Printing and Design Tips: July 2019, Issue #216

Folding Tips: A Unique Sample Promotional Card

I'm not quite sure how they do it. This little promotional fold-up toy I just received in the mail is mesmerizing. The company is called logoloop (, and the tag line is "Delicious Communication from a Card." Between its heft (very thick card stock), its unique folds, and the striking imagery enhanced by the spot gloss UV coating, this sample really knocks it out of the park.

The card fits in a number #10 envelope. It's not much heavier than a marketing letter, so the postage can't be that high. But what's really intriguing is the way the fold-over panels keep opening out again, and again, and again. I counted four separate ways you could open the card, presenting new imagery each time..

All of the imagery is food related: fish, vegetables, salsa, cheese, with the photos either bleeding off the sides of the card or coming together into a single, central image. In this way it reminds me of a kaleidoscope.

If your business card (or promotional piece) looks like this, I think potential clients will line up at your design studio door.

What We Can Learn From This Sample

In all of the PIE articles and blog postings, I've always encouraged you to play to the strengths of print. There are things print products can do that just can't be done on the internet. This card feels substantial in your hands and is intriguing to play with. The contrast between the gloss UV coating on the food and the dull coating everywhere else also appeals to the eyes and the hands.

Moreover, since something like this has got to be expensive to produce, it's wise to take the following approach. Advertising, or marketing, is an investment, not an expense. If a marketing promotion like this brings you five new clients (or even one), it will pay for itself in spades.

Another takeaway is that folds, in general, sell a brand. It's called a "reader-involvement-device" (among other names). Deep down inside, we are are still children. We like to play. If you involve us and appeal to our sense of wonder, you will win our hearts.

Because of this, it is a good idea to keep a swipe file of samples that use different folding techniques effectively. Another good approach is to look online for sample folds. The best website I've found is the Fold Factory ( Check out their videos on YouTube. I personally have watched many of these videos in which Trish Wikowski both demonstrates and explains the cool folds her company creates for clients. What makes this particularly interesting for me is that you actually see how they operate. After all, a foldable printed product has not only length, breadth, and depth, but also movement over time. Like the sculptor Alexander Calder's "mobiles," a folded piece changes, and in the case of the sample I received, it changes at least four times.

Something like this captures both the reader's eyes and imagination.

Design Tips: A Transparent Ikea Lightbulb Box

I've always considered IKEA to be a company that has mastered design on all levels. Their products are not only functional but also aesthetically appealing. They go beyond looking good, though, and the various materials from which they are created are appropriate, and any moving parts glide smoothly. The products also last a long time. Perhaps another way to say this is that IKEA excels at product design, with the notion that form should follow function. And they do this in such a way that the products are remarkably inexpensive.

But beyond product design, IKEA excels at product packaging as well. My fiancee recently brought home a large incandescent lightbulb and base lamp (just a fixed light socket on a base, pointing up, to showcase the large incandescent bulb). It's a simple but elegant product, presumably very affordable on almost any budget.

What intrigues me, though, is the product packaging.

The lightbulb came in a multi-level, clear box, presumably printed via flexography. The box itself is a work of art, but because it is completely transparent, it not only provides a spare, airy feel to the large bulb it contains, but it also reflects the ethos of modernity for which IKEA is well known.

Moreover, this little package has multiple levels. In fact, to me it looks like a small, transparent house, not quite a cube but a rectangular solid with a base, a top, and four walls. Printed in various locations, it displays all the technical information you need in black and gold ink: the brightness, estimated energy savings, and the color of the light (2200 Kelvin, in contrast to sunlight, which is 5000 Kelvin, so this is a yellow-white bulb).

To get back to the multiple levels, close to the bottom of the box is one shelf with a small hole to support the base of the bulb (its threading for the light socket). About two inches down from the top of the box is another horizontal shelf with a much larger hole. This level stabilizes the large, spherical portion of the bulb.

What interests me about this box is the following:

1. It is functional. It gives you all of the technical information needed to choose this bulb over another bulb, depending on whether you want a daylight (blue-white) glow, for instance, or a warm, yellow glow.

2. It is durable. This isn't flimsy clear plastic. Every part of the box is thick and rigid.

3. It was well thought out as a three-dimensional design. That is, the box started out as a flat piece of plastic with multiple cut-outs and glue tabs. It was printed in this format (flat) and then folded, assembled, and glued—one box at a time. All of the glue tabs are inside the box, as well, so all of the edges and corners of the box are flush and smooth.

4. It reflects the design ethos of IKEA in its simple, crisp layout (nothing extraneous, and everything precise and aligned, printed in a readable, no-nonsense sans serif font). The touches of gold suggest opulence, but they are never gaudy and always understated. Again, form follows function. Moreover, the skill of design execution (and the integration of product design, packaging design, and promotional design into one marketing statement congruent with the mission and tone of the company) is stellar.

I realize this is like taking the banana out of the peel and then keeping the peel and throwing away the banana. I'm far more concerned with the box than the bulb. My fiancee's lightbulb is installed and on the piano, but the box is still on my desk.

What We Can Learn From This Sample

Here are some thoughts:

1. Learn from the masters in your field. Collect samples you like, and be able to answer, for yourself, why the design of the packaging works. What is the purpose of the package (the physical reason it exists, such as to hold a bulb, and the marketing purpose it serves, such as to promote a company that excels in affordable, crisp, modern design for everyone)?

2. Then, ask yourself how the designer has successfully addressed these goals. How do the materials, design grid, typefaces, color, and physical design of the product packaging reflect the brand values? The first goal is to collect samples that work; the next step is to articulate why they work on both a design and a physical level, remembering that a box is a three-dimensional object with a purpose, made both to contain a product and to present it to potential consumers in its best light—so to speak.

[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.]