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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Stationery Packages’ Category

Business Printing: Thoughts on Logo Use and Branding

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Many years ago when I was an art director, the firm I worked for commissioned a logo redesign by an outside designer. Then, to create a corporate identity using the logo design, my company brought the job in-house.

I assigned the branding job to my best designer. She had come to work for me straight out of college, and had been in her job for about six years. She was uncertain of her abilities with such a high-profile job. I told her I had the utmost confidence in her ability, and I encouraged her to break the job down in the following way to make it more manageable. You may find these suggestions useful in your own work, creating an identity package and related collateral for your own organization.

Collect Samples of Printed Collateral You Like

It’s always good to have a swipe file. After all, no design is truly new. All the better if you can grab several pieces from a company: perhaps a business card, an envelope, a sheet of letterhead, a brochure, and a larger work like an annual report.

Design magazines are useful, too. I get GD USA each month. This print magazine often showcases brochures, print books, websites, packaging, large format printing, etc., from various companies. It’s a great education in itself just studying all the photos, to see how other designers have produced coherent identity packages. Other design magazines I’ve found useful have included Print and Communication Arts.

In addition, you also might find it useful to buy a book on the fundamentals of design (grids, typefaces, white space, color usage, etc.). I’ve been in the field for 36 years and I still study the fundamentals. I make it a habit. It reminds me to focus on the few simple elements that underlie every great design.

Collect Samples of Custom Printing Work from Your Field

Samples of work you like are useful, but it’s important to also create your business identity within the context of other publications from your competitors. If you understand what they are doing graphically, you can make your work stand out while still retaining the flavor of the industry.

Collect Paper Samples and Color Swatches

It’s important to start your designs with a few things in mind, such as balance, eye movement, repetition, focus, and the hierarchy of importance. I usually start in black and white. When I like the direction a custom printing job design is taking, only then do I add color and consider paper choices.

Keeping coherence is important. I wouldn’t suggest printing most of your pieces on a white stock, for example, and then shifting the flow and printing a piece on a tan or vanilla stock. Keep ink color choices and paper colors and finishes for all of your organization’s publications in mind when you create your corporate identity. The goal is to make every commercial printing job recognizable as coming from your business.

Start with Drawings Before You Boot Up Your Computer

Having too many variables can be confusing. Personally, I usually start my design work by drawing out a few page spreads on a sheet of paper with a pen or pencil. These are sketches. I don’t commit much time to them, so I can throw all but the best in the trash. This loosens me up. Starting a design on a computer can sometimes lead to over-committing to a less desirable design option. This also keeps me focused on line, form, and balance before I introduce color into the design. You may want to try this.

Make Mock-ups of Two or Three Different Designs

I usually try to come up with a few different designs, perhaps a treatment that focuses on an image and then a type-only treatment, or a more modern and a more formal treatment. Giving the client, or the owner of your company, two or three different options is smart, particularly at the beginning, before you spend a lot of time going in one direction that may not be acceptable to the decision-makers. Make the mock-ups “finished” (or “polished”) enough to convey your goals, and make sure your boss knows you will be sharing your progress in various stages to ensure “buy-in.”

Design Multiple Items Together

It’s all too easy to make one item perfect and then find out your concept won’t work elsewhere. The treatment of a logo and corporate identity has to work in large and small formats (signage and business cards, for instance), in black and white and color. (Maybe you still need to fax information to clients. If so, your identity must be graphically sound in black ink or toner as well as in your chosen PMS corporate colors.) Also, since everything has to work together, designing an overall “look” for all of your custom printing jobs is prudent.

Spread Everything Out to See Whether Items Cooperate or Fight Each Other

Just as it makes sense, when you’re designing a print book, to produce laser copies of selected pages (cover, frontispiece, table of contents, dedication, and a few page spreads) to see whether there is coherence and flow in the overall work, it’s a good practice to spread your design mock-ups around on a table or on the floor to see how they look together.

You may find the computer more efficient. It depends on what you’re used to. But the idea of seeing everything together from a bird’s eye view bears thought.

