Although brands and calculated designs are everywhere we look, when we read our actual communications, our emails and text messages, they come to us in a uniform medium. Sure, maybe your aunt uses a wacky font, or your coworkers use signature lines, but design on a more serious scale has moved elsewhere. Gone are the days of paper stationery, when everything from the handwriting to the paper itself made a statement. And with the dwindling of communication by post goes the world of ingenious and idiosyncratic design embodied in the letterhead. Some letterheads were promotional, as in the case of special letterheads used by movie studios leading up to the release of a new film, and some were a form of brand strengthening, in the case of letterheads which depicted the storefronts of the retailers issuing the letter. Sometimes personal letterheads served no real purpose other than being a way to put your best foot forward. Whatever the case, letterheads were, and in a lesser sense still are, a way to showcase beautiful designs.
Here follows a selection of letterheads from a number of personages or organizations, famous and otherwise, taken from the phenomenal blog Letterheady, which is run by archivist Shaun Usher. Usher also runs the popular blog Letters of Note, and has developed a book of the same name.
This letterhead was developed for the fictional Overlook Hotel during production of The Shining, and was used as a prop for the film.
This non-hyperbolically uplifting letterhead belongs to exercise guru and short-shorts frontiersman Richard Simmons.
Architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright used a number of different letterheads, but this one from 1946 is possibly the most ornate.
This is the official 1981 letterhead of the Muppet Show Fan Club. Note the adorable conceit that Kermit is supposed to be speaking to you over the phone.
This is serial killer Charles Manson’s letterhead from 2006. The design somewhat interferes with legibility here. The acronym “ATWA” at the bottom stands for Air, Trees, Water, and Animals, or, alternately, All The Way Alive.
This is the surreal letterhead of a furniture company from 1932, with a nightmarish cascading superdesk.
This letterhead from the Church of Scientology of California (1976) features a visibly uncomfortable angel and almost no room to write a message.
Horror novelist Stephen King used this letterhead on his personal stationery during the early '80s.
Nikola Tesla’s letterhead from 1900 showcases a number of his inventions to date, including an induction motor and a steam and gas turbine.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry used this letterhead in 1967 to promote the then-new television show.
Arguably the most loved letterhead on Letterheady, this is Harpo Duer Marx’s personal letterhead from 1930. Hilarious then, and still hilarious now.