It’s been more than 25 years and three studio spaces since the start of Werner Design Werks, but, oddly, the description of our studio hasn’t really changed. Our office is on an average street in the middle of an unpretentious neighborhood in the heart of the Midwest–a place full of practical, sturdy, hardworking things. This environment is not only the backdrop for our studio, but also part of our guiding philosophy. We create designs that work hard for our clients. We build brands that have a story and a personality beyond the shelf. We create ‘living brands’ that evolve and grow. And we believe that for any brand to live up to its promises, it has to be honest and hardworking. Just like the studio that helped create it.

Our Process

We’re flexible. We believe that to create thoughtful, strategic solutions for our clients, our process should be defined by our client’s needs and goals. Therefore, our process is not always a tidy sequence of steps, but rather overlapping spaces that will, at times, flow back and forth. We learn. We explore. We design. We implement.



We believe that design is about relating to people and engaging with them on an intuitively human level. It’s about having a conversation with your audience. Conversations that always follow the same steps would lead to very boring interactions. An engaging conversation has the potential to create meaningful, authentic and relevant brand stories.



Our Studio

Our office space is very much a “working studio.” There is no facade or false front, no reception area that hides the work being done. The floors show the age and history of the building, which was once a produce exchange where trucks would pull in the front, drop off locally grown fruits and vegetables, and drive out the back. This hardworking history, sealed under a thick coat of polyurethane, is a constant reminder that what we do is at its best when it has an impact on both commerce and culture.



shelvesintheback Bookshelves


Our People

We are a small studio. We are passionate designers. We are creative. We are collaborators. We build relationships. We love to be challenged. We are nice to work with. We don’t call ourselves experts in any specific category. Rather we are intensely curious, intuitive consumers and observers of commerce and culture. We use those skills to create consumer affiliations. When we need an expert, we seek out the best and collaborate to achieve amazing results. Sometimes we collaborate to challenge our own intuitions or expand the exploration.


Sharon Werner

Founder / Creative Director

Growing up in a large family in a small town in Minnesota, Sharon used creativity as a means of escape from her siblings and as a tonic for boredom. As a kid, Sharon’s favorite pastime was cutting out paper dolls and products from the Montgomery Wards and Sears catalogs. A love of print was developed early on, with Sharon sending away for every piece of free literature anyone would send her. One glorious summer was filled with travel brochures from every part of the country, arriving daily and bursting out of the mailbox. Since then, her love of paper and print has only intensified. Sharon started her career as an intern at Duffy Design Group (now Duffy), enjoying every minute of her 7 years working there. “It was an amazing experience. I learned the essentials of creating and developing authentic brand stories that people care about, whether it was for Jim Beam, Specialized Bicycles or Fox River Paper Company.” Sharon founded Werner Design Werks in 1991, and her passion for creating brands has continued to guide work for clients that include Moet Hennessy, dpHUE, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Sharon is the co-author and co-creator of a series of children’s books and products, Alphabeasties and other Amazing TypesBugs by the Numbers, and  Alphasaurs and other Prehistoric Types, published by Blue Apple. She is also the co-author of Really Good Packaging, Explained by Rockport. Sharon’s work has been recognized by nearly every major graphic design publication and award show, and is part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Musée De La Poste, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and has been selected as one of the 100 World’s Best Posters. Sharon has taught as an adjunct professor at the College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has lectured and juried with national and international design organizations and has served on the AIGA Minnesota Board, the CVA Advisory Board, the MNSU Moorhead Design Advisory Board, and the TDC Board of Directors.


Sharon lives in the woods near St. Paul with her husband, Chuck, her son, Ernest, and the 14 white-tailed deer that wander outside the house (and which she secretly feeds).




