able to choose the colors in their kits and people want to have an easy way to search around and learn different things about weaving and learn different things about the patterns they’re trying, so we anyways needed to make some technical changes to the website.

And Emma Rhodes, who is Gist's creative director and I, were talking late last spring about how if we were going to make these changes to our website that it was also really the time to update our branding and bring it into the company that we’ve become and really the ways that we focus, which is that we’re really focused on our community, our community of weavers, and serving them, and we’re really focused on bringing high quality yarns to life from mills that we work with. So, we wanted a brand that would better showcase that. So, we started looking around and Emma and I decided we really wanted to work with someone external to our team and to have someone else’s vision really understand us and help us get there, that we didn’t think we could get there by ourselves.

So, we started interviewing some different kinds of places and different kinds of people and Emma and I immediately clicked well with Maggie. We felt that you really, Maggie, tried to understand our business, and our values, and our goals, and we felt like we could take a leap of faith with you. And it’s been even better than we ever expected, so we’re so excited to be launching this new brand that you built with us and for us, and that’s why we want you on the podcast today to talk a little bit about that process.

LaChaun Moore: And Maggie, I’m really curious. What were some of the things that you learned about Gist Yarn in the initial research of the brand?

Maggie Putnam: Yeah, and I just want to say, Sarah, thank you for saying that. I mean, that just brings so much meaning to my work. This kind of research and looking into your business and who you are is the most fun part of my work. It always starts with a period of discovery and learning about what the core of the work we’re doing is in the first place, for whom are we clarifying this story, what is a part of it all and why? With Gist, first of all I discovered a group of five women who are so warm, and absolutely lovely. You two are two of them. I got to know Emma extremely well in our process and that was just amazing.

So, that kind of personality is just so important to the visual interpretation of how the story gets told. We worked around a set of core values that I personally really admire. I mean, we definitely kind of jived on this, but community, accessibility, beauty, but the kind of beauty that comes with personal discovery, and learning, and experimenting, a sense of curiosity and a sense of transparency, things like that were at the… I discovered were at the core of what the storytelling was all about. And I also uncovered a sense of history and connection between weavers, farmers, dyers, textile artists, all creating a contemporary dialogue rooted in the past, but constantly learning and breaking new ground. And this was just a really inspiring place to start. I love it. This is what brings meaning to what I do.

LaChaun Moore: And can you give us a glimpse into how you turned that research and your findings about us and your interactions with us, how you were able to translate those keywords into colors, and shapes, and all of the things that eventually led to our new brand identity?

Maggie Putnam: Yeah, sure, and there’s so many ways. So, maybe let’s go into two of them. So, the first one, I would say let’s use color as an example. So, if you start from some of our core values, let’s take community and learning. A sense of accessibility, of weaving, financially, culturally, in a way that all people can access. So, for this, this went into our color palette at Gist by using a warm and inviting palette. So, a pale, warm white was the cornerstone of this. Very similar to undyed cotton or wool with a system of warm tones working off of it. But those same values of community and learning can also manifest in other ways, like accessible digital content, and choice of typefaces, as well. So, that’s the first example.

Another one would be the… We introduced an icon or mark that works alongside the main logo type, and it’s a sort of concentric ring shape, which is purely an abstracted form. The shape of the icon doesn’t reference any specific thing, but rather many things abstractly. So, related keywords in terms of values for this would be connection, process, growth, develop, depth, creativity, and sustainability. So, the resulting symbol nods at many of these aspects, but also of weaving, like from details like the piece of yarn wrapping a selvedge edge to macro visuals, like a top view of a wound cone. There’s also a sense of motion, which is kind of forward thinking and progressive, even maybe like circular textiles in fashion. But also, a basic circular motion, not unlike winding a bobbin or rotating the front or back beam or rolling out yards of fabric.

So, we kind of included layers into this icon that come from these sort of iconic motions of weaving, but also it looked to history in a bit. The form of the logo takes a lot of inspiration from… in terms of weight and simplicity from the ‘70s and ‘80s logos for textile and manufacturing. So, there’s this kind of play on industrial quality with a human aspect. The icon looks a little like maybe nested hands or an eye, so it’s kind of just combining these layers, which to different people might mean different things.

LaChaun Moore: And did you have anything that you wanted to add to that, Sarah?

