Printing and Design Tips: December 2018, Issue #209

Paper Weight Specs for Envelopes

This week I received a request for quote from a client for a stationery package. For the envelopes, she requested a 28# white wove stock. She also gave me the specs for the letterhead (which had already been ordered) to ensure a visual and tactile "match." The letterhead had been printed on 70# Neenah Classic Crest.

When I received the first of three estimates from the three printing vendors I had approached, I noticed that the envelopes had been specified on 24# stock.

To say this raised a "red flag" would be an overstatement. It did, however, make three points that I would like to share with all PIE Quick Tips readers:

1. I was glad I had seen the substitution. It would have been easy to miss the difference in the paper weight and just send the pricing off to my client. Therefore, in your own work, it is wise to check your list of specs against the printer's list of specs multiple times. I myself do it at least two or three times. In this case, if I had missed the difference in paper weight, the client would have received thinner paper than expected.

2. I caught the error because I'm familiar with the corresponding weight of text paper and bond paper as these specs relate to envelopes. Bond paper that is 20# is the same weight as 50# text, 24# bond is comparable to 60# text, and 28# bond is comparable to 70# text. Usually, premade envelopes are specified as 24# and 28#. Sometimes (if you are printing heavy coverage ink with bleeds, for instance), you may want to print the envelopes on flat press sheets and then convert them into envelopes. In this case, you would print on a 60# or 70# text stock, not on 24# or 28# premade envelopes.

(Look to your printer or paper merchant for assistance with this decision, and consider the paper brightness, whiteness, and texture when making your choice. More often than not, you can select stationery stock from papers made specifically for letterhead and envelopes. One such paper is Classic Crest. In these cases paper manufacturers create press sheets that work well together for business cards, letterhead, and envelopes.)

3. I asked the printer about the discrepancy (60# vs. 70# text or 24# vs. 28# bond). He did some research and told me his estimator had made the substitution because the particular 70# text I had chosen for my client was not a standard item. (One term for such paper is a "making item.") It required a minimum purchase, and this drove up the price. Presumably, this is why the estimator made the substitution—as a suggestion. That said, this is a good reason for all PIE Quick Tips readers to check and recheck all specifications.

Another good idea (to avoid disappointment) is to request paper samples. Printers usually have sample books that include swatches of multiple weights of alternate paper stocks. In fact, if you're designing an identity package for a company, you can often see the business card, envelope, and letterhead stocks all together in one sample book. If you get the samples from a paper merchant, you can often get larger sample sheets as well. These might be good if you want to print mock ups of the identity package components on your desktop laser printer or inkjet printer.

Another way to say this is that letterhead, business cards, and envelopes are a tactile experience. You are less likely to make a mistake if you have the actual paper in your hand when you make your final design decisions.

That said, I caught the error, queried the printer, and received an updated bid (at a higher price). But fortunately the alternate stock (a 70# generic sheet, rather than the 28# bond/70# text sheet initially specified) wound up costing less than the prior year's paper. What you can learn from this case study is that asking the printer to suggest paper compatible with a particular 24# or 28# bond or a 60# or 70# text sheet can be a smart move. You might find an envelope and letterhead stock that is a standard item (with no minimum or other special requirements) and that meets your budget.

In short, take advantage of your printer's and paper merchant's expertise.

What is "Flat Design"

Infographics are especially popular these days. They are the charts and graphs you see online and in books that usually incorporate chunks of information with flow chart elements (such as arrows) and sometimes little stylized figures (such as people). They are effective ways to visually group and convey large amounts of information. My guess, in terms of how I approach them, is that they organize information in ways that make it easier to absorb on both an intuitive/spatial level (right brain) and a linear/logical level (left brain). This week I found a list of qualities common among flat graphics. If you are a designer, you might find this information useful in your own design work. If you're not a designer, it may still change the way you look at infographics. You'll be surprised at how prevalent they are once you understand their common attributes:

1. Infographics usually include illustrations. I believe this is done for two reasons. First, people can absorb "stories" better than random facts. Often, these infographics use images as well as words to describe a workflow, a series of operations, or a process. The images often portray a timeline of activities, a series of actions, in much the same way as a novel or short story has a plot. Second, images paired with text are often more approachable than just words or numbers.

2. Infographics incorporate bright colors. Bright colors attract the attention of people of all ages, and the first thing any marketer has to do is capture the reader's interest. Also, bright colors usually contrast one another. Contrast also attracts attention. However, be mindful that these colors are usually "flat colors." That is, they are a single hue without shades, tints, or gradations within an individual element (within a single icon of a person in the design, for example).

3. Infographics contain simple shapes. For instance, if an infographic includes people, they are usually simplified and abstracted figures (such as the simple images on a handicap sign).

4. People and objects within an infographic usually are flat. That is, they have no depth or dimensionality (even that which would normally be simulated using artistic perspective).

5. Type treatments are usually simple. The goal is readability. The purpose is to group information into chunks and to show how these chunks of information are related, in terms of actions over a specific period of time or elements of a process. Simple type conveys this information the most efficiently.

6. There is generous use of white space. This not only allows the reader's eye to rest periodically (in contrast to the chaotic effect of a barrage of words and images), but it also groups words, concepts, and facts into manageable chunks of information.

I believe it is in part due to the way we read on the Internet (in chunks of information) that we have grown accustomed to absorbing new information in this way. Flat design takes into account how people read (in the current work and leisure environment) and uses this information to improve reading speed and facilitate reading comprehension. As a designer, you may benefit highly from understanding the elements of infographics.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He 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.]