Throughout history, philosophers, artists and visionaries have all taken to the desert in search of a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them. Tapping into that tradition, the biennial Desert X contemporary art exhibition in Southern California’s Coachella Valley entices artists and other creatives to explore the convergence of art and place. The luxury invitations for the 2019 event that Kohler crafted for some of its clients as part of its Kohler EXP program drove that point home with impressive precision.
Luxury Invitations with an Air of Mystery
Focusing on the site-specific nature of the art installations at Desert X, each invitation, designed by CO Projects, consisted of a linen-wrapped box containing something very special inside. Constructed like a matchbox, the outer part consists of chipboard wrapped in Verona linen, with X’s and the Kohler EXP logo foil stamped on the surface by Premier Press. (P-Dinh Finishing Bindery handled the binding.) A tug of a yellow ribbon frees the drawer from the box.
Inside, I’m greeted by a Field Notes-like notebook boasting a cover offset printed and foil stamped by Scout Books that repeats the gridline and X patterns found on the box, all superimposed over an image of the desert terrain. Removing the notebook from the drawer finally reveals the heart of this intriguing little scavenger hunt.
For it is here that we find the invitation itself: a cardboard compartment made of pale yellow 80 lb. Neenah Royal Sundance Cover, [Get Swatchbook!] featuring a die-cut window in the shape of that ubiquitous “X” through which I can glimpse…something. The area above the compartment only heightens my curiosity. “This artifact has been collected from a specific site in the Coachella Valley,” it explains. “This is your piece of the desert. Use the coordinates on the card for the location of its origin, near one of the stops on your exploration.”
Excitedly I open the compartment to discover a large stone inside. And beneath that, sure enough, are the GPS coordinates of the place near the Desert X exhibition from which the rock was retrieved. Plugging those into Google Earth actually gives me a satellite view of that precise area, making this one of the more interesting marriages of print and digital I’ve seen recently.
The Kohler EXP program is engineered to inspire their clients through trips to see art, architecture and events such as Desert X. Jennifer Nye at Kohler was very supportive of the invitation concept brought forth by Creative Director Marc Cozza and the CO Projects team.
“The invitation set the stage for this event – up-level, high-touch and interactive,” she observes. “Guests stated that they knew they were in for an experience. Since many can only choose a few events per year to make, they had no hesitation about attending ours based on the itinerary and unique invitation. Many checked their coordinates throughout the trip. The Desert X team was impressed with the work that went into these.”
One of the lessons CO Projects learned from creating these luxury invitations was just how difficult it is to make linen boxes, Marc confides. It takes “a lot of time to bind and fabricate. I couldn’t have done it without an experienced printer and bindery.”