The Forgotten Legacy of Lisa Frank


Lisa Frank

Rainbows. Glitter. Unicorns. Blinding colors. Acid trip or Lisa Frank product? A brand that once dominated the school supply and stationery market in the 1980s and 90s has since faded into the memories of Gen X and disappeared. But what made this brand so amazing, and what changed?

Before Lisa Frank became the huge company we know today, it started as a children’s jewelry store called Sticky Fingers. However, in 1979, Lisa Frank decided to give her company a rebrand. From the vibrant ashes emerged Lisa Frank Inc., and in came the new products: pens, binders, notebooks, and folders. No longer sporting the beige, uninspiring, dull, and utterly “blah” appearance of years past, these stationary products were doused in rainbow and cheetah print. Binders were flooded with cartoon dolphins and unicorns, and sticker sheets of flamboyant cheetah cubs sold out again and again. The 80s flair for color and flounce had met its preteen match. Lisa Frank products stuffed the shelves of school supply stores, and to quote The New York Times’ Tucson 13 “She was an artist that reigned supreme as her folders populated school desks nationwide.”

Unfortunately, once Lisa Frank’s original audience grew up and graduated from glitter pens to college textbooks, sales dipped. No longer interested in business, Lisa Frank halted production and sold the licenses to her name to separate companies. Outside of a few collaborations, Lisa Frank Inc. no longer creates products. Furthermore, in 2018, an article reported that in the Tucson headquarters, only 6 factory workers remained.

Lisa Frank now lives in the echo of ‘89, as well as having a raging collectors community on eBay. You can still spot an ad featuring a young Mila Kunis on their official website.