Erica Eysenbach ’89 says her earliest artistic inspiration was the board game Masterpiece, in which players aim to build portfolios and become successful art collectors. That didn’t happen to the art history major, but Eysenbach did end up putting art in the hands of millions every year.
Eysenbach oversees the design of catalog covers for L.L.Bean, the iconic Maine company. She helps develop new ideas and solutions, and directs their execution. With L.L.Bean’s constant catalog output and ever-changing audience, she describes the creative department there as “the hub of keeping things moving.”
Eysenbach has done just that within L.L. Bean, arriving in Freeport after graduation from Colby and a stint at an art-supply store, and with other options beckoning. But, she said, “there were opportunities at L.L.Bean, so I took advantage of them.”
Like many L.L. Bean employees, she started in customer service, learning the needs of customers both in the U.S. and Japan, a major L.L. Bean market. From there she joined the company’s creative department and started up the ladder: designer, senior designer, associate creative director, and now creative director design.
Eysenbach directs the process that results in the catalogs that customers receive in a steady stream marked by what she describes as “cadences.” These are the design motifs that L.L.Bean repeats each year, like the puppy cover, a customer favorite. Similarly, each season’s core catalog always has artwork on the cover. One winter Eysenbach proposed the cover’s snowy hill painting—inspired by the landscape around the L.L.Bean offices close to the Maine coast. “Even as a manager, you still get to be creative, and that’s fun,” she said. She’s even introduced a cover with a tactile element—a fabric swatch of L.L.Bean signature flannel peeking through a cutout on the front page
The cover is just the exterior of Eysenbach’s catalog work. She collaborates with company analysts on the presentation of products inside catalog (backpacks during back-to-school season, for example) and the thrust of the huge holiday season. “What are we going to go after this year?” she said. “What’s our key message?”
Eysenbach speaks in terms of messaging, graphic devices, and “hooks” that the company can convey uniformly across all business channels—catalog, web, retail store, and advertising. Her team develops graphics that the company’s advertising department uses in its own initiatives, and her involvement with L.L.Bean’s website design continues to expand with the company’s digital focus. “A lot of the work we do is about making sure we create that branding essence of L.L.Bean,” she said. “We’re really the caretakers of it.”
This is why she fondly remembers the company’s 100th anniversary in 2012. For the campaign design, her team aimed for a feel of looking forward instead of looking back. But at the same time, a century of history behind L.L.Bean’s greatest products needed to be preserved. “There are great stories in hunting and fishing,” she said, recounting meeting a man whose father used to duck hunt with L.L.(Leon Leonwood) Bean himself. The company developed a duck call for the 100th anniversary that, according to the customer, sounds exactly like L.L.Bean’s original. “You can feel so proud of working for a company that has such great values and history,” she added.
She’s reminded of that often as she’s regaled on airplanes by seatmates who tell her of their favorite L.L. Bean products, and their personal experience with the company’s renowned customer service. “They’re so devoted to the products we carry and the story of who we are,” Eysenbach said. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been here so long.”— Christina Dong ’17