The Beginning of Page Design as Told by Founder Paul Page

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As mentioned in an earlier post, we are taking the next 4 weeks to highlight a few stories and design samples from the last 40 years of Page Design. We appreciate you spending the time to read these stories. Check our feed every week to read more stories and see a collection of vintage graphic design pulled from a bygone, analog era of graphic design history. 

For our next installment of 40 years of Page Design (#PDG40), we hear stories from the founder of Page Design. Paul Page retired at the end of 2016 but has kept a good record of photos from the very beginning of Page Design. In the first of a multi-part blog, he shared some interesting thoughts about his long career as the founder of the firm.

As a reminder, slip on your denim overalls or your shoulder-padded suitcoats to review this week’s salute to graphic design from the 90s on our Instagram feed

Our First “Big” Client

On Thursday, May 1, 1980, I formally launched Page Design in the second bedroom of our small home in McKinley Park. I would like to tell you that it was a well-planned and researched move. But actually, I had been fully employed at a local design studio that previous Monday. The urge to break away and do graphic design my own way had been germinating inside me for some time. I thought I would give them notice of at least two weeks and make a smooth transition. They had other plans. I was out on the street later that afternoon with a severance check. Three days later, after several trips to Taylor’s Art Center, I was ready to design. Clients? Whoops! Hadn’t thought about that.

Hannibal's Sacramento

Still, in 1980, Sacramento had a very embracing and tight-knit design community. The printers, designers, illustrators, photographers, and typesetters all knew each other. Word of my new venture got around quickly and I soon got some good leads.

I had been in discussion with a local photographer named Paul Cyrus to design a business card. Technically, he became Page Design’s first client. I assigned him a client number: 1, and a job number: 1–1 and I was off to the races. Several other clients from my old job tracked me down and I was doing okay. But my first big break came from a local sandwich shop and catering company called Hannibal’s, run by a wonderful fellow named Dave DeWitt. His shop was down at 5th and L Streets and would today be directly underneath Golden1 Center. I got to design an entire identity system including signage, menus, aprons, trucks, lunch boxes and so much more.

Hannibal was a Carthaginian general who famously drove an army and a herd of elephants across Southern Europe and the Alps on the way to attack Rome. With a name like Hannibal’s, an elephant in the logo was a given. If you are familiar with the Page newsboy that has been the company logo for the past 40 years, you know that I have always been a fan of cartooning and semi-humorous design solutions. The idea of placing an elephant in a butler-style tuxedo followed quickly. Dave loved the idea and fully encouraged me to develop it. Everything in graphic design back in the 1980s was done by hand. 

I drew the elephant character using a Rapidograph pen and India Ink on illustration board. The art for the identity system was prepared on traditional paste-up boards. But we had to take into account the wide variety of printing processes that would be used to create each piece. The aprons and t‑shirts were screen printed, the paper bags were done with a flexographic (rubber plate) process, the truck signs were actually hand-painted at the time, lunch boxes were all printed on large-format paperboard presses.

The Hannibal’s identity project and all of the follow-up projects that came afterward helped to put both Hannibal’s and Page Design on the map. Within weeks, I was vacating the second bedroom of our home (that was never going to work!) in favor of a small office at 24th and L Streets. By the fall, I was in a larger office on 30th Street and had hired my first employee. Taking that leap and starting my own business was the best decision I ever made. So many more adventures were yet to come. Page Design was on its way.

And, although Hannibal’s was sold some years ago, I still see the company trucks around town, still sporting that same “elephant-in-a-tuxedo” logo. And, if I do say so myself, it still looks pretty good.

Be sure to check out our Instagram feed for a preview of some of our best work from the 80s and 90s. Stay tuned for next week as we dive intro throwbacks from the 2000s and the second-part interview with our founder himself, Paul Page.


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