Sarah Resnick: Yeah. I was just gonna say as you were mentioning all that, one of the things that I really learned in this process of working with you, Maggie, and one of the reasons we wanted to talk about this on the podcast, is I think that a lot of people who are not directly in the world of visual design and brand design might not really realize how much depth goes into things or that can go into things if you’re working with the right people and the right project, and I really just learned so much in this process by learning from you how you learned about our brand and then translated that visually.

I think I had this idea before we started, like I had a hunch that our logo wasn’t working for us, the colors on our website weren’t right, and we needed to sort of professionalize our presentation to catch up with the ways that as individuals we were presenting our brand to people, but not as a visual. But I really could never have dreamed of how deeply you would go into the research and kind of play with the historical context of weaving and textiles and then come up with a brand that kind of speaks to that.

And one of the things, Maggie, that you asked me early on was what is the biggest threat or risk to doing a redesign like this, and I hadn’t thought about that until you asked. But immediately what came to mind was that my fear was that we could go through a whole process and create a really slick, cool looking brand, and that it would sort of obscure the five women on our team, the small business that we are, and the personalities that we bring. And one of the things I’m so excited about how you worked and the way you came up with this is I think that this both really does elevate the aesthetics of our website, and our brand, and helps us bring our company to where we want to go, but it still does feel really warm and inviting, and I think it does represent our company, which at its core is just the people who work there and the yarn that we make, that we sell.

Maggie Putnam: Yeah. I’m glad you said that. I mean, there is a perception, I think, or a fear maybe, that design will kind of tighten things so much that it’s hard to access the humanity. And if done right, you have to kind of go back to why we’re doing it in the first place, and it’s really at its core allowing weavers to find information, and find beautiful yarn, and learn about how to use a rigid heddle loom, or whatever it is that is that intimidating first step, or just find their way to a certain episode that they’re looking for on the podcast.

And so, to separate out those goals really helps kind of narrow in on where to put our energy.

Sarah Resnick: Yeah. Totally. Another thing that LaChaun, you told me last spring about this podcast, is that you really hoped and had a vision for it that it was going to be an archive, and a searchable archive, for people to use long into the future. And I am curious, LaChaun, what you think of how this new brand and the ways that we’re presenting the podcast on the website can help people access this resource that you’ve been building.

LaChaun Moore: I mean, I think it’s amazing. Maggie has done such a wonderful job of kind of translating all of the hopes and things that I’ve had, and that Emma’s had, and that we’ve all kind of had with how we want to see the website look. And I’m just really excited for people to be able to listen to the podcast and then go to the website and see the images, and then to click on indigo, and see indigo farmers from Korea, from New York, from the South, or to see cotton farmers from the South, or from India, or to see weavers from Scotland, and Budapest, and you know, like it’s just so amazing, and it’s been such a wonderful opportunity to kind of further the weaving community that we’ve all created and worked towards, and all benefit from and love, and have.

Sarah Resnick: Yeah. It’s neat to see. We’re excited, dear listeners of this podcast, to hear what you think and to hear if there are other ways that we can make our website more accessible, and searchable, and the way that we can make this podcast more shareable for you, so we are also always open to feedback as we continue to change and grow.

LaChaun Moore: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Maggie, do you have any new projects that you’re working on?

Maggie Putnam: So, right now I’m… I’ll be frank. I’m taking an intentional kind of slowdown, personally. The past 12 months have been challenging for so many people, and like many, I’ve had to switch gears into a caregiver role. I’m so lucky to have the flexibility, and so for the moment, I’m just very present with my parents, who are aging, in an entirely new way, so I’m taking on new projects soon, but after a bit of a pause this winter and spring to be present with loved ones.

That said, I always have projects kind of happening in the background, so right now, this is refocusing the studio with a more specific energy into purpose-driven brands. Socially, environmentally, globally, locally, really exactly what GIST is doing, that’s where I’m focusing my energy in the next year or so. I just feel so strongly, especially now, with everything we’ve been through in the recent months and years, that more than ever we need to use our businesses, even tiny ones like mine, to do better business. So, hopefully a new website is in the works under a different name, so maybe keep an eye out for that. But that’s what’s going on for me.

LaChaun Moore: And where can people go on social media and the internet to follow your work or to seek out some of your services?

Maggie Putnam: So, you can find my website at MaggiePutnam.com. It’s a little outdated in terms of my work and I’m shifting to a new name, which will be Thayer Studio, so T-H-A-Y-E-R.studio. Not live yet, but depending on when your listeners listen to this, maybe it will be soon. Hope so. I’m on social media, but I’m less and less present on that, so my handle is @MPUTN. Maybe you can include a link, just to make sure people get the right letters for that, but I have to admit, it’s not something that I’m updating very frequently. I will see messages on it, but it might take some time.

