Lisa Frank Incorporated
|Headquarters||Tucson, Arizona, United States|
|Lisa Frank, CEO
James Green, former CEO
Lisa Frank Inc. is a private for-profit company formed in 1979, under its founder and CEO, Lisa Frank. The company is known for its colorful, psychedelic designs featured on a variety of media, such as school supplies and stickers.
Lisa Frank, after graduating from Cranbrook Kingswood School in 1972 in Bloomfield Hills, MI, attended the University of Arizona to study art. She chose this field of study because art had been a large part of her life since childhood. She was influenced by her father who was an art collector. While attending university, at the age of twenty, she created a line of plastic jewelry, branded as Sticky Fingers. The line specialized in colorful fruit and novelty character pendants, utilizing characters in their designs such as Betty Boop. It was sold in stores including Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.
It was from this jewelry line that Frank was inspired to create her first set of colorful stickers, the same stickers that launched her brand. She started Lisa Frank Incorporated in 1979, at the age of twenty-four. That same year, the company received its first million-dollar order from Spencer Gifts. Frank was 25 years old. Originally, the company only produced stickers, featuring Lisa Frank original characters and designs. All Lisa Frank designs up until 1989 were colored with an airbrush painting technique, the process taking anywhere from nine to thirty-six hours to complete. According to a 1983 interview with Lisa Frank, all of the company’s stickers began with an idea concept, moved into a pencil sketch, and then were painted into an 18x24” painting before they could be approved for production. An individual sticker took, on average, a minimum of three months to fully conceptualize and produce.
Lisa Frank Inc.’s success became more prominent in 1987, when the company began producing school supplies with original Lisa Frank designs on them. These designs featured “classic” Lisa Frank characters such as Panda Painter. Lisa Frank has stated that these original characters continue to be the company’s most popular, despite several new additions over the years to the Lisa Frank character collection. Lisa Frank’s original commercial slogan, “You Gotta Have It,” emerged during this time in the late 1980s. Lisa Frank's line of products—folders, pencil cases, erasers, Trapper Keepers, and notebooks—were so popular that the company was grossing over $60 million a year in sales during its peak in the 1990s.
In 1989, the company stopped producing their original artwork designs using the airbrushing technique, switching to computers for their animations. The technological age not only changed the way that the company produced their products, it has also had an effect on the products that they sell. According to Frank, current designs feature more complicated and intricate patterns due to the developed technology and the variety of products that the company creates today as compared to Lisa Frank Inc.’s starting years.
In 2005, Lisa Frank filed for divorce of her husband, James Green, who was the CEO of Lisa Frank Inc. at that time. The two were the company’s only stockholders at the time of their separation. Frank won a court settlement that same year, stating that Green must sell all of his shares in the stock to her at a discounted price, dictated by a 1995 buy-sell agreement. This resulted in Frank resuming control as CEO of the company. During the court trial, it was revealed that Lisa Frank Inc. had grossed over $1 billion in sales since the company began in 1979.
In recent years, the company produces very little stationery, due to the rise in popularity of electronic communication. Lisa Frank Incorporated has developed two apps for the iPhone: one customizes pictures with Lisa Frank clip art, while the other is a coloring app for Lisa Frank coloring pages.
As of 2015, the Lisa Frank Inc. headquarters are still located in Tucson, Arizona, encompassing a 320,000 square foot building. However, the halcyon days of dayglo pandas and the stationery gravy train are seemingly over. The company only earned an estimated $2.3 million in annual revenue in 2012. Its retail stores have all shuttered and its products, which once dominated the back-to-school aisles in stores across the country, are tough to find today with drastically limited availability. The number of employees at the 320,000 square-foot building near the Tucson International Airport has dwindled from 350 to just six.
Lisa Frank in popular culture
The majority of Lisa Frank Incorporated’s relevance in popular culture stems from a wide internet exposure appealing to the childhood nostalgia of women who grew up with Lisa Frank merchandise in the 1980s and 1990s.
Lisa Frank Inc.’s collaboration with Urban Outfitters in 2012 has launched the renewed interest in the company from the previously mentioned demographic. The teen and young adult targeted clothing retailer currently sells 1990s Lisa Frank merchandise on their website. According to an interview with Lisa Frank, the company has saved ten of each item produced throughout its history and some of those products are what is currently being sold by Urban Outfitters.
HelloGiggles, a website targeted towards young women in their late teens and twenties, has published several articles about Lisa Frank Incorporated, with positive themes of admiration being present in all of them.
In 2012, Lisa Frank stated that the company is considering reality television collaborations. According to an interview with The Daily, possible considerations include Cupcake Wars, Cake Boss, and Project Runway.
Urban Outfitters did a video interview with Lisa Frank to promote their collaboration with her brand. The interview video featured a brief clip from a 1993 Lisa Frank commercial featuring a young Mila Kunis.
In addition, a Lisa Frank nail art trend has surfaced on the internet. Women have been emulating popular Lisa Frank designs onto their nails.
Popular vaporwave artist Macintosh Plus named a song after Lisa Frank; the song リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー (translates to Lisa Frank 420 / Modern Computing) was the leading single of her 2011 album Floral Shoppe.
Critiques of characters
SF Weekly ran an article in 2010 that criticized the sexualization of some newer Lisa Frank characters. The article speculated that Lisa Frank Inc., following trends for a "sexy" appeal in children's toys, has abandoned the "classic" Lisa Frank animal-based characters for scantily-clad Bratz doll imitations.
Some have criticized the human-inspired Lisa Frank characters as being potentially harmful, claiming that the characters are based on unrealistic stereotypes rather than healthy female role models for young girls.
- "We trekked out to the desert to meet the queen of the rainbow unicorns and magical bears. And yes, she is a real person!". Urban Outfitters. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Ruiz, Michelle. "Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies: Lisa Frank on her Wild, Wonderful, Billion-Dollar School Supply Empire". The Daily. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Freer, Alison. "OF COURSE PANDA BEARS WEAR OVERALLS! Lisa Frank is Back! (She Actually Never Left)". xojane. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Heyward, Sarah. "Inside The Rainbow Gulag: The Technicolor Rise and Fall of Lisa Frank". Jezebele. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
- Heyward, Sarah. "From the Lost Filed of Lisa Frank". Hello Giggles. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Heyward, Sarah. "Behind the Rainbow Curtain: An Interview with Lisa Frank's Head Designer". Hello Giggles. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "Lisa Frank and UO". Raini. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Pittman, David. "Lisa Frank in Full Control of her Firm". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Krupnick, Ellie (2012-10-15). "Lisa Frank At Urban Outfitters Is Giving Us Serious Bouts Of '90s Nostalgia". Huffinton Post. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Marcus, Stephanie (2012-07-29). "Lisa Frank Speaks: The Woman Behind the DayGlo Dolphins". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Stamell, Annie. "An Open Letter to Lisa Frank". Hello Giggles. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- Weingus, Leigh (2012-10-17). "Mila Kunis Lisa Frank Commercial From 1993". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Rice, Jenn. "You Know You're Obsessed With Lisa Frank When You Start Replicating The Designs On Your Nails". Shefinds. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- Bobb, Brooke (2012-02-15). "New York Fashion Week Fall 2012: Jeremy Scott's Lisa Frank Corset". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Wright, Andy. "Sexually Frank: The Rebranding of a Childhood Favorite". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- Dalke, Anne; Laura Blankenship. "The Lisa Frank Website: What is it Really Saying to Young Girls?". Gender and Technology. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- Morrissey, Tracie Egan (2013-12-12). "Inside the Rainbow Gulag: The Technicolor Rise and Fall of Lisa Frank". Jezebel.