With conceptual ideas and hand-illustrated touches, the women-led design and branding studio embraces storytelling through design.
By Lissa Raylin Brewer with Claire Butwinick
SDCO founders Courtney Rowson (left) and Amy Pastre sit in their Charleston, S.C. office, which was formerly a shoe repair store. | Photo by Julia Lynn Photography
For SDCO Partners, the Charleston, South Carolina multidisciplinary design and branding studio, crafting brand identities with its clients—the “partners” in the firm’s name—is its way of storytelling.
Established in 2009 by graphic designers Courtney Rowson and Amy Pastre as Stitch Design Co., the firm approached each project, whether refurbishing a Citroen truck or capturing the essence of a seaside town through a field guide, as an opportunity to weave together a client’s story.
Now, more than a decade later, what began as a two-person team has evolved into a comprehensive studio aimed at branding for the multiplatform world through illustration, packaging, interactive experiences, environmental design, and more. The studio’s recent projects are a nod to its versatility, from wall graphics at a children’s medical facility to a rebrand of Reese Witherspoon’s lifestyle company Draper James. Through it all, SDCO’s close-knit team places high value on craftsmanship, selecting projects that allow for creative synergy. Below, Rowson and Pastre divulge aspects of their process that have led to design success.
“Wheelies is a great example of the positive result that comes from working comprehensively and collaboratively with our studio. Having the opportunity to work on three-dimensional elements—the project included refurbishing a Citroen truck—is one of our favorite ways to work. We’re always encouraging our clients to think about how a brand can come to life in a physical environment. Thinking and implementing a brand beyond the typical boundaries is the future of branding. As we continue to move away from print, physically interacting with a brand has become even more important. Those moments, like the Wheelie’s truck, enhance the customer’s first impression of the brand, making the mini donuts that much more memorable.”
The Art of Play “Balance Series”
“The Art of Play came to us looking for a feminine interpretation of a deck of cards. Internally, we spent time defining what that meant to our studio. We thought initially of directions that were floral or highly decorative, then dove deeper and considered what it means to be a female in today’s world. For us, it requires balance; a quiet confidence and a non-traditional look at problem solving. You can see those sensibilities directly reflected in the design approach.”
Kiawah River Branding
“Establishing and understanding a sense of place is always important to our process. With a site-specific project, we spend time, not only in conversations with our clients, but also on the property itself. For Kiawah River, the site is spectacular. The pristine landscape is teaming with wildlife. The forward-thinking planned community combines outdoor pursuits and classic homes within a sea island landscape. Those attributes directly influenced our approach to the brand development. The hand illustrated mark and classic typography depict the natural, timeless setting of Kiawah River. At every opportunity throughout the design process, we looked for ways to celebrate the developer’s thoughtful approach to protecting the natural environment and cultivating a community.”
Resident Brand Development
“We often use symbols and/or illustration, like the phases of the moon seen here, to reflect certain aspects of a brand. For Resident, we illustrated a series of blind contour scenes to showcase Resident’s intimate, lively culinary experiences. We used other devices, like including the chef’s signature on each menu, to create a keepsake for guests to remind them of their culinary experience.”