LaChaun Moore: Awesome. And Sarah, do you have any announcements or upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Sarah Resnick: Well, getting this website launched has been a big one, and we’re super psyched about that. And the next big project is yours. LaChaun, do you want to share it?

LaChaun Moore: Um-

Sarah Resnick: Or I can share it, but it’s your project.

LaChaun Moore: Well, yeah. I can share it. I’m excited to be announcing our first open call. So, our open call for pattern designers is for anyone who has weaving experience, who likes weaving with patterns, who’s interested in sharing something with our audience, can submit an application and hopefully get chosen. The open call, each designer who is selected will receive $400 and they will also have rights to the pattern after a year that we have exclusive rights to them, so you will be able to share them with your community, as well. And just the opportunity to work with myself and also a few of our team members at GIST.

Sarah Resnick: Yeah. I’m really excited that this is coming up. It’s something that LaChaun has been working on and planning since the fall and it’s a new way for weaving designers to interact with our audiences, and get paid for their work, and weave beautiful things with our yarn. So, we’re psyched about that, and that should be up within the next few weeks, so stay tuned to our email list and our podcast and you’ll find out about that.

And other things at Gist Yarn, we have a brand new line of yarn called Beam. It’s 3/2 organic cotton and in 10 really vibrant colors, and so that yarn is getting out into the world and we’re really excited about that, and we have lots of other things up our sleeves. We’ve been able to grow this business and grow our yarn and our team because we have a really awesome community of customers, so we’re thankful for all of you guys and glad you’re here.

LaChaun Moore: And also, I know I say this often, but I just want to again congratulate Sarah for just being such a pioneering entrepreneur and businesswoman. It’s just been so wonderful watching you grow over the past few years and to know the projects that you have moving forward that you’re working on and the ways that you’re just continuing to improve, and to keep making, and in pushing forward, it’s just been amazing to watch, so congratulations to this amazing new brand reveal.

Sarah Resnick: Oh, that’s really sweet, LaChaun. I feel very lucky at the people who have joined our team and so lucky that we crossed paths with Maggie, and that you’ve been able to work with us to build this new brand identity for our company for long into the future.

Maggie Putnam: Thanks, Sarah. I’m really just so excited for you and I have to echo what LaChaun said. Gist in general has been an incredible partner for this. I just have such respect for the approach and perspective of your work, that what you’re bringing to the world of weaving, in caring where your fiber comes from, how it’s dyed, the principles of how it’s distributed, and for keeping space for important conversations that need to happen right now, this is what I hope to bring to creative direction, as well. It’s just a different medium. But we have to ask all the same questions and I just really admire what you are doing, so congratulations on your upcoming launch. 

 

Sarah Resnick: Yes. Thank you both.

LaChaun Moore: It’s been wonderful talking to both of you today and we have a question that we ask everyone that joins the podcast, and I’m gonna direct this question to you, Maggie. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to share with weavers and textile enthusiasts?

Maggie Putnam: Well, I’m about to learn to weave, so I haven’t started that journey yet, but I’m about to embark on it, but I have been a creative for a long time, so I’ll speak to that experience and maybe, probably, this translates to weaving. But I would say the notion of play. I love structure. I’m kind of like a bake-by-the-book type of person who loves to follow a structural process, and I have to practice kind of using play like a muscle. Even though it is creative thinking, how I’m wired, the permission to play creatively just gets better with practice and I truly believe that this is where the magic happens, and that when it comes to art and design, you can tell when someone’s having fun. So, that would be my advice, to kind of tune in and nurture that sense of play. It’s just so worth doing.

And then the other kind of not related to creativity is just to go outside right now, because it’s so worth it.

LaChaun Moore: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for that bit of advice and insight, and for the wonderful conversation, and all the work you’ve done at GIST. It’s been wonderful talking to you today.

Sarah Resnick: Thanks, Maggie. Thanks, LaChaun.

Maggie Putnam: Thank you, LaChaun.

LaChaun Moore: That’s a wrap. If you’re interested in supporting or learning more about Maggie’s work, you can find links on our newly-designed website at www.GISTYarn.com/episode-132. Thank you for tuning into this week’s episode. I’m really excited for this year’s content. We have a lot of really great, interesting episodes coming your way, and we will be posting every two weeks moving forward. So, see you in a couple weeks. Thanks for tuning in! Until next time, happy weaving.

 


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