Be Mindful; Look at Design Everywhere

Particularly while you’re doing a rebranding or corporate identity make-over, look closely at everything you see, from print design to web design to packaging. Look at billboards, magazine ads, brochures. Go into department stores and see how the large format printing, hang-tags, color usage, even the lighting, all go together to create a single unified whole. Let all of these observations work on your subconscious. When you like something you see, always ask yourself why it works. Deconstruct it. Look at the colors, typefaces–everything. See what you can learn and apply to your own rebranding project. Your final design package will be all the better for it.

Stationery Package Printing: Effective Self-Promotion

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

In the last blog I noted that refrigerator magnets are miniature billboards. I’d say the same thing about business cards. In fact, I feel very strongly that every piece of printed material you produce is an advertisement for your services.

A stationery package is a prime example of such self-promotion. When a client opens a letter you have sent, he or she unconsciously (and perhaps consciously as well) judges the quality of your design work, your professionalism, your attention to detail, even your ability to spot current marketing trends and distill them into your self-promotional print design work.

Design Letterhead, Envelopes, and Business Cards Together

Because an identity package is so important to your image, it is wise to design all elements together. There should be an overall cohesiveness to the design. You can accomplish this with consistency of the typefaces you use, the point sizes, spacing, and alignment of the typefaces, and similar treatment of such graphic elements as logos.

Find samples of business cards, letterhead, and envelopes that appeal to you and analyze them to see how the designer approached type size and placement, design grids, balance, and placement of graphic elements. Then design a few samples of your own. Try different typefaces. See how the overall image suggested by your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes changes as you set the text in a serif face (perhaps a more traditional image) and a sans serif face (perhaps a more modern image).

Try different alignments of type (flush left, flush right, centered). Try different colors and color placements. Lay each set of mock-ups on the table in front of you (business cards, letterhead, and envelopes) to make sure they give a unified look, and then make changes as needed. Show your work to colleagues to get their reactions. Strive for more than just a graphically pleasing appearance. Try to capture a reflection of your business: it’s goals, values, and overall tone. A lot of this is very subjective, but I think you’ll know when you’ve hit the right design. It may even help to jot down a few words or sentences describing your business before you work on the actual design of your identity package.

Sometimes it’s even a good idea to put the samples you have designed aside for a day. When you come back to the work, you can approach the design more objectively. Ask yourself what you would think if you received your mocked-up business cards, letterhead, and envelopes from a prospective custom printing vendor. Would you like what you see? Would you want to meet with the commercial printing supplier and perhaps send business his way?

The Paper Is Crucial, Too

Even more subliminal than the effect of the typefaces, point sizes, and logos is the effect of the paper on which you have printed your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes.

In my print brokering business, when I make suggestions to designers regarding their identity packages, I often suggest that they start with Crane, Neenah Classic, and Strathmore papers since these have integrated papers for identity packages. That is, they may offer a coordinated 60# or 70# stock for the letterhead and second sheets (printed, or blank, pages following the first page of a letter). They also may have 80# cover, or perhaps 110# or 130# cover for business cards, and they may have 24# or 28# stock for the envelopes.

There are many other identity paper manufacturers, particularly if you’re looking for a more avant garde look. The best thing you can do is either contact your commercial printing vendor or your paper merchant and ask for a selection of printed and unprinted samples.

When you are deciding which paper to choose, consider the color of the paper (brilliant white or a cream stock, or perhaps something entirely different like a pastel).

Also consider the surface of the paper. Do you want a pattern such as a “linen” or “laid” stock, or do you want a press sheet without a pattern (such as a “wove” sheet)? Think about whether you want a rough paper surface or a smooth paper surface. Review the samples your printer or paper manufacturer provides in different kinds of light (fluorescent, incandescent, and even sunlight). It might actually be good to use your inkjet printer to produce mock-ups of your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes in color right on the sample papers. Your commercial printing vendor or paper merchant can get you extra sheets of any currently available paper stock you see in the paper swatch books.

Again, remember that the identity package is often a client’s first impression of you. If all the component parts present a well-crafted image of who you are and what service or product you can provide, this will work wonders in helping you get your first meeting with a potential client.

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