Sarah Forss

Senior Designer

Sarah’s first paying design job was in the 5th grade when she won the Keep North Dakota Clean poster contest, for which she received an American Elm tree (which is still shading her parents’ house in Bismarck, ND). Her career has included many honors and awards, with work recognized by nearly every graphic design publication, but only one horticultural payment. She comes from a family of makers and crafters and this helped foster her passion for creative problem solving and her belief that a job worth doing is worth doing well. It also gave her a healthy respect for the versatility of duct tape. She knew WDW was the right place for her when she started as a fresh-faced designer in 1995. Sarah quickly learned that there is no such thing as “good enough,” that sometimes it’s necessary to get a little messy to get a job done, and that the details matter. All of them. Along with Sharon Werner, she is the author/creator of Alphabeasties and other Amazing TypesBugs by the Numbers, and Alphasaurs and other Prehistoric Types,  published by Blue Apple Books. Sarah has been a guest lecturer and featured speaker at events and universities around the country, and has curated a variety of national and international design competitions including the Type Directors Club, the Communication Arts Design Annual, and the Art Directors Club of Canada annual competition.


Sarah and her husband, a talented graphic designer from England, met when they judged a design show together in Toronto. She enjoys discussing typography with her husband, dreaming about remodeling the kitchen, and chasing after her young son, Sterling (who thinks her chief skills are costume making and baking cookies).  She’s a bookworm with an unabashed taste for YA novels and anything involving plucky British orphans.

sarah-oldpix (she still enjoys wearing hats)


Selected Recognition

We feel fortunate to have had the honor of working with so many amazing clients over the years and really that is reward enough. Really! But additional recognition from others makes it all the sweeter.


How This Agency Smashed The Taboos of the Cannabis Industry, The Dieline

Communication Arts Fresh feature: Abby Haddican

AIGA, Defining the Studio of 2015: interview with Sharon Werner

Mpls Egotist, Thursday Tour, Werner Design Werks

Uppercase Magazine interview

• Tokyo TDC competition winner 2018
• The Show MN, silver, 2018
• The Dieline feature

Mr. Mak’s:
• Print Regional Design Annual 2017
• The Show MN, silver, 2018
• The Dieline feature
• Brand New Friday Likes

Lord Jones:
• The Dieline
Brand New Friday Likes

Joanie Bernstein Artist Promo:
• The Show MN, bronze, 2018

Brand New review

Oleson Sales:
• Type Directors Club competition winner 2017

Tokyo TDC event branding:
 Type Directors Club competition winner 2017

• New York International Spirits Competition, Gold Award
• Print Regional Design Annual
• San Francisco World Spirits Competition
The Dieline feature

New York Times Food Label:
• Inclusion in Best American Infographics 2013

Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types:
• Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Tania’s Picks
• Society of Illustrators, Original Art Show selection
• Print Regional Design Annual

Alphabeasties and other Amazing Types:
• August 2013 Tania’s Picks
• Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner – Mobile App
• Fun Educational Apps, Top Pick
• Children’s Technology Review, Editors Choice Award
Alphabets, A Miscellany of Letters, by David Sacks, Black Dog Publishing

1991–2012 highlights

WOMN, Women in Minnesota Design Exhibition, College of Visual Arts

Really Good Packaging Explained, Sharon Werner, coauthor

Walker Art Center, Drawn Here Design Lecture, podcast

Women of Design  (Sharon Werner, Pathfinder) by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit.

• International Interior Design Association Award-2012
• Communication Arts
• Architecture MN, Sept/Oct 2012

Bugs by the Numbers:
• Publishers Weekly Starred Review
• Society of Illustrators, Original Art Show selection
• Wall Street Journal, review
• Type Directors Club, Award Winner
• Print Regional Design Annual
• AIGA MN Award Winner
• Communication Arts

Alphabeasties and other Amazing Types:
• Publishers Weekly Starred Review
• Parents’ Choice Silver Award Winner
• Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Best Book Award
• Type Director’s Club 56 Award Winner
• AIGA Best 50 Covers Show
• New York Book Show, Merit Award/Children’s Trade
• Walker Art Center, Now in Production, exhibition
• AIGA MN, Peoples Choice Award and Best in Show
• Communication Arts

Mrs. Meyer’s, Clean Day:
• Art Directors, Design Spere
• Communication Arts
• Print Regional Design Annual
• Type Directors Club

Charles Luck Stone Centers:
• Type Directors Club
• AIGA 365
• Communication Arts

• ID Design Annual
• Art Directors Club
• Print Regional Design Annual
• Aiga MN
• D&AD
• Tokyo Type Directors Club



Werner Design Werks
1229 Payne Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55130

(651) 291-2660