Q & A

Marc Friedland: Master of Dramatic Invitations

Here's how Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg and Elton John invite guests to parties...

April 30, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Marc Friedland, Founder,
Creative Intelligence Inc.

Inspiration: Pop culture, fashion and design

Education: A master's degree in public health. “My parents always wanted a doctor in the family,” he jokes.

How he started: “I was painting one day, and the medium just happened to be a card.”

While many relish basking in reflected glory by being called a stylist, designer—or even milkman—to the stars, Marc Friedland shies away from such fame. Instead, Friedland—widely regarded as a master of stylish, high-drama invitations for clients including Steven Spielberg and Elton John—prefers the decidedly unglamorous term “event branding” to describe his work.

“Just like every product has a brand, so does an event,” Friedland says. “It starts out from the naming of the event, [and extends] to the visual vocabulary and style of the experience.”

The term “event branding” may well be the least dramatic and glamorous concept he has come up with. Since he started designing invitations in the 1980's, Friedland estimates he has welcomed more than a million people from around the world to various functions. But this isn't McInvitations. Through his Los Angeles-based company, Creative Intelligence, Friedland specializes in creating unique invitations that involve inventive combinations of color and materials. Many are made by hand.

Not surprisingly, his work has attracted a roster of high-profile clients and companies, which have included Ted Turner's TNT cable station; Friedland's friend Darren Star, the executive producer of Sex and the City; and Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, who made Friedland sign a nondisclosure agreement to do their hush-hush wedding invitations, even though they didn't reveal the event's location. Given that Creative Intelligence is a full-service agency that comes up with both concept and design, executing everything down to the stuffing and mailing of the invitations, Friedland is privy to mailing addresses that would make a publicist kvell.

The invitations speak for themselves. There were the elaborate treasure chests—measuring 19 by 10 by 9 inches—that came in shipping crates, inviting people to a millennium cruise hosted by the founders of Gateway and CNET. Then there were invites for the launch of WebTV at the now-defunct, storied Hollywood spot Chasen's—then marked for imminent demolition—which came in silver boxes including old-fashioned TV transistor tubes. “It was about mixing nostalgia with the future,” Friedland says.

That sense of adapting his invitations to the personality of the host, corporation or event influences all of Friedland's work. “I really respond to most of our clients' needs on a very intuitive level,” Friedland says. “I'm trying to communicate the client's personality through the materials we create, which gets transferred to the recipient.”

Friedland says he is inspired by pop culture, fashion and design, and he brings a diverse background to his work. Born in 1959, Friedland earned a master's degree in public health. Soon after graduation, however, he drifted into custom-made invitations and cards through serendipity.

A crucial break came in 1985 when Friedland convinced the editor of Status, a trade publication for the greeting cards industry, to use handmade front covers for an issue devoted to handmade products. “We did 24,000 covers, and that opened the whole Pandora's box,” Friedland says about the stunt that earned him considerable press coverage. He continued to design invitations and stationery for high-profile events and clients, forming Creative Intelligence—which currently has a staff of 20—in 1991.

Today Friedland has not wavered in his approach: to be mindful of his client's needs. “Nothing's considered over the top,” he says. “It's important to create an experience.”

Posted 04.30.01

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