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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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 ‘Greeting Cards’ Category

Getting Creative in Commercial Printing Design

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

One of the major attributes of good commercial printing design is that it surprises the viewer in some way. It tricks your eye or gives you something you didn’t expect.

The Mother’s Day Card

This concept came to mind as I was looking through the Mother’s Day cards at the grocery store, searching for something new for my fiancee’s mother. What I found was a card that broke the traditional mold of greeting cards. I’ll have to admit that the format is what did it. I don’t recall the content of the card, but I do remember the format.

Specifically, I have always seen and expected to see approximately 5” x 7” cards, give or take. Occasionally I have found huge cards (measured in feet rather than inches), but how do you mail something like this?

What I found in the grocery store was a traditionally sized card with a cute comment on the front cover and inside back cover, and then an arrow pointing to the bottom of the card along with a drawing of fingers, indicating that I should lift up the bottom of the page. The interior of the card, glued to the interior left and right pages, was a French-folded sheet that opened up into a mini poster. It got me. I had never seen anything like this. The design of the poster I had just opened grabbed my attention.

Unlike the huge greeting cards I had seen many years ago, and perhaps the three dimensional cards that contained objects (a miniature leather jacket attached to one such card), this mini poster had been one of the more original format designs. I thought it could be used for practically any holiday. It provided ample space for a powerful message. What made this original was the unexpected. Even when I lifted the flap I didn’t expect a poster twice the size of the original card.

Oblong Pocket Folder, Another Surprise

This concept also applies to the oblong pocket folder/brochure I have discussed in a few recent blog postings. My custom printing client chose a landscape (or oblong) format instead of the usual upright (or portrait) format. She did this because most of the collateral she had designed for her client had been horizontal, but when she asked my opinion of the design, I noted that for the pocket folder in particular, this would catch the reader’s attention because it is unusual. Most pocket folders are vertical. This horizontal format will stand out and attract attention.

Vertical Business Cards

The same holds true for business cards that are vertical rather than horizontal. We have been trained through the years to expect to see horizontal business cards. While this is fine (and we can easily process the information), the unexpected surprise of a vertical business card will make it memorable (if the design is striking as well). Fortunately, since we no longer use Rolodexes, this format will most likely not cause problems in saving the card for future use. (After all, how do you insert a vertical card in a Rolodex–i.e., on its side–and still read it easily thereafter?)

An Accordion Fold Greeting Card

About thirty years ago with the help and encouragement of my boss, a designer, I produced a card that was about 27” long and 4” high. It had six panels, three on either side. When you opened up the accordion fold, you saw the Washington Monument on its side, extending the entire length of the card. The card was an invitation to a business party, and right at the tip of the horizontal Washington Monument I printed the RSVP information for the party. People liked the card and a sizable number of participants RSVP’ed. I like to think it was due to the uniqueness of the card. Who would lay a traditionally vertical icon on its side? Clearly it surprised the reader and grabbed his or her attention.

What You Can Learn from These Examples

  1. Design for commercial printing can be a form of play. Try different things when you’re working on a greeting card, a business card, or anything else. Look at the process as a series of experiments. Discard those that don’t work, and keep a few that do. You can make a final decision later.
  2. Make a physical mock-up. Don’t just create your design on a computer. Print is a tactile medium, and particularly when you are playing with expectations regarding the format or shape of a design piece, it helps to be able to hold a paper dummy or printed mock-up in your hand.
  3. Hand off your mock up to a number of people. Get feedback. Some will like the change in format; some will not. Try to get people to be specific about what they do and don’t like and why.
  4. Involve the Post Office. If the final finished size is out of the ordinary (such as a square card in an envelope), the Post Office may have specific formatting rules, and (with square cards, for instance) the Post Office may charge a postage premium. Business analysts at the Post Office will review your design (online or in person) and give you technical feedback.

Custom Printing: Send New Years’ Holiday Cards

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Here’s an idea. Do something unique. Send your clients and vendors a New Year’s holiday card instead of a traditional, December-type card. Stand out from the crowd. Make your business memorable.

Some Overall Goals

  1. Consider why you’re doing this. Through the last two weeks of December your clients will probably receive a passel of cards from their vendors. In most cases, your clients and vendors will have been incredibly busy at this time, handling not only their personal holiday affairs but also an uptick in their workload. Sending a card that will arrive after their return from New Years’ partying will add focus to your missive. Your card will be unique.
  2. Showcase your custom printing work—indirectly. This is not the time for a hard sell. However, if your holiday card is tasteful, perhaps even upbeat, and beautifully produced on a rich, tactile paper stock, this says something about you as well. You understand details. You appreciate quality.
  3. Show that you care. The fact that you are sending a physical card that you have taken the time and expense to produce, and that you have hand written, will show that you value your clients.
  4. Don’t forget your vendors. Remember to send them cards, too.

Some Design Suggestions

  1. Use bright colors and an upbeat theme. Winter is cold and dark. Make sure your holiday card reflects optimism, and a focus on the good things coming in the new year. Consider full-color printing for the card. Choose a brightly colored envelope, perhaps red, lime green, or orange, to make your card stand out in your client’s stack of mail.
  2. Choose a size that will be unique. However, check online to make sure your chosen size does not incur a US Post Office surcharge. For instance, square or oversized envelopes will trigger an additional fee. This starts to add up if you’re sending a lot of cards. The US Post Office has abundant information online to help you get the right aspect ratio (ratio of the width to the height of the envelope), size, weight, etc., to keep your postage costs under control. It’s possible to be both unique and economical.

Some Custom Printing Considerations

  1. Choose your envelope first, and then determine the proper-sized enclosure. This way your custom print envelopes will be a standard size (i.e., cheaper than a converted envelope). If you design the card first, your envelope may need to be printed separately on a flat sheet, then die-cut, folded, and glued to create a finished envelope of the proper dimensions. Listings of envelope sizes and insert sizes can be found on the Internet. Look for the words “envelope size chart,” or check out commercial printing websites for dedicated envelope manufacturers. Remember to leave adequate room around the enclosure. One website I just read suggested making the enclosure 1/4” smaller (height and width) than the envelope. The goal is to leave enough room for the enclosure to slip in and out of the envelope easily without leaving too much space. The enclosure can actually get damaged if the envelope is too large.
  2. Consider unique paper stocks for both the card and the envelope. This might include coated and uncoated paper; special text stocks; or linen, laid, or speckled paper. Check custom printing suppliers’ paper sample books to make sure you can get holiday cards and envelopes that will match.
  3. Consider paper weights. A 28# envelope might suggest more formality or stature than a 24# envelope. A good rule of thumb is that 24# envelope stock is comparable to 60# offset or text paper, and 28# envelope stock is comparable to 70# offset or text paper.
  4. Consider a unique format. If all of the cards you have received are fold-over cards, you might want to design a holiday card printed on the front and back of a single sheet of heavy cover stock.

Ultimately, anything you send will show your clients and vendors that you appreciate them. After all, you took the time and expense to create, hand write, and send something personal.


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