Now that we’re well into the month of December, chances are your office inbox is filling up with holiday greetings. Maybe the cards are on display; maybe they’re in a neat stack. Perhaps, even, they find their way to the recycling bin following a cursory glance.
But for the several thousand people on the greeting list of Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers, the arrival of The Card is as anticipated and celebrated as an Oscar nomination reveal. For the last 20 years, firm founder Bruce Sunstein has been using the work of emerging artists – both locally and around the world – to make a statement about his firm.
“Our cards are a direct link to our clients and friends; we want to send a greeting that’sappropriate to who we are,” said Sunstein. “We are an intellectual property firm. Art is protected by intellectu al property, so it’s a natural fit for us to feature compelling art in our greeting. We see ourselves as an intellectual property firm on the cutting edge, so we need to have cutting edge art. The cards are our effort to identify art from emerging artists that we think speaks to the occasion of the holidays and the cutting edge nature of the firm. It’s one of the great things I look forward to every year.”
The process begins as early as September, when art consultant Andrea Marquit fills – literally – the firm’s main conference room with as many as 100 options. An internal committee spends the better part of a day reviewing the artwork, but more often than not, Sunstein says, consensus on which piece of art to feature is quick. He attributes that to the team’s intimate knowledge of what does – and doesn’t – render well in card form.
“The test isn’t: would we like it hanging on our wall?” explained Sunstein. “The test is: what art will make a card that says something about who we are and what we think matters? You can’t simply snap of photo of the
work and say ‘here’s the card.’ It has to be designed, and the designer, in turn, needs to think about paper and about ink. It’s an amazing exercise.”
And it’s an exercise that, from the very first year, grabbed the attention of their clients. That, says Sunstein, makes the annual effort worthwhile.
“We get tremendous feedback every year. Some say ‘I like this year’s better than last year’s’ or ‘I still like 2013 the most.’ The point is that they remember what the card looked like in years past, and that’s always been our goal. We wanted to celebrate emerging artists who are doing something memorable in a way that made us stand out. The thing about our card is, you can stare at it. Even for an hour or two. And that’s not true of the cards that have Santa Claus on the rooftop making a lawyer joke.
“It’s not a simple exercise, and every year it’s a different exercise. Every year we have to think differently about the work. But if you want to send something that is meaningful, you have to get in there and do it. Maybe I’m spending time that’s viewed by some as wasteful, but it’s an expression of who we are, and for that reason I think it’s worth the effort. It’s a wonderful